Category Archives: Events in Bath

Events in Bath

Focus on Bath – The Old Theatre Royal and Masonic Museum

Hidden around the back of Marks and Spencer’s, down a non-descript cobbled street in Bath, is a treasure of a building that preserves an important part of the city’s history.

OldTheatreRoyalBathEye

Few visitors seek it out, but those who do are well rewarded with a fascinating glimpse into the past, and I urge both visitors and Bathonians alike to seek it out! Where else can you peek behind a Georgian theatre’s stage, stand where a famous actress once performed, and delve deep into the cellars to seek the secrets of Freemasonry?!

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The wonderful building that was the Old Theatre Royal is now run by the local Freemasons Lodge, who not only care for the building, but also run the guided tours .The couple of hours that you spend with your knowledgeable guide can in no way cover every aspect of the building’s history, but luckily there is a guidebook you can purchase to help fill in any blanks.

My guide for the afternoon was none other than the Grand Master himself, the wonderfully named Trevor Quartermain. He was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and really brought to life the history of the building.

Starting outside in Orchard Street itself, the only clue to the building’s former use is a plaque on the wall that informs you of its previous incarnation – the site of St James’ Theatre, the first Theatre Royal in Bath, built in 1750 by local businessman John Palmer, and where the famous Shakespearean actress, Sarah Siddons, trod the boards.

OldTheatreRoyalBathPlaque

This area of Bath looked very different in the 18th Century. Where Henry Street now runs adjacent to Orchard Street, one has to imagine the River Avon’s floor plain spread all over this area, and the end of the street accessed via stone steps that led down to it. Today this area has long since been drained and levelled, with the river now running much further away, but as a location for a theatre, it was not a promising start.

The only access therefore to the theatre was via Pierrepont colonnade, the opposite end of the street that can be entered from Manvers Street. However there was nowhere for the carriages to turn around until improvements were made to the carriageway in 1774 creating a turning area and stabling to encourage more theatregoers.

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Where you enter the building today, this is part of the 1774 extension of the theatre. The original front doors of the theatre are still extant within the foyer area, and through the right hand doorway there is a further internal door, white and peppered with iron bolts with a small peek hole. This white door in fact is the original back door to the theatre, moved here at some point in the building’s ever changing history.

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Because the old theatre has not only been used as a place of entertainment but also as a place of worship for the Catholic Church, and then as a Freemasons Lodge, the building has a varied and interesting story to tell.

Within the foyer do head to the first landing where there are displays on the staircase of various masonic aprons, gauntlets, portraits and information. Resting on top of the staircase are two coade stone beehives that were once part of the original Masonic temple here. Trevor informed us that all the furnishings we see today at the Lodge are actually replicas of those that were sold off at auction in the 1930’s. Today the originals can be seen at the Barnstaple Freemasons Lodge in Devon.

OldTheatreRoyalBathBeehives

The original Masonic museum was housed on the upper floor, but it has now been moved to the basement to make access easier. Trevor did allow me to pop upstairs to take a peek in the library and to see what had been the principle actors’ dressing room. Although a simple room to look at, the more you looked the finer the details stood out in the plasterwork and fireplace.

When you begin the tour you head through the white iron studded door into the first room of the theatre. This room would have been the Crush Bar. This area would have housed the audience before a performance, and where they could mingle, gossip and take refreshment. Space was limited, hence the apt name of “Crush” bar.

All around this room today are the records of the seven craft lodges and 13 associated side degrees that make use of the building today. The oldest of the Bath lodges, the Royal Cumberland, predates the theatre, and began in 1732. The certificate granting this lodge a licence can be seen on the wall next door.

OldTheatreRoyalPanels

Heading through from the Crush bar you enter the main auditorium. Originally there would not have been the wall separating the Crush bar from the auditorium, but a series of internal columns.

OldTheatreRoyalBathMainStage

Entering the main room your breath is taken away by not just all the pomp and plushness of the Freemasonry, but the huge dominating stage at the far end. Tearing my eyes away from all the furnishings and symbolism that surrounds, Trevor pointed out the outlines of the original theatre. The site of the boxes on the walls, the ghostly image of the door that led up to the dressing room I had seen earlier and where the actors and actresses would have made their entrance on to the stage, and of course the stage itself.

