Hubby and I left the Skyline Tour bus and walked over to the City Tour bus, climbed aboard and settled in. Here’s a view out of the bus window – still drizzly, grey and cold, but I had half a roll of loo paper left in my shoulder bag to use as tissues so I was good to go. Well, maybe not good, but I was still alive. Had you asked me the chances of that yesterday, I’d have said slim to none.
Before long, the bus pulled out and headed toward the Grand Parade.
Can you see the colonnades at the bottom of the photo above? Interestingly, there’s currently a scheme to re-open them to the public and to redevelop the surrounding area. You can read more about those plans here. We traveled down Avon Street and past the Westgate Buildings until we reached Queen Square, developed by architect John Wood the Elder. Queen Square is a key component of Wood’s vision for Bath. Named in honour of George II’s queen, and was intended to appear like a palace with wings and a forecourt to be viewed from the south side.
Although outside the city walls, Queen Square quickly became a popular residence for Bath’s Georgian society. It was away from the crowded streets of medieval Bath, but only a short walk to the Abbey, Pump Room, Assembly Rooms and baths. To the north, Wood’s vision continued with Gay Street where Jane Austen lived, – and the Circus which became home to Thomas Gainesborough.
During the raids, a 500 kilograms (1,100 lb) bomb landed on the east side of the Square, resulting in houses on the south side being damaged. The Francis Hotel (above) lost 24 metres (79 ft) of its hotel frontage, and most of the buildings on the square suffered some level of schrapnel damage. Casualties on the Square were low considering the devastation, with the majority of hotel guests and staff having taken shelter in the hotel’s basement. Today, all the buildings are listed as Grade I.
Before I realized it, we were passing the Jane Austen Centre. I took the photo above out of the bus window. If you look closely, you can see the mannequin dressed in blue Regency garb at the front door. The audio tour informed us that it was the JA Centre, prompting Hubby to groan aloud.
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Jane Austen. You’re going to want to get off the bus and go and look.”
“No I’m not,” I told him.
Hubby stared at me for a few beats. “Are you sure? Come on, I’ll go with you.”
I shook my head. “But it’s Jane Austen,” Hubby insisted.
Sigh. “Thanks, but I’m really not in the mood,” I told him while blowing my nose. And hacking.
Hubby gave me a searching look, probably trying to figure out where exactly along the route I’d been switched for a Stepford Wife. Before long, we were passing the Assembly Rooms and Fashion Museum. The audio guide told us that the Rooms had been at the centre of society in Georgian Bath, prompting Hubby to nudge me.
“Assembly Rooms, Hon.”
I nodded. “Beau Nash,” I said. I had been anticipating returning to the Assembly Rooms, and the Fashion Museum, for months and now that I was at them, now that I could simply step off the bus and visit them, I had no enthusiasm for them at all. I was still feeling awful and it was all I could do to watch Bath roll by through the bus window.
On our way to the Royal Crescent, we passed Number 1 Royal Crescent, below, which is currently closed. It’s a fabulous museum that illustrates upper class life as it was in Georgian and Regency times. Each room is furnished as it would have been then and it truly gives visitors a sense of what it was like to live in a gentleman’s townhouse of the day. Currently, the museum is expanding to incorporate servants quarters, which will also be open to the public, thus allowing visitors the full, upstairs/downstairs experience. Click here to visit the museum’s webs
ite and learn the story of it’s past and future.
ite and learn the story of it’s past and future.
Next we saw the Royal Crescent itself, designed by the architect John Wood the Younger and built between 1767 and 1774. Interestingly, each original purchaser bought a length of the façade, and then employed their own architect to build a house behind the façade to their own specifications; hence what can appear to be two houses is occasionally just one.
Traveling down Upper Bristol Road, we passed Royal Victoria Park and the Botanical Gardens. The Park was the first to be named for Princess Victoria, who opened it in 1830, when she was eleven years old. This all took place during that misguided press tour organized by her mother, the Duchess of Kent. Supposedly, a journalist made derogatory remarks at the time she opened the Park regarding Victoria’s choice of dress, prompting her to turn her face against Bath for the rest of her long life.
On our way to our final tour stop, we passed Sally Lunn’s house at Number 4 North Parade Passage. According to legend, Sally Lunn, a French refugee, arrived in Bath in1680 and established her bakery. The original ‘Bath Bun’ baked by Sally Lunn was a light, round bread similar to traditional French festival breads. The popularity of the Bath Buns was such that they were mass-produced for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. You can visit the Sally Lunn website here to read more about it’s history and traditions.
Hubby and I exited the tour bus and I walked us towards the Abbey.
“Do you want to go inside?” I asked him.
“Well then, we’re going to the Baths. You can’t make your first visit to Bath and not see the Baths.”
“Are you sure you feel up to it, Hon?” I really didn’t, but I wasn’t going let this cold/flu/cholera defeat me or make me miss any more of the City.
“Yes, I’m up to it,” I told Hubby, taking his arm while thinking about the fact that we were supposed to return here tonight in order to see the fireworks over the Abbey. Please, God, I silently prayed, send me a minor miracle. Sigh.
Part Three Coming Soon!