image 1 This description of Bath World Heritage Site has the following headings: World Heritage Status, Bath History, Attractions and Architecture.

World Heritage Status

The city of Bath has been a World Heritage Site since 1987. It is recognised as a place of outstanding universal value for its architecture, town- planning, landscape, archaeological remains and its role as a setting for social history. The history of the city extends over 6 millennia, from its earliest days when the Hot Springs were a place of worship for the Britons to the modern day when Bath is an international icon of architecture and archaeology within a thriving local community. Spread across the World Heritage Site are extensive remains from all eras of the development of the city:

  • archaeological evidence of pre-Roman use of the Hot Springs;
  • archaeological remains of the Roman religious spa and settlement;
  • Saxon and medieval remains, including parts of the central city street layout, parts of the city wall, the East Gate and the Abbey church, as well as extensive archaeological deposits;
  • the Georgian city and associated villages with their dwellings, social and civic buildings, parks, gardens, streets and public open spaces;
  • the stone mines and associated works, transport systems and communities;

  • the natural landscape setting;
  • the Hot Springs, associated buildings and systems, and their continued use for health and leisure;
  • Brunel's Great Western Railway Paddington to Bristol line (on the UK's tentative World Heritage Sites list) with associated buildings and structures;
  • 19th and 20th century development, including presentation of the historic environment through museums;
  • and extensive collections of artefacts and archives around the development of the city.

    Bath History

    image 2 The city's origins and development are intimately bound up with the presence of the Hot Springs which have played a central role in every stage of the development of the city. There is very little evidence of Bath in pre-Roman times but the goddess Sulis probably was worshipped at the Springs. It was the Romans who began the tradition of building monumental architecture in Bath, with their temple to Sulis Minerva and its associated bathing complex. The temple was constructed in 60-70 AD and the bathing complex was gradually built up over the next 300 years, during which time it became an international destination for pilgrims. A proportion of the remains of this complex are presented and interpreted by the Roman Baths Museum, which lies beneath the Reception Hall next to the Pump Room. The technology employed to capture and divert the spring waters to the various baths is still in use today.

    A settlement named Aquae Sulis grew up around the temple and bathing complex, the nature of which is still being determined. Archaeological finds across the modern city and over a wider area continually add to an understanding of the extent and composition of the settlement and local population and how its interaction with the temple and bath complex, and the military presence of the Roman army. After the battle of Dyrham in 577 AD, the Saxons took over the city. The Roman complex and associated buildings fell into disuse and were gradually buried beneath the growing Saxon settlement. Bath's continued importance as a religious centre was marked in 973 AD, when Edgar was crowned first king of all England at the monastery that stood where the current Bath Abbey stands, and by the construction in the 11th century of a great cathedral, again on the site of the Abbey. In the Middle Ages, the city became an important commercial centre, particularly for wool- production.

    Bath today is largely characterised by the surviving elements of the Georgian city and the landscape that influenced so much of the development of the city. At the end of the 17th century, Bath was a small city, confined by its walls and still largely medieval in character. It was known mainly as a regional trading centre and was reputed for its curing hot spring waters which attracted the sick and convalescing. During the 18th and early 19th centuries, the cramped medieval centre was transformed into a spacious and beautiful classical city where architecture and natural landscape complemented one another. The city was reinvented as a social centre, renowned for its architecture and curing hot spring waters, and was patronised by the highest society including royalty from across Europe. The transient upper classes flocked to the city each year.

    Three men were responsible for initiating this reinvention: architect John Wood the Elder, patron and entrepreneur Ralph Allen and society shaper Richard 'Beau' Nash. The vision, ambition and innovation of these men fostered a unique atmosphere in Bath, and paved the way for some of the most inspirational and influential Palladian architecture and urban design in Britain. The use of the same stone in the city, throughout the 18th century and later periods of development, gave the city an intimate link to its landscape, and a powerful visual homogeneity.

    Use of Palladian style architecture,wider streets and open spaces.continued until after 1825 but then new Victorian styles increasingly influenced the city architecture. These later developments extended the city, rather than rebuilt it, Then, the arrival of the canal (John Rennie) and railway (Isambard Kingdom Brunel) in the 19th century brought more impressive architecture to the World Heritage Site and some of the first major structural changes to the Georgian city. The Victorians were also responsible for the discovery of much of the Roman Baths complex and its first presentation to the city and its visitors since the baths fell into disuse in the Saxon period. They became famous once more as a social centre, bathing facility and tourist attraction.

