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City of Bath World Heritage Site Management Plan


1. Roman Baths and Pump Room

1.1 This is a fascinating site with a history that began over 7000 years ago in the Mesolithic period. It includes the Roman temple and bath complex and museum, the Pump Room and the Concert Hall.

1.2 Before any baths were built, a temple was erected by the King's Spring dedicated to Sulis Minerva, a combination of Roman and British goddesses. This was constructed in 65-75 AD and the spring was contained in a lead-lined reservoir, probably built out of Bath Stone. This reservoir was used for worship, much as the Springs had been used for several thousands of years, with offerings being thrown in to the Gods. The temple was a classical buildings and stood in a large precinct with other monumental buildings. In the middle of this precinct was a sacrificial altar. Many remains have been found of this precinct including the pediment and steps of the temple and the altar, found in situ.

1.3 Gradually the complex grew and baths were added onto the religious site. At their height the baths included: the central swimming pool, the Great Bath; two suites of rooms (East and West Baths) with plunge and immersion baths; cold, warm and hot rooms; and a smaller warm pool. Curative rooms were a part of the complex, indicating the early understanding of the potential of the waters for improving health.

1.4 The baths have been modified on several occasions, including the 12th century when John of Tours built a curative bath over the King's Spring reservoir and the 16th century when the city corporation built a new bath (Queen's Bath) to the south of the Spring. The Great Bath was not known of at this time, as the Roman buildings covering it had long collapsed in and been buried. Discoveries were made throughout the 18th century, beginning with the highly important find in 1727 of the head of Sulis Minerva herself, near to where the Pump Room now stands. Further discoveries were made during the building of the Pump Room in the 1790s and in the 19th century the major discoveries of the Great Bath, Roman reservoir and West Baths brought about a new dimension to the city: museum of antiquity. The 1897 extension to the Pump Rooms, the Concert Hall (now the main visitor entrance) and Terrace displayed the discoveries to the public, and they now represent a chapter of history themselves as the Victorian interpretation of Bath's Roman past.

1.5 The Pump Room is a very special building, both architecturally and conceptually. It remains the only place in Britain where it is possible to drink hot spring waters and from the time of its construction to the present day it has been used for its intended purpose of social interaction and entertainment and the drinking of the spa waters.

1.6 The first Pump Room, built in 1706, was a much simpler single storey stone building. There was the pump, supplying the spa waters, and provision for musical entertainment. In 1751 the building was extended to cater for the crowds who came to drink the waters and socialise, and in 1784 Thomas Baldwin added the north colonnade. The New Baths were built in 1788-89 (Queen's Baths) mirroring the north colonnade in its façade, also designed by Baldwin. The original impact of this southern colonnade is now slightly lost with the alterations to the Baths behind it.

1.7 The main block was started in 1789 by Baldwin, but it was John Palmer who finished the scheme (1799). The interior, attributed to Palmer, is not considered to be as rich as either Wood's Assembly Rooms or Baldwin's Guildhall Banqueting Hall but is nevertheless appreciated by the thousands of visitors who come each year to eat in the restaurant and drink the spa waters. The building, with its two colonnades, dominates the approach to the Abbey Church Yard and creates an atmospheric link between the Abbey Church and Bath Street area.

1.8 The Pump Room is one of the main expressions of Georgian social ambitions and stands as a reflection of the physical and social improvements taking place throughout the city. Socially, it stands at the centre of all that Georgian Bath was about.

1.9 The Roman remains are considered along with Hadrian's Wall to be the finest architectural Roman remains in Britain, and some of the best Spa remains north of the Alps. They have huge potential for education and research as well as being a popular amenity for locals and visitors. The Pump Room has both architectural and historical importance. It has been at the centre of Bath social activity for nearly three hundred years and is still used for its original functions.

1.10 The Pump Room (without the Concert Hall extension) is Grade I listed, and forms a group with nos 6 to 14 (consecutive) Abbey Church Yard, nos 13 & 14 Cheap Street, no 3 Stall Street, and the Abbey Church. The Roman Baths are a Scheduled Ancient Monument. They are owned by Bath & North East Somerset Council and are operated by the Council's Heritage Services.