Note the ghostly outline of a door and where the boxes once were

Note the ghostly outline of a door and where the boxes once were

Looking around there is much extant evidence of the 18th Century theatre. There is even the remains of one of the original Georgian boxes, high up on the left hand side of the stage. Apparently there would have been 3 tiers of boxes spread all the way along both side walls. The main auditorium, what we would call the stalls today, would have been lower down than where we stand, and tiered to ensure everyone had a view. When the 1774 refurbishment took place, 200 extra seats were added at the back of the theatre and above the Crush bar; these would have spread out in a fan like shape.

A curious feature of the stage that one cannot miss, are the four large columns that dominate the main stage area. One would presume this would block any view of the actors and actresses on stage, but performances were very different in the 18th Century to how they are today. Two hundred and sixty five years ago actors and actresses didn’t move around as much as they do in today’s theatre. In fact they were more likely to stay in one spot for their speeches and monologues. It wasn’t “acting” so much as intoning to their audience.

OldTheatreRoyalHowLooked

As you imagine the hundreds of people crowded into the theatre, you realise how close the people would have been to the stage, especially those in the side boxes that were actually on the stage itself. People in the 18th Century didn’t sit reverently through productions as we do now. There was talking, flirting, gossiping, heckling and it was not unknown for those in the side boxes to stride across stage mid act to chat to those the other side, or to leave if bored!

The first refurbishment of the theatre actually took place a decade before the 1774 alterations. It is recorded that in 1764 a large dome was added to aid the acoustics and ventilation of the theatre. If you look up at the sky blue ceiling, peppered with stars, you can see the ventilation shaft, cleverly disguised in the central boss. Two hundred and fifty years on and this is still what cools the hall to this day!

OldTheatreRoyalBoss

Yet, in the 18th Century this ventilation shaft was greatly needed and relieved the long suffering theatre goers. When first built no one had thought of adding windows or some form of air flow into the theatre. Imagine 900 people crowded in to this space on a hot summer’s evening. Most people never washed, many would be wearing powdered wigs, rouge and various other unguents, and all of them festering and sweating away while watching a play by the light of hundreds of tallow fat candles. The stench!!

In 1768, John Palmer’s son, John Palmer Junior, took over the running of the theatre and applied for letters patent from King George III. It was in this year that Bath’s St James’ Theatre, became the first provincial theatre to gain a Royal Patent, and thus have permission to call itself a “Theatre Royal”. It was in fact the third in the country to gain such a title after Covent Garden and Drury Lane theatres in London.

Those who came to the theatre would have included all the great and good that came to take the waters in Bath. It was another place to see and be seen. Visitors included Jane Austen and Horatio Nelson. William Herschel the astronomer is known to even have conducted an organ recital here, although the original organ has long since gone.

Sarah Siddons

Sarah Siddons

Between 1778 and 1782 the St James’ Theatre was where Bath’s most famous actress, and later England’s most lauded tragedian actresses, Sarah Siddons, began her career. She was inevitably enticed to the London stage, but she never forgot Bath, and in 1799 she performed for the last time in the city at a benefit performance. Her fame was so huge that tickets had sold out immediately. The theatre workers could not hold back the over-excited crowds that thronged outside. Unable to get a ticket, but after a glimpse of their heroine, many people took advantage of the confusion and pushed their way in. Siddons was not in fact due to appear until the second act of the play, however her arrival at the theatre caused such a furore the other actors had to stop and the play did not continue that night.

It was in 1809 that the Theatre Royal we know today opened its doors on Beaufort Square. The change in venue was not just to do with the bad positioning of the St James’ Theatre, with restricted access; but a combination of factors including the fact that by around 1805 acting had progressed to moving around the stage, more in reminiscence of what we know today. The Orchard Street theatre with its huge columns and no more room for extension could not meet the standards of 19th Century theatre, and thus the new Theatre Royal took over.

The "new" Theatre Royal in Bath, Beaufort Street entrance

The “new” Theatre Royal in Bath, Beaufort Street entrance

The building was bought by the Catholic Church who set about removing much of what was within – the boxes were taken down, the floor levelled, and stone vaulting was added below to act as a burial ground within the city. Soon it became a place of worship and most traces of the 18th Century theatre had disappeared or been hidden.