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    These attractions illustrate the qualities that led to the City of Bath being listed as a World Heritage Site.

    Assembly Rooms and the Fashion Museum

    The Ball Room, Octagon, Tea Room and Card Room of the magnificent Assembly Rooms were used in the eighteenth century for dancing, music and card playing, tea drinking and conversation and are still in use for functions and conferences. The world- famous Fashion Museum is located here.

    Address: Bennett Street, Bath BA1 2QH
    Open : Assembly Rooms - All year, daily (when not in use for booked functions). Times as Fashion Museum.
    Fashion Museum: All year, daily. Mar - Oct 11am-5pm. Nov - Feb 11am- 4pm.
    Entry: Assembly Rooms - Free. Museum of Costume - 6.75
    Tel: 01225 477173
    E- mail: costume_bookings@bathnes.
    Web: http://www.fashionmuseum.

    Bath Abbey

    The original church on the site was built by King Osric in 676 and served a monastery of nuns until the Benedictines took over. King Edgar of Wessex was crowned here as the first King of England in 973. In 1087, the Normans granted the abbey to the Bishop of Wells. By the end of the 15th century, construction of the present building commenced. The abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII and its monastic life ended. It then became the parish church of Bath and continues to flourish in this capacity.
    Address: Bath, BA1 1LT
    Open: All year. Easter - Oct. 9am - 6pm, Winter 9am - 4.30pm. Sundays 1 - 2.30pm and 4.30 - 5.30pm, Winter 1 - 2,30pm only. Vaults Mon- Sat 10am-4pm.
    Entrance: Suggested donation 2.50. Heritage vaults 2.00
    Tel: 01225 422 462

    Beckford's Tower

    This 130 foot high tower was built by William Beckford in 1827. Visitors who climb to the top will have panoramic views over Georgian Bath. It also contains a museum collection illustrating his life and that of the period.
    Address: Landsdowne Road, Bath BA19BH
    Open: Sat, Sun & holidays Easter - October: 1030am - 5pm. Other times by arrangement.
    Entrance: 2.50.
    Tel: 01225 460 705
    Web: http://www.bath- preservation-

    The Building of Bath Museum

    This museum tells the story of how Bath was transformed froma relatively small provincial spa into a magnificent Georgian city in the eigtheenth century. The exhibition explores the various crafts and personalities which all contributed to this development and presents a fascinating picture of life in Bath at that time.
    Address: The Countess of Huntington's Chapel, The Vineyards, Bath BA1 5NA Open: 15 Feb - 30 Nov. 10.30am - 5pm.
    Entrance: 4.00.
    Tel: 01225 333 895
    Web: http://www.bath- preservation-

    Holburne Museum of Art

    This is a fine Georgian building in attractive grounds containing fine and decorative art including paintings by Gainsborough and Stubbs.
    Address: Great Pulteney Street, Bath, BA2 4DB
    Open: Daily except Mon. Mid Feb - Mid Dec: 10am - 5pm. Sun 2.30pm - 5.30pm.
    Entrance: 4.00.
    Contact: Tel: 01225 466 669.

    Jane Austen Centre

    Jane Austen paid a number of visits to Bath before living there from 1801 to 1806. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are largely set in Bath. The Jane Austen Centre is located in a fine Georgian town house in the heart of the city. The pleasure of finding out more about Jane Austen will be enhanced by the light her life and work throws on the city itself. Its streets, public buildings, townscape and well ordered world remains much as she would have known it.
    Address: 40 Gay Street, Queen Square, Bath, BA1 2NT
    Open: Daily all year. Mon - Sat 10am - 5pm. Sun 2.30pm - 5.30pm.
    Entrance: 4.45.
    Tel: 01225 443 000.
    Web: uk/

    No. 1 Royal Crescent

    This is a beautiful Georgian house set at the beginning of Bath's most magnificent crescent. It has been restored, redecorated and furnished to show how it would have appeared in the eighteenth century.
    Address: 1 Royal Crescent, Bath, BA1 2LR
    Open: Daily except Mondays. Feb - Oct 10.30am - 5pm. Nov 10.30am - 4pm.
    Entrance: 4.00.
    Tel: 01225 428 126.
    Web: http://www.bath- preservation-