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2. Abbey Church

2.1 The church occupies a key site adjacent to the Baths complex and Pump Room. Externally its appearance owes a great deal to 19th century restoration, including the polygonal turrets of the tower, the pinnacles added to the turrets and the hollow flying buttresses erected on both sides of the nave. Nonetheless, it remains remarkably true to its Perpendicular style both within and without.

2.2 The church, begun in 1499, is cruciform in plan and occupies no more than the nave area of the Norman church which preceded it, the east end corresponding to the west arch that supported the Norman tower at the crossing. Little of the earlier church survives, but there are mutilated remains and a Norman arch high up on what is now the east wall of the south aisle choir. One of the most notable architectural features, the stone vaulted nave, was constructed in 1869. Before this, the nave was roofed in timber. The church was damaged in the air raids of 1942 and all the 17th century heraldic glass that survives is now displayed in two windows in the north aisle.

2.3 The Abbey Church was built to replace the great Norman cathedral which fell into disrepair. The building survived the Reformation, though in an unfinished condition, and is now possibly one of the grandest parish churches in the country. Finally finished in the 19th century the church is one of the most famous images of Bath and is a focal point for both local worship and tourist visits. Its vaults are run jointly with the Local Authority as a museum and the Abbey is a popular place to go for quiet reflection.

2.4 The Abbey Church is a Grade I listed building and forms a group with nos 6 to 14 (consecutive) Abbey Church Yard, nos 13 & 14 Cheap Street, no 3 Stall Street and the Pump Room. It is owned by the Parochial Church Council of St Peter and St Paul.

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3. Chapel Court

3.1 St John's Hospital is an ancient foundation and its site has evolved over many centuries. Much of what is now visible dates from the early 18th century, when the Duke of Chandos engaged John Wood to redevelop the site. Chandos had stayed near St John's when he visited Bath in 1726 and had not found the lodgings to his liking. Seeing an opportunity to make some money he acquired several of the leases around and in the hospital and John Wood the Elder set to work.

3.2 The main hospital range had almshouses below and private lodgings above. Wood was asked to redevelop the upper storey without demolishing the lower floor, an arrangement that did not suit his taste for large scale developments with wide open spaces. John Wood House was the result, with its rubble stone rear elevation facing Bath Street which previously would have been rendered, and ashlar classical front overlooking the courtyard of the hospital. Wood was also commissioned to build several lodging houses for the Duke, including Chandos House and Chandos Buildings (now demolished). Chapel Court House was another reworking of a medieval building and again, not to Wood's taste.

3.3 The complex of Chapel Court is an important one, containing some of the first examples of John Wood's use of classicism in the city and an important element of Bath's history, the medieval hospital.

3.4 The buildings that make up Chapel Court are a mix of Grade I and Grade II. They are owned by St. John's Hospital.

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4. Queen Square

4.1 Queen Square is a prime example of John Wood the Elder's high ambitions for remodelling Bath, revealing his architectural talents and innovative town planning.

4.2 The land was leased to Wood by Robert Gay, with each plot in turn sub-let by Wood to local builders, working to his designs. The scheme for Queen Square was grand: three sides of the square were to be built giving the impression of a palace forecourt, with the main façade on the north, and a formal garden between. The south side was to be a separate building, from which to view the palace arrangement, with a broad promenade fronting it. Building started in 1728 on the east side and took seven years to complete.

4.3 During the course of building, the plans were altered and while the east and north sides were built to Wood's original palace forecourt plan, the west was not. The north side was the first successful use in Britain of a single monumental façade on a row of individual domestic houses and is impressive in its execution. The east side was intended as a complementary wing is therefore somewhat simpler. The west side was built further back from the square, with a mansion façade and enclosed forecourt, and was flanked by two buildings of two houses each. The south side was built much as Wood intended, though without the formal promenade. The central area was enclosed by a low balustrade (now railings) and laid out as a formal garden. An obelisk was erected in the centre on the occasion of the visit of the Prince of Wales.

4.4 The main north façade is largely untouched, though some window proportions have been altered. The west side was altered by John Pinch (younger) in 1830 when he infilled the two flanking buildings to create one long façade, in a different style. The south side was heavily damaged in the bombing raids of 1942, half of it completely destroyed, and has since been rebuilt.