Catholic records imply that there are over 380 people buried beneath the old Theatre Royal, however as you see when you reach the vaults, few of them have actually been cleared to access the burials. Most of the vaults are backfilled with dirt and rubble and require an extensive and costly archaeological investigation. I was given a peek into one of these inaccessible tunnels and my torch beam bounced upon beautifully carved monuments and tombstones broken and buried beneath piles of brick and stone. What treasures lie in these tunnels?!

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After its tenure as a Catholic Church, the building was left vacant for a number of years. The Freemasons of Bath were seeking a permanent home by the mid 19th Century. Previously lodges had met at particular pubs within the city, but by 1865 it was decided by members of the Royal Sussex Lodge to purchase what was then known as the “Orchard Street Chapel”. Further lodges joined the Royal Sussex here and so its use grew.

The building itself was almost destroyed in the 1942 Bombing of Bath, and as such was placed on the Council’s demolition list. Luckily its fate was not sealed, but the Freemasons didn’t move back until 1950.

Continuing on the tour, you not only get to walk upon the stage, but take a look behind too. An 18th Century theatre really had little behind the scenes. The space between the stage and the back wall is tiny. Fascinatingly you can see the access door to the remaining Georgian theatre box, iron key still in situ in the lock. Original wooden hanging boards remain, and would have been where the scenery panels or sheets would have been hung. There was no space for the addition of flies to lift curtains or scenery. Both acting and scenery was static it appears in 18th Century theatre!

Behind the Stage - Georgian theatre box and Scenery Hangings

Behind the Stage – Georgian theatre box and Scenery Hangings

During the Catholic Church’s tenure of the building, a small private chapel was added to the back of the theatre, today this space is still used for prayer by the Templars and Knights of Malta who meet here.

Our guide and Grand Master, Trevor Quartermain, in the Chapel

Our guide and Grand Master, Trevor Quartermain, in the Chapel

To gain access to the final part of the tour, the basement vaults, you have to retrace your steps and head downstairs. Here you can see not only some of the Catholic memorials that have been found, but this is where the bulk of the Masonic museum can be found. Room after room is filled with fascinating objects. There is a pair of gauntlets and an apron that date from the earliest Bath Lodge of 1732 in one room, while another room is filled with beautifully enamelled and bejewelled medals and trinkets. The further in you go, the more there is to see, and it’s definitely worth a second visit to be able to spend some time just here in the basement museum.

OldTheatreRoyalBathmedals

Trevor is happy, as are all the guides, to answer any questions people may have on Freemasonry. He says he wants to debunk the myths that have grown up around it, especially since Dan Brown’s book The Da Vinci Code was published! From the tracing boards and globes to the all-seeing eye and set squares, everything has meaning that you see around you.

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Although the building is used primarily by the various lodges as a meeting space, the building is still used today as a theatre. Only recently Bath Fringe Festival used the stage for many of its shows, and you can find on the Old Theatre Royal website a whole list of upcoming recitals, performances and gigs. At Christmas time there is even a Pantomime staged, with free entry for children.

It’s wonderful to know that this building in the heart of the city is still used today, including in its primary purpose. It’s important that it remains open to the public to visit and enjoy, but the cost of keeping up a Grade II listed building such as this does not come cheap, and currently all the costs are met by the Freemasons themselves. So I urge everyone to come and support the preservation of this fascinating building, packed full of history. It’s more than just the old theatre of Bath and a Masonic Museum, it’s a must-see!

Guide tours of the Old Theatre Royal and Masonic Museum take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 11am and 2.30pm. On Saturdays at 2.30pm only.

Ticket prices are: £6 for adults, £3.50 for children (aged 6 to 16), £5 for concessions and £12 for a Family Ticket (2 adults and 2 children).

For details of upcoming events, shows and for further information about the Old Theatre Royal and Masonic Museum, please go to the website.

 

Musical May – Bath International Music Festival

Established in 1948, Bath International Music Festival is now in its 67th year and stronger than ever. This year it runs from Friday 15th May to Tuesday 26th May.

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The popular festival, sees the city come alive with music from nearly 2000 performers over its 12 day run. From classical, jazz, folk and world music, musicians and orchestras congregate on Bath from all around the world.

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The Festival kicks off with the well loved Party in the City with an opening procession and free music throughout the evening over 43 venues, plus out and about on the streets of Bath. It’s not to be missed. Enjoy street performers, gospel choirs, and even an 8 metre long Disco dancing Turtle! You can even sample some unusual drinks while the music plays, as Ora Et Labora are inviting you to discover the wonderful honey drink of Mead with their specially created Mead cocktails during Party in the City.

