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Bath travel guide — Bath tourism and travel information

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about Bath

Bath is a city in south-west England, most famous for its baths fed by three hot springs. The city was first recorded as a Roman spa, though verbal tradition suggests it was known before then. The waters from its spring were considered to be a cure for many afflictions. From Elizabethan to Georgian times it was a resort city for the wealthy. As a result of its popularity during the latter period, the city contains many fine examples of Georgian architecture, particularly The Royal Crescent. The city has a population of over 90,000 and is a World Heritage Site.

Bath is approximately 15 miles (24 km) southeast of the larger city and port of Bristol, to which it is linked by the A4 road, and is a similar distance south of the M4 motorway. Its railway station, Bath Spa, lies on the Great Western Railway, the main line between Bristol and London.

The Kennet and Avon canal, earlier an important water route to London, has recently been fully restored and leaves the Avon at Bath.

Bath history

The site of the main spring was treated as a shrine by the Celts, and dedicated to the goddess Sulis, whom the Romans identified with Minerva. However the name Sulis continued to be used after the Roman invasion, leading to the town's Roman name of Aquae Sulis (literally, "the waters of Sulis").

During the Roman occupation of Britain increasingly grand temples and bathing complexes were built, including the Great Bath. Rediscovered gradually from the 18th century onward, they have become one of the city's main attractions. Toward the end of the Roman occupation, the settlement around the baths was given defensive walls.

After Britannia left the Roman Empire urban life declined across the country. Though the great Roman baths at Bath fell into disrepair, there is evidence of some continued use of the hot springs. The Anglo-Saxon name for the place was Baðum, Baðan or Baðon, meaning 'at the baths', from which the present name comes. From its Saxon name comes the theory that Bath is the location of the Battle of Mons Badonicus, where King Arthur led the Britons to victory over the Saxons. Better documented is the Battle of Deorham, in 577, in which Ceawlin of Wessex drove a wedge to the sea and split the Romano-British forces, leading to the fall of Bath soon after.

In 675 Osric, King of the Hwicce, established a monastic house at Bath which probably used the walled area as its precinct. King Offa of Mercia gained this monastery in 781 and rebuilt the church, which was dedicated to St. Peter. Bath had become a royal possession. The old Roman street pattern having been lost, King Alfred laid out the town afresh, leaving its south-eastern quadrant as the abbey precinct.

King William Rufus granted the city to a royal physician, John of Tours, who became Bishop of Wells and Abbot of Bath in 1088, with permission to move the from Wells to Bath. Bishop John therefore became the first Bishop of Bath. He planned and began a much larger church as his cathedral, to which was attached a priory, with the bishop's palace beside it. New baths were built around the three springs.

Later bishops preferred Wells, which regained cathedral status jointly with Bath. By the 15th century Bath Cathedral was badly dilapidated. Oliver King, Bishop of Bath and Wells, decided in 1500 to rebuild it on a smaller scale. The new cathedral was completed just a few years before Bath Priory was dissolved in 1539.

Henry VIII considered the cathedral redundant and it was allowed to become derelict, but it was restored as the city's parish church in the Elizabethan period, when the city revived as a spa. The baths were improved and the city began to attract the aristocracy in the bathing seasons. Bath was granted city status in 1590.

There was much rebuilding in the Stuart period, but this was eclipsed by the massive expansion of the city in Georgian times. The old town within the walls was largely rebuilt also. This was a response to the continuing demand for elegant accommodation for the city's fashionable visitors, for whom Bath had become a pleasure resort as well as a spa. The builders John Wood, father and son, laid out the new quarters in rational streets and squares whose identical facades gave an impression of palatial scale and classical decorum. The creamy gold of Bath stone further unified the city. The early 18th century saw Bath acquire its first purpose-built theatre, pump room and assembly rooms. As Master of Ceremonies Beau Nash presided over the city's social life from 1705 until his death in 1761. He drew up a code of behaviour for public entertainments. However the city declined as a fashionable resort in the 19th century.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Bath".

This city is also known as: Bath.

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