4.5 Queen Square is a highly important development. It is considered to be the most successful early application of a single monumental façade to a group of individual houses and created an urban space that directly related to the domestic buildings around it. The impact of Queen Square was heightened by its early construction, at a time when there were few Georgian buildings in Bath, on previously undeveloped land outside the city walls.

4.6 The buildings of Queen Square are Grade I listed. They are individually owned and are mostly used as business premises.

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5. Prior Park

5.1 The mansion of Prior Park was designed by John Wood the Elder for Ralph Allen in 1735-43, famously as an advertisement for the local Bath stone. The design was grand and extensive, but described by Wood as simple classicism. Wood had built the west wing, pavilion and mansion house before he argued with Allen in 1748 and was removed from the project. Allen's clerk of works, Richard Jones, took over and is said to have ruined Wood's classical symmetry by altering the east wing.

5.2 The situation of the mansion house, close to Allen's stone mines, at the head of a comb overlooking the city gave the building the advantage of a tremendous view, with natural terraces sloping gently away. The building and park is a prominent feature of the Bath skyline. The grounds were landscaped by Allen, with advice first from Pope and later Capability Brown, and they take advantage of the natural topography. The Palladian Bridge, a copy of the one at Wilton, was built in 1756 as a dam for the two lakes.

5.3 Prior Park is both a lesson in architecture and history. It is one of John Wood's earliest works and is demonstrative of the application of Palladianism to the scale and topography of Bath. The mansion is also a principal element of the story of Ralph Allen and Bath stone.

5.4 Prior Park is a Grade I listed building, as is the Palladian Bridge, and the gardens are registered Grade I on the English Heritage Register of Historic Parks & Gardens. The mansion is owned by Prior Park College and the Prior Park Landscape Gardens (including Palladian Bridge) are owned and being restored by the National Trust.

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6. North and South Parade

6.1 Part of John Wood the Elder's overall scheme for Bath was a Royal Forum, to provide a new social focus for the city. The open area would be lined by parades of buildings, each with large terraces overlooking the Forum and built in a grand style similar to the palace façade of Queen Square. The area chosen, Abbey Orchard, was naturally very boggy and a large drainage system had to be in place before building could begin in 1740. Though the site is bordered on the east side by the River Avon, it never seems to have been intended as a visual element of the site.

6.2 The Grand, or North Parade was the first to be constructed with South Parade, overlooking the Forum, started in 1743. As usual, Wood designed the facades and each individual builder undertook to comply with those designs whilst given freehand with the internal layout and rear elevations. To the north of this quadrangle of buildings, was the Grand Parade for promenading. East and west were Pierrepont and Duke Streets, with facing blocks of houses. St James' Portico, on the west side of Pierrepont Street was constructed to give access to Orchard Street without breaking the uniformity of the street façade.

6.3 The scheme for the Royal Forum was abandoned and so the buildings on the eastern side were never constructed. Alterations to the Parades began even in construction when some tenants began to change proportions, particularly to the raised terraces, and this has continued into the 19th and 20th century with alterations to windows and insertion of shopfronts. The grandiose scheme was never completed, but serves to illustrate again the ambition of Wood's town planning.

6.4 As physical manifestations of John Wood's huge architectural ambitions for Bath, the Parades are very special and unusual buildings despite the fabric alterations that have taken place since their construction.

6.5 The buildings of North and South Parade, with Duke Street and Pierrepont Street, North Parade Bridge and North Parade wall and balustrade are a mix of Grade I, II* and II. The buildings are in mixed ownership and are used as homes, hotels and business premises.

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7. Circus

7.1 Many believe that the Circus is the pinnacle of Wood the Elder's work, combining his talent for town planning, understanding of classical architecture and the drama of facades with his interests in Roman and native British architecture and beliefs. There appears to be much symbolism in the details of the Circus, which have been the focus for discussion for many years. Wood may have been directly influenced by the form of Stonehenge, as there are similarities in dimensions. Wood died soon after the first stone was laid in 1754, and the Circus was completed by his son, also named John Wood.