Once again the Party is joined by the fantastic Museums at Night celebrations, when many of the city’s popular Museums are open after hours for exploration and special exhibitions and talks.

Sally Lunns Restaurant Oldest House in Bath at Night in Bath Somerset England

The fun doesn’t just stop after Friday. You don’t have to have tickets to events to enjoy Bath International Music Festival as there will be free music on the Bandstand in the Parade Gardens the weekend of 16th and 17th May. Plus, a free family Music Day on Sunday 24th May.

We can’t wait to see the city buzzing and alive with all that music!

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To ensure you have your accommodation and restaurant table booked during The Bath Music Festival, please call us on 01225 463134. The best deals are obtained direct with the hotel, so please call us, book directly via our website, or email us at info@royalhotelbath.co.uk

Women of Bath

Since it was International Women’s Day (8th March 2015), and Mothering Sunday (15th March 2015) last month, plus the inaugural Women of Bath event at The Guildhall in the city on 9th March, supported by our very own female Mayor, Cherry Beath, we thought we’d write a post about some of the important women who have played a part in putting Bath on the map.

We featured a shorter version of this post on our Facebook site. It got so many hits that we thought we would create an extended version for you to read.

This is our Top 10 Women of Bath. The list is not in any particular order and those included our not necessarily born and bred in the city, but they’ve been included because we think these women have had a significant impact on Bath in some form or other.

  • JANE AUSTEN – Author (1775-1817)

“Bath is still Bath”

Jane Austen

Despite professing to disliking Bath during her stay here, there is no denying the impact that her time spent in the city, and her books, have had on Bath’s tourist industry.

You can visit a Museum dedicated to her, walk in her footsteps visiting locations she would have known, plus there is also a Jane Austen Festival every September which sees a Guinness Record breaking parade of people in Regency costume snake their way through the city.

Jane was born and spent her childhood growing up in Steventon, Hampshire. However, her parents already had a strong connection to Bath. Her mother was from the Leigh family of Bath with connections to the 1st Duke of Chandos, James Brydges (her great-uncle). In fact her parents were married at Walcot Church in Bath in April 1764 and her father, who died in the city, is buried at the same church – St Swinthins.

Her father, a Rector, chose to retire to Bath, bringing his family with him and settling in lodgings in the city. Thus, came the author to Bath. The family lived in various places including The Paragon, Gay Street, and Trim Street, between the years 1801 and 1806, including some time spent with her aunt and uncle the Leigh-Perrot’s.

Jane’s time in Bath is said to be the least productive period of her writing, however city life was more of a social whirl than the countryside where she came from and it shows in one of Jane’s letter’s to her sister Cassandra:
“ They want us to drink tea with them tonight, but I do not know whether my Mother will have the nerves for it. We are engaged tomorrow Evening. What request we are in!”

All these social engagements and observations on city life were to be of use to Jane in her writings, and Bath features heavily in two particular books, published after her death, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
Whatever Jane thought of Bath, the city has certainly embraced her.

  • Amy Williams M.B.E. – Olympic Athlete and Presenter (1982-)

AmyWilliams

Born in Cambridge but brought up in Bath, Amy attended school at Beechen Cliff and Hayesfield School Technical College. She then graduated from Bath University.

Originally a 400m runner, Amy didn’t qualify for the national athletics team, so while at University in 2002, she turned her attention to trying out a new push start Skeleton track, and so a new sporting career began!
Her first major sporting event in Skeleton was in the 2009 World Championships where she won a silver medal. Spurred on by this success Amy trained even harder, winning a place in the Team GB Winter Olympics team for Vancouver in 2010.

It was here at these Olympic Games that Amy became a Gold Medal winner. The first British woman to win gold at an individual event in the Winter Olympics in 58 years and Britain’s first winner in an individual event in 30 years!

In 2012 Amy had to retire due to injuries, but she has gone on to become a presenter for the BBC Sport’s commentary team, a co-presenter on Ski Sunday, a Team GB Ambassador and a member of The Gadget Show Team.

Amy continues to make Bath her home, and was made an Honorary Freeman of Bath in 2010, the first ever woman in Bath’s history to be given this award.