    Prior Park Landscape Garden

    A beautiful eighteenth century landscape garden created by Ralph Allen with help from poet, Alexander Pope and Capability Brown. It is set in a sweeping valley with wonderful views over the City of Bath. Interesting features include a Palladian bridge and three lakes.
    Address: Ralph Allen Drive, Bath BA2, 5AH
    Open: Daily except Tue. Feb - Nov 11am - 5pm or dusk. Dec - Jan 11am - dusk
    Entrance: 4.00.
    Tel: 01225833 422.
    E-mail: priorpark@nationaltrust.o
    Web: wessex

    Roman Baths and Pump Room

    The world famous Roman Baths and Temple were built almost 2,000 years ago and flourished throughout the centuries of Roman occupation. They were sited around a natural hot spring in the centre of the city fromwhich the water still rises at a temperature of 46C. The baths are remarkably complete and amomg the fimest in Europe. The Pump Room was the social heart of Georgian Bath and remains a favourit place to meet, talk and take refreshment.
    Address: Abbey Church Yard, Bath, BA1 1L2
    Open: Daily Mar - Jun, Sep - Oct 9am- 5pm, Jul - Aug 9am-9pm, Nov - Feb 9.30am-4.30pm
    Entrance: 9.00.
    Tel: 01225 477 785.
    E-mail: romanbaths_bookings@bathn
    Web: uk/

    Theatre Royal

    This is one of England's oldest and most beautiful theatres,housed in a fine Georgian building and still in full use today. It ambience is very much that of eighteenth century Bath.
    Address: Sawclose, Bath, BA1 1ET
    Open: Tours - First Wed 11am and Sat 12 noon of each month, unless rehearsals are in progress
    Entrance: 4.00.
    Tel: 01225 448 844.
    Web: http://www.theatreroyal.o


    In addition to the attractions that visitors can enter and tour, there are a wide range of squares , streets and other architectural features that the visitor can enjoy. Prominent among them are the following:

    The Royal Crescent

    This was designed by John Wood, the Younger and built between 1767 and 1774. It is Palladian in style and widely recognised as one of the greatest achievements of urban eighteenth century architecture. It consists of a semi- elliptical sweep of more than 500 feet that contains 30 glorious houses, decorated with a facade of columns and built of pale-gold Bath stone. Since it was designed to meet the needs of high society, the best craftsmen were used both in its construction and interior decor. Standing high on a rise and overlooking Royal Victoria Park, this is one of Bath's major landmarks.

    The Circus

    John Wood the Elder had a vision: to create buildings with all the grandeur of Palladian palaces but all the convenience and affordability of a row of private houses. He planned the Parades, Queen Square and The Circus as speculative ventures to be let or sold, and at various times The Circus was home to such luminaries as William Pitt, Thomas Gainsborough and William Gladstone. The Circus was designed by Wood in 1754, and looks rather like a Roman amphitheatre turned inside out, its three tiers embellished with Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns. It was Wood's enthusiasm for the Palladian revival that was responsible for the particular unity of style that characterises Bath to this day. And it was Ralph Allen whose generosity translated Wood's architectural dreams into the squares and crescents of this gracious city.

    Pulteney Bridge

    This classical bridge is built above the River Avon and is one of the few bridges in the world to be lined with shops. Complete with three classical arches and the dramatic swirl of the nearby weir, this is one of Bath's most famous landmarks. Pulteney Bridge was designed by Robert Adam for landowner Frances Pulteney. Construction began in 1769 and was completed just two years later. This grand, Palladian bridge has been largely restored to the original plans and is a major tourist attraction.

    Great Pulteney Street

    Great Pulteney Street was built by the well known architect,Thomas Baldwin in 1789 on behalf of Sir William Pulteney It was the last of the great building projects of eighteenth century Bath. With its dimensions, 1000 feet long by 100 feet wide, it has classical proportions reminiscent of French boulevards and remains one of Bath's breath taking sights.

    Queen Square

    Queen Square is the first major work by the famous Bath architect, John Wood the Elder. It was built between 1728 and 1735 and its Palladian style set the tone for many subsequent developments in the city. The queen to whom it refers is Caroline, wife of George II. In the centre of the square there is a welcoming green park and in its centre, an obelisk in which was placed there by Beau Nash in recognition of a gift he received from the then Prince of Wales, Prince Frederick.


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    World Heritage Sites of Wessex


    These details were last updated on
    26 AUG 2007

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