Wednesday, 29 January 2014


On Sunday I spent the day in Bath. We first went into the Roman Baths which cost about £13 per person, the entrance is on Abbey Church Yard so it's easy to visit both the Abbey and the Baths and the Abbey itself costs £2.50 to enter.

As you walk in to the building the queue area is this late 19th century concert hall by J M Brydon. The whole room is in Neo-Classical style. Once you pay you walk around the service desk to collect your audio guide that is included in the price. I don't really use them usually but on this occasion you really shouldn't avoid using them. The guides correspond with numbers displayed around the complex and have commentaries from the curator of the site and also has a few from the writer Bill Bryson - he's funny and you should definitely listen to his ones !  

When you walk through the hall you come out into a hall way with a view of the baths that are behind and infront of you. Walk through the only area open to the public and you come to the museum. 

This is apparently one of the most important things in the museums collection. This is a pediment that is about 2000 years old and served as the temple front from the ancient temple that formed part of the massive baths complex in what was known as Aquae Sulis. The temple doesn't exist now but thanks to the little model of the town that they have you get a good idea of where the temple would have been in relation to the baths. Another thing that was amaziiiiing was that they project onto the stone of the pediment a picture of how it would have looked originally - with the missing bits filled in and the colour that it would have been - before it rotates back to no image so you can see what has remained. 

As you walk through the rooms, the arrangement is done by each area that made up the complex and then further divided by categories like religion and their general lifestyle. I can't really do it justice but they make the tiniest most random objects (like a cooking pan) seem interesting when usually elsewhere they get nothing more than a glance. This pictured above is an amazingly well preserved mosaic floor. The only other one I've seen like this, albeit on a massive scale, is in St Albans. 

I liked this carving because the belly of the figure has a Gorgon's head on it. I can't remember who the figure is but I'd guess at Minerva - the Roman goddess of wisdom and defense - which would mean she's protecting the town from evils such as the Gorgons. Another reason Minerva was important to the people of Aquae Sulis is because she was their patron saint of sorts. When the Romans arrived the Celts had already established a holy site there dedicated to their god Sulis. The Romans associated Sulis with Miverva hence the full name: Aquae Sulis Minerva. Their temple was dedicated to her which brings us back to the pediment from earlier.... The head appears to be a Gorgon albeit male (they explain to you there is still a lot of speculation about that). 

Things like these are always my favourite, it's weird to think that 2000 years ago women wore jewelry and used pins like we do. They also survived all this time which is so amazing considering some of  my jewelry barely lasts a year. They found all of these things during excavation of the baths so having been under the ground for years probably helped preserve them.

This is so beautiful!! The Roman invasion is sometimes considered to have been quite violent and intrusive. However, with things like this we can see how tolerant they were of other cultures and how they absorbed some of it too. The close up of the swirly motifs on the clasp are quite noticeably influenced by Gaelic decoration.

These were so cool and unfortunately my camera doesn't do them justice yet again. These are letters thrown into the baths. I can't remember the material but obviously it wasn't paper. If you look closely enough in person you can actually see the inscription on a few ! Nevertheless each and every one have had a translation put in English on the bottom. They are all quite ill wishing and ask for revenge. One particular one is brilliant because they say that the writing is a bit odd so they reckon the person who wrote it was dyslexic. It may be really stupid of me but I've never thought about things like that before.... Romans could be dyslexic ?!

This is at the end of the museum and even on a quiet day like a Sunday in January this still had a crowd around it. I can't remember the actual word for it but as you can probably tell it's some kind of draining facility. Unchanged from Roman times! 

A Mason's mark !

A beautiful little gem, they have a whole display of them. They found them in the drains so think that the water from the baths made the adhesive wear on rings and they'd fall off.

Original paving 

This is the Great Bath, both women and men could enter together and it was nicely paved with LEAD ! The baths are now below normal street level and the entire structure around it above the level of the column bases are newer additions. Albeit newer they still have a Grade I listed status.

Once the Roman Empire began to dissolve in the 4th century they were being attacked on every frontier. One of these borders that buckled under pressure was Hadrian's wall. England was then overrun by a number of tribes but most notably the Anglo-Saxons. This tribe originated in what is now Germany, hence our weird little language that is an amalgamation of Latin and German. What happened next for the baths was that they simply fell into disrepair through lack of use. Fast forward to the 12th century and the only natural occurring hot springs in Britain were rediscovered. This lead to John of Tours building a curative bath around the springs that are pictured above. Look at the steam coming off of the water! The whole area is from that century however the hard work at the base of the bath is still Roman. 

Around the baths you see stacks of bricks and the guide will tell you that these were how the Romans heated their floors. There is a similar example in St Albans beneath the mosaic floor - but this was for domestic use not public like a Bath. 

Unfortunately my pictures of all of he other baths are really dark. Around the perimeter of the Great Bath there lies a Natatio ( swimming bath ), a Frigaderium ( cold room ), a Tepidarium ( warm room ), a Caldarium ( hot room ) and a changing room which I can't remember the Latin name for. 

The Romans would throw coins and other things into the baths to make requests from the Gods. Today they let you do the same. This is the water and it is sparkly because of all the coins ! 

This is supposedly the oldest colonnade in England which confuses me because the arches are clearly quite new. Perhaps it is base and shaft that are Roman.

This was the entrance to the complex after the 16th century redevelopment for the King and Queen. Most of the building however dates from the 18th century and is designed by John Wood the Elder and Younger. 

After the Baths we went into the Abbey next door. The church site itself has existed since the Roman times but used as a church since the 7th century. Most of what we see today is due to recent preservation and restoration work in the 19th century by Sir George Gillbert Scott. The original building work here was done part in the 12th century and later in the 16th century. Unlike elsewhere in Europe, we did not necessarily rebuild in the Renaissance style every time. We were a bit stubborn. This is perhaps because of Henry VIII and his contempt for Catholic Europe - the birthplace of the Renaissance. However his daughter Elizabeth I did much to repair what her family had done and began to embrace the style somewhat. In this instance though, she ordered for its restoration and not a rebuild. This is done in Perpendicular Gothic from the 12th century which is most easily recognised by the verticality of the windows. However the flying buttresses  and pinnacles were added in the 18th century.

How cute 👼 this very literal design of assention to heaven supposedly came to the architect in a dream.

The interior is less decorative than it would have been prior the reformation and the iconoclasm that ensued. 

Fan vaulting, a very late Gothic style whereby ribbed vaulting is applied but with masses of decorative ribs that are unnecessary for the structure. This would have been done in the 12th century but what we see today is the 18th century restoration of the original design. 

Go to Bath and see these, I can't do it justice ✨

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