Bath is one of my favourite English City’s full of history and Ghosts. It is one of the most attractive city’s in layout and history and is famous for it’s Spa and Baths. The archaeological evidence shows that the site of the Roman Baths main spring was treated as a shrine by the Celts, and dedicated to the goddess Sulis. There is a legend that Bath was founded in 860 BC when Prince Bladud, father of King Lear, caught leprosy. He was banned from the court and was forced to look after pigs. The pigs also had a skin disease but after they wallowed in hot mud they were cured. Prince Bladud followed their example and was also cured. Later he became king and founded the city of Bath.
The Romans probably occupied Bath shortly after the Roman Invasion of Britain in 43AD. They knew it as Aquae Sulis (‘the waters of Sul‘), identifying the goddess with Minerva.
In Roman times the worship of Sulis Minerva continued and messages to her scratched onto metal have been recovered from the Sacred Spring by archaeologists. These are known as curse tablets. Written in Latin, and usually laid curses on other people, whom they feel had done them wrong. For example, if a citizen had his clothes stolen at the Baths, he would write a curse on a tablet, to be read by the Goddess Sulis Minerva, and also, the “suspected” names would be mentioned. The collection from Bath is the most important found in Britain.
It has been suggested that Bath may have been the site of the Battle of Mons Badonicus (circa 500 AD), where King Arthur is said to have defeated the Saxons, but this is disputed. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions Bath falling to the West Saxons in 577 after the Battle of Deorham.
The Anglo-Saxons called the town Baðum, Baðan or Baðon, meaning “at the baths,” and this was the source of the present name. In 675, Osric, King of the Hwicce, set up a monastic house at Bath, probably using the walled area as its precinct. King Offa of Mercia gained control of 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 was by now lost, and King Alfred laid out the town afresh, leaving its south-eastern quadrant as the abbey precinct. Edgar of England was crowned king of England in Bath Abbey in 973.
King William Rufus granted the city to a royal physician, John of Tours, who became Bishop of Wells and Abbot of Bath in 1088. It was papal policy for bishops to move to more urban seats, and he translated his own from Wells to 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, however, returned the episcopal seat to Wells, while retaining the name of Bath in their title.
By the 15th century, Bath’s abbey church was badly dilapidated and in need of repairs. Oliver King, Bishop of Bath and Wells, decided in 1500 to rebuild it on a smaller scale. The new church was completed just a few years before Bath Priory was dissolved in 1539 by Henry VIII. The abbey church was allowed to become derelict before being 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. Bath was granted city status by Queen Elizabeth 1 and a Royal Charter in 1590. From then on Bath had a mayor and aldermen. There were some improvements in the little town. Bellots almshouses were built in 1609. In 1615 a ‘scavenger’ was appointed to clean the streets of Bath. In 1633 thatched roofs were banned because of the risk of fire.
However like all towns Bath suffered from outbreaks of the plague. It struck in 1604, 1625, 1636 and 1643.
There had been much rebuilding in the Stuart period, but this was eclipsed by the massive expansion of Bath in Georgian times. The old town within the walls was also largely rebuilt. 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 architects John Wood the elder and his son John Wood the younger laid out the new quarters in streets and squares, the identical facades of which gave an impression of palatial scale and classical decorum. The creamy gold of Bath stone further unified the city, much of it obtained from the limestone Combe Down and Bathampton Down Mines under Combe Down, which were owned by Ralph Allen (1694–1764). The latter, in order to advertise the quality of his quarried limestone, commissioned the elder John Wood to build him a country house on his Prior Park estate. A shrewd politician, he dominated civic affairs and became mayor several times.
The early 18th century saw Bath acquire its first purpose-built theatre, pump room and Assembly Rooms. Master of Ceremonies Beau Nash, who presided over the city’s social life from 1705 until his death in 1761, drew up a code of behaviour for public entertainments.
By the 1801 census the population of Bath had reached 40020 making it amongst the largest cities in Britain.