7.2 The Circus consists of three equal segments of buildings around an open area. There are three entrance roads, none of which give vistas of anything other than the buildings of the Circus, thereby creating an enclosed space that relates only to the buildings surrounding it. The approach up Gay Street was designed so that nothing was revealed of the form of the Circus until arrival at the top of the hill. The segments contain different numbers of buildings, varying in size, but all have three principal storeys and a uniform frontage height. Three different classical orders are used crowned by a parapet for stone acorns (linking the Circus to the legend of Prince Bladud discovering the Hot Springs in ancient times). The unity of the facades is accentuated by the disparity of the rear elevations where, in the usual practice, each builder was allowed to cater to their clients personal requirements.

7.3 The central area was originally paved and left open, intended to contain a statue of King George that was never erected. Each house was given a walled garden behind, designed by John Wood the Elder as a part of the overall design. Wood specified the distance beyond which the rear elevations of the house were not permitted to stretch, in order to maintain some harmony of design and the retention of the garden space.

7.4 The Circus holds a unique place in both British architecture and town planning. It was central to Wood's designs for Bath and reflects directly his ideas on the relationship between public and private space and the importance of providing outdoor social spaces within the city.

7.5 The Circus is Grade I listed and is in mixed ownership. The buildings are mostly private homes.

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8. Royal Crescent

8.1 In the great tradition of his father, John Wood the Younger contrived one of the most outstanding pieces of Georgian architecture with his Royal Crescent. The approach along Brock Street is deliberately subdued architecturally, and the magnificence of the Crescent is only apparent as the end is approached. The situation of the Crescent, the formality of the buildings, the huge front lawn and the views across the city to the rural hills beyond combine to match any of John Wood the Elder's plans.

8.2 In contrast to the Circus, the Crescent is severe in its restraint relying on scale and proportions for its elegance. The thirty houses differ in size and plan but form a uniform façade. The first house, no 1 on the eastern end, was started in 1767, with the last completed in 1775.

8.3 As with so many of the Georgian buildings, the sash windows have been altered but other than this, little has changed. Two of the houses were gutted during the bombing raids of 1942, nos 2 and 17, but the remaining interiors are largely original. The retention of green open space in front of the lawn of the Royal Crescent, now part of Royal Victoria Park, is of crucial importance for its setting and views.

8.4 There are few other crescents that have had such impact on architecture or held such an iconic reputation for so long. The Royal Crescent directly influenced architecture both in Bath and on a national and international scale. It marks the introduction in Britain of the Picturesque to urban architecture and is equal to any composition in Europe.

8.5 The Royal Crescent is Grade I listed. The buildings are in mixed ownership and are mostly used as private homes.

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9. Pulteney Bridge

9.1 Built by Robert Adam in 1769-74 for Sir William Pulteney to allow development across the river in Bathwick, Pulteney Bridge is another enduring image of Bath.

9.2 Originally the bridge was part of an extensive development for the Bathwick estate, but Adam's plans were rejected and the bridge is the sole survivor of his grand scheme. The structure of the bridge is very much as built, with some alterations made in 1804 due to subsidence. The buildings, however, have been much altered, and on the north side are quite different to the original plans. The south side, more visually accessible, has been restored and the overhanging projections removed.

9.3 Architecturally, the bridge is a rare example of classical Palladianism in this form. Historically, the bridge represents the grandeur of 18th century Bath society and the spatial needs of the expanding town, requiring the development of Bathwick as a residential area.

9.4 Pulteney Bridge is Grade I listed. It is owned by Bath & North East Somerset and let out on a long-term lease. The individual units are used for mixed retail.

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10. Assembly Rooms

10.1 The first assembly rooms were built in 1708 by Thomas Harrison, situated on Terrace Walk by Harrison's Walks. They were extensively remodelled throughout the century but by the 1760s, with the growth of the upper town as a residential area, a need grew for additional assembly rooms to serve this area. Paid for by subscription, designed by John Wood the Younger, the New or Upper Assembly Rooms opened in 1771 between Bennet Street and Alfred Street.