  • Alison Goldfrapp – Musician and Record Producer (1966-)

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Alison Goldfrapp was born in Enfield, London, went to school in Alton, Hampshire, and studied Fine Art at Middlesex University.

During her years in Alton, Alison sang with a number of different bands. In her 20’s she performed with a Dance Company in the Netherlands, then continued with her musical involvements while studying at University.

She travelled through Europe in the 1990s picking up musical and film influences along the way. Her interest in Art and her love of different musical and film genres is reflected in her work today – her stage shows and music videos are a whole experience.

In 1999 Alison met record producer and composter Will Gregory. Gregory, from Bristol, had worked with Peter Gabriel and Portishead, and after many talks the two of them chose to form the band Goldfrapp.

Their first album, written in a house in Wiltshire, debuted in 2000. This was then followed in 2003 by the album, Black Cherry. This album, and proceeding ones, was recorded in a Bath studio near Bath Spa Railway station in an old Station Master’s cottage. It was in this darkened and fairly dilapidated studio, peppered with neon lights that Alison used to write down her song ideas for the band’s second album.

The collaboration between Gregory and Goldfrapp works well, with mainly Alison writing the lyrics and Will composing the melodies. Their last album, Tales of Us was released in 2013.

It is believed that Alison still lives on the outskirts of Bath.

  • Caroline “Lina” Herschel – German British Astronomer (1750-1848)

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Born in Hanover, Caroline, or Lina to her family, was a sickly child. Smallpox disfigured her features and Typhus stunted her growth, however it was her intelligence and aptitude at mathematics and astronomy that were to bring her praise and accolades in her lifetime.

Her brother, William (later Sir William) Herschel, brought her over to Bath, from Germany, in 1722. At the time he was living in Bath as a musician and she became an acclaimed singer under his instruction. Her talent was thus that she was soon singing solos in public performances in the city and was even offered an engagement in Birmingham. However, ever loyal to her brother she remained only with him and would only sing if he was conducting her.

When William trained to as an astronomer, so did she and she acted as his assistant in his work, including the calculations of his observations. In 1781 William discovered a new planet – Uranus, and he was given the role of Court Astronomer to King George II.

Caroline wasn’t just William’s assistant though. She made her own observations and discoveries too, usually when William was away. In 1783 Caroline recorded seeing various new Nebulae, and in August 1786 she discovered her first comet, becoming the first woman ever to do so. During her lifetime she was to discover 7 more comets plus publish a number of books including “A Catalogue of Stars” (1798).

Through her own discoveries, Caroline was celebrated in her own right as an astronomer. As assistant to William, the Court Astronomer, the King made an unusual stipend to William’s pay, of £50 a year specifically for her. Thus Caroline became the first woman in England to have a paid government appointment. Caroline was also the first woman to be given The Royal Astronomical Society’s Gold Medal in 1828; and in 1835, along with Mary Somerville, they became the first women to be given honorary membership of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Following her brother’s death in 1822, Caroline returned to Hanover but continued to accept the plaudits for her work. Neither she, nor her brother, are forgotten in Bath as there is the wonderful Herschel Museum to visit.

 

  • Belinda Kidd – Chief Executive of Bath Festivals

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Belinda is originally from Marlow in Buckinghamshire, and has made her way to Bath via many varied and interesting avenues.

She has long had a love for the arts having studied at the Courtald Institute in London. She worked for Brighton Festival, securing £15 million lottery funding for Brighton Dome, and also was previously Executive Director of the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, and had strategic roles at West Midlands Arts and Birmingham City Council.

After working as Programme Director for Liverpool Arts Regeneration Consortium, Belinda looked to make her move to the South West.

She now lives with her husband, John, in Combe Down, and has been Chief Executive of Bath Festivals since 2010.

Her job involves her overseeing the programme and running of the popular annual International Music Festival, the Literature Festival and the Children’s Literature Festival in the city.

 

  • Stephanie Millward – Paralympic Athlete (1981-)

StephanieMillward

Stephanie was born in Saudi Arabia and went to school in Corsham, Wiltshire (9 miles from Bath). It was during her school years that Stephanie’s strength as a swimmer was spotted and she began to train in earnest for a place in the National Squad.

At the age of only 15, Stephanie broke the British record for the 100 metre backstroke and she look set to gain a place for the 2000 Olympic Games. However, her dreams were shattered when, aged 17, Stephanie was diagnosed with the debilitating disease, MS (Multiple Sclerosis).

She came back fighting though, and through her struggles began to train again, She qualified for a place in the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, where she competed in four S9 events. Despite not gaining a medal, Stephanie continued to go from strength to strength picking up Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at proceeding World, International and British competitions.

It was at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London that Stephanie won her first Paralympic medal – a silver. She then proceeded to pick up 4 more medals in the games, including 3 more silver and 1 bronze medal.

At the 2014 IPC Swimming European Championships in Eindhoven, Netherlands, Stephanie picked up five gold medals, one silver, and one bronze. She is also a four times World Disability Swimming Champion.

Stephanie has written a book, “Paying the Price”, about her experiences, and has undertaken visits and talks in and around the city. She is also an Ambassador for BANES Carers Association. She lives on the outskirts of Bath and trains both in Bath and in Swansea.

  • Rev. Prudence (Prue) Dufour, M.B.E. – Nurse & Hospice Pioneer (1942 – 2004)

Prue Dufour Dorothy House

Her name may not be familiar, but the majority of people in Bath will know the name of the Hospice that she founded in the city almost 40 years ago – Dorothy House.

Prue was born in Rudgwick Sussex and grew up in a family of faith, her father being a Chaplain of Guy’s Hospital in London. Her mother was a nurse and educated her children at home until they were of secondary school age, when Prue was sent to Switzerland. After a year in Bangladesh, Prue returned to England to study nursing at Middlesex Hospital.

Prue moved to Bath to become a staff nurse on the radiotherapy ward at the Royal United Hospital. In 1975 she was sent on secondment to St Christopher’s Hospital in London and it was on her return that Prue decided that a similar facility was needed locally for those who were “living with cancer”.

Despite meeting with some opposition, Prue went on to leave the NHS and set up Dorothy House in 1976. She chose the name Dorothy because it meant “gift of God”. It was initially a domiciliary service, but in 1979 the charity opened their first in-patient unit in Bloomfield Road, Bath. By 1995 the organisation had expanded so much that it had to move out to its current premises at Winsley on the outskirts of the city.

Today her legacy continues with free high quality care and support to people and the family of people with life limiting illnesses. The team at Dorothy House or “Dotty House” run many events in and around Bath, including the Bath Midnight Walk (September) to raise money for the hospice. Plus you can find their charity shops throughout the city and surrounding areas.

  • Kirsten Elliott Swift – Author, Historian & Freelance Broadcaster and Journalist

Kirsten Elliott

The title we have given Kirsten doesn’t do justice to her many talents. She has an unsurpassed wealth of knowledge on the city, and is a strong campaigner for the protection of Bath’s buildings and heritage.

Born in Portsmouth, but having travelled the world growing up as her father was in the Navy, Kirsten has made Bath her home now for many decades. She shares her home with her husband, fellow author, Dr Andrew Swift and their dog, Islay.

She went to London University to study Maths and later became an I.T. systems analyst. Her interests include Architecture and Industrial Archaeology (particularly canals) plus social life in the Georgian period, and the history of local public houses. These interests stem from her family who were previously both builders and pub owners.

Her mum also imparted in Kirsten an important principle, that when one is travelling always try to learn about a place. Of course this is the first thing that Kirsten did when she moved to Bath…and she hasn’t stopped since!

Kirsten became a tour guide in the city in 1985, and later co-founded with her husband the company, Bath Walks. She and Andrew also continue to run extremely popular walks in the city for Bath International Music Festival, and Bath Literature Festival.

They also co-founded their own publishing business, Akeman Press in 2003, and have co-written books together, as well as both being published independently.

Kirsten also runs Historic Home Research, where she works as an architectural consultant and historian.

When Kirsten isn’t so busy (!!) with work or writing her blog posts, she is also a member of the History of Bath Research Group and the Bath Minuet Company.

  • Lizzy Yarnold, M.B.E. – Olympic Athlete (1988-)

Lizzy-Yarnold

Born in Kent, Lizzy was a sporty child who specialised in the Heptathalon when at school. She went on to study Geography and Sports Science at the University of Gloucestershire.

In 2008 Lizzy entered a talent identification programme called Girls for Gold, which was looking to spot and train talented young hopefuls to become the next Olympic stars. It was at this scheme that she was identified as having an aptitude for skeleton