William Thomas Beckford bought a house in Lansdown Crescent in 1822, eventually buying a further two houses in the Crescent to form his residence. Having acquired all the land between his home and the top of Lansdown Hill, he created a garden over half a mile in length and built Beckford’s Tower at the top.
Bath Spa Rail Station was built in 1840 for the Great Western Railway by Brunel and is a grade II listed building.
Between the evening of 25th April and the early morning of 27th April 1942 Bath suffered three air raids in reprisal for RAF raids on the German cities of Lübeck & Rostock. The three raids formed part of the Luftwaffe campaign popularly known as the Baedeker Blitz: they damaged or destroyed more than 19,000 buildings, and killed more than 400 people. Much damage was done to noteworthy buildings. Houses in the Royal Crescent, Circus and Paragon were burnt out along with the Assembly Rooms, while the south side of Queen Square was destroyed. All have since been reconstructed.
Bath is a very haunted city and below is a list of the more famous ghosts:
The man in the black hat
Easily Bath’s most famous and most-seen ghost, the man in the black hat is dressed in late 18th-century attire and sometimes wears a billowing black cloak. He’s regularly seen around the Assembly Rooms. For the best results, look for him at Saville Row and Bennett Street.
Several ghosts have appeared in the vicinity of Freezing Hill, just outside Bath. Most of these phantoms are from the 17th century, when this hill was the site of the bloody Battle of Lansdown.
The best opportunity to see these ghosts is from The Park, a 240 acre estate featuring a Jacobean mansion that is now an hotel. You can also enjoy a fine meal at The Oakwood Restaurant, and play golf at their Crown and Cromwell courses.
The Royal Crescent
It’s not a movie that’s being filmed at the Royal Crescent when you see an elegant coach drawn by four horses. Instead, you’re witnessing a residual haunting, repeating the elopement of Elizabeth Linley of No. 11, with Irish playwright and politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan.
Sheridan was not Miss Linley’s only suitor. Captain Thomas Mathews (a married man) and Lord Sheridan fought two duels–with swords–over the lovely Miss Linley.
Sheridan may have won her hand in marriage, but he later proved unfaithful. Elizabeth contracted tuberculosis and died at age 38. A bronze plaque at number 11 Royal Crescent marks the address from which she eloped.
The Theatre Royal the Garrick’s Head pub
The Theatre Royal and Garrick’s Head are next door to each other. Their ghost stories seem to be interwoven, and the ghosts congenially wander from one building to the other.
At least two ghosts appear in this area. One is an unfaithful wife and the other is her lover, from the 18th century. The lover was killed by the husband, and the wife committed suicide. Look for a woman (some say there are at least two) in a grey dress. The lover is handsome and well-dressed.
A second anomaly is noted at the Theatre Royal: A tortoiseshell butterfly appears there during the pantomime run each year, which is not butterfly season.
Many visit this former home of Richard “Beau” Nash for the fine food. However, the restaurant hosts at least two ghosts, both of them women. One is Juliana Popjoy, the 18th-century mistress of Beau Nash.
The other ghost is Janice (or perhaps Janet). She is more modern, dressed in attire best suited to the 1960’s. She dines alone and looks perfectly normal until she vanishes.
The Beehive Public House
‘Bunty’, a serving girl from the Victorian Era or slightly earlier, appears in the kitchen of The Beehive, a popular Bath public house.
Crystal Palace Tavern
A hooded figure–perhaps a monk–appears at this tavern when he is concerned that the structure may change, such as during repairs or redecorating. He usually appears briefly and is fairly transparent.
Julia, of Queens Square
This jilted bride has been seen strolling around the Square in her white gown.
Today Bath continues to thrive on it’s tourism. Moreover in 2006 a new spa opened in Bath so perhaps the old glory days will return! Today the population of Bath is 85,000.
My other website is called Directory of British Icons: http://fabprints.webs.com
The Chinese call Britain ‘The Island of Hero’s’ which I think sums up what we British are all about. We British are inquisitive and competitive and are always looking over the horizon to the next adventure and discovery.
Copyright © 2010 Paul Hussey. All Rights Reserved.