Published on October 1st, 2013 | by Charu Suri
6 A Brief History of Bath, England
While I lived in London. I had the opportunity to stumble upon architectural history virtually at my doorstep. Living in London meant accepting that the world was much, much older than the child country I was then living in. But rather than getting knee-deep in all things Westminster Abbey, I actually wanted to escape London during the weekends: off I went from King’s Cross station to the small, polished gem of the city of Bath, and fell in love with what Jane Austen saw.
The City of Bath along with Hadrian’s Wall, which lies in the north of England, are the two most valuable specimens of Roman remains in the entire country. The true beginnings of the city are hazy from a historical perspective, and archaeologists struggle to determine exactly what happened at the start.
In the Beginning, there were Romans
It’s been said that Blaudud, son of Hudibras – known as the eighth king of the Britons – can be found immortalized as a statue at both of the city’s spa sites. 863 BC seems to stand out as a possible date for Blaudud founding the city, as he was said to have found the springs to cure ailments after he was banished from the city due to contracting leprosy. After his return to court he was made king and dubbed the city the “Waters of the Sun”… or so the story goes.
Thanks to the archaeologists, we now know that there is evidence of human activity in the area long before Blaudud’s time (think 8,000 BC). Although there is evidence of activity, there’s nothing to suggest that anyone settled here as early as this. It wasn’t until 43 AD that the Romans began constructing ‘Aquae Sulis’ (Waters of the Sun), and unusually the city was to be used as what the official site describes as “a sanctuary of rest and relaxation, not a garrison own like most Roman settlements.”
A little bit later…
The city fell into dramatic decline after the Romans left the area and it wasn’t until much that our new more contemporary rulers took to bathing in the springs. Princess Anne visited the site in 1688, 1692, 1702, and 1703 which inspired the aristocracy to ‘take the waters’ for their renowned health benefits. As a knock-on effect of this the area began a stage of unprecedented redevelopment.
If you want to visit the Bath there are plenty of options to do so. The hotels in the center of Bath are particularly convenient if you want to visit the main historical sites. The Francis Hotel Bath, which is part of the Mgallery collection, is a cultural find, and a pebble’s throw from the baths and the now famous Thermae spa.
When I stayed at Bath, I found cozy digs at a Bed & Breakfast not far from the Royal Crescent, and woke up to the smell of fragrant tea and a view of velvety English roses. Spa fanatics (I am one of them) will rejoice in the recent restoration of the Thermae Spa, which uses natural thermal waters originally discovered by Prince Bladud (remember how he cured his skin disease?).
There is some doubt as to how the waters actually reached to Bath, but now may be a great time to get some rest and relaxation in a truly historic city. Since it’s the only natural hot spring in the United Kingdom, my recommendation to you would be to book well in advance.