10.2 The Rooms originally contained a Ballroom, Card Room and Tea Room around a central octagonal hall and were quickly the focus for social life, the magnificence of the interiors overshadowing every other public building in Bath. An early alteration was the addition of another card room, a large rectangular apartment on the east front. The Rooms are still used today for their original function of public entertainments. The chandeliers are acknowledged as the finest in-situ 18th century examples of their kind in the world.

10.3 Tragically, the Assembly Rooms were hit by incendiary bombs in 1942 and consequently gutted, having just been refurbished by the National Trust who acquired the buildings in 1931. Restoration was completed in 1963 and the building was reopened. The extensive fire damage is still visible in the colour of the stonework in the Tea Room.

10.4 The Assembly Rooms were central to Georgian society and are a physical reminder of the growing aspirations and status of the town throughout the 18th century. Architecturally, they have one of the finest interiors in the city, though sadly no longer original.

10.5 The Assembly Rooms are Grade I listed. They are owned by the National Trust and let on a long-lease to Bath & North East Somerset Council, who open the Rooms to the public and operate the Museum of Costume located in the basement.

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11. Lansdown Crescent

11.1 This crescent was one of the last to be built before the financial crash of 1793, and several of the speculating builders involved with it were ruined that year. Lansdown was the work of John Palmer for Charles Spackman, a wealthy property valuer and was built between 1789 and 1793.

11.2 Situated in one of the most striking positions in the city, the sinuous lines of the buildings following the slopes of Lansdown sit comfortably in the landscape. Palmer's designs took the example of Royal Crescent and its landscape setting to another level. The high setting gives the houses a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and their immediate rural context is secured by the rural field sloping down the hill in front of the Crescent. This rough pasture field is protected from development, recognised as central to a full appreciation of this important episode in Bath's architectural history.

11.3 The classical design skilfully incorporates both the contours and slopes of the hill, with a concave central crescent and convex stepped up flanking wings. The ironwork is particularly fine on these buildings and is original. The archway between 20 Lansdown Crescent and 1 Lansdown Place West was built by William Beckford to house his library. The buildings have suffered little alteration and only some small damage during the bombing raids.

11.4 This development represents the height of landscape design and the terrace crescent in British architecture.

11.5 Lansdown Crescent is Grade I listed. The buildings are in mixed ownership and are mostly private homes.

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12. Sydney Gardens

12.1 These pleasure grounds were opened in 1795, and represent a focus for the society of Bath towards the end of its high popularity. Originally designed in conjunction with the Tavern (known as Sydney House), as a focal point for Baldwin's Bathwick estate, Sydney Gardens are now somewhat stranded at the edge of Georgian Bath. The gardens, opened before the hotel construction was started, were a profit making enterprise built to rival the reputation of Vauxhall Gardens in London, then the height of fashion for adult entertainment venues.

12.2 Laid out with winding paths, pavilions for private al fresco dining, lawns, groves, and water features, the gardens were the scene of some of the best social encounters of the period. The arrival of the Kennet and Avon canal in 1800-1, cutting the gardens at the east end, did not diminish the popularity of the gardens but rather enhanced it, with the two beautiful wrought iron bridges becoming another attraction.

12.3 The railway was another matter. In 1840, the Great Western Railway cut through the centre of the gardens, destroying the labyrinth, perimeter walk and isolating a large section of the northern gardens from their connecting paths. By this time, Bath society had altered and the popularity of the gardens was already waning.

12.4 Further encroachments took place for building purposes and in the 1860s the gardens were laid out with bandstand, croquet, archery and lawn tennis, reflecting the changing tastes of the public. The transfer to municipal park was completed by 1912 when Bath City Council bought the whole site, selling the Tavern building (used by the Bath Proprietary College from 1853-1880) and a small area of gardens to the Trustees of Sir William Hobourne's art collection. The Holbourne of Menstrie Museum (now the Holbourne Museum of Art), opened in 1916. In 1995 Bath City Council began a restoration programme to remove some of the modern developments within the park and restore some of the original layout.

12.5 The historical importance of Sydney Gardens relates to the development of public entertainments and the sociability of the Georgians. It is an integral part of the story of Georgian Bath towards the end of the 18th century.

12.6 Sydney Gardens are registered Grade II on the English Heritage Register of Historic Parks & Gardens. They are owned and operated as a public park by Bath & North East Somerset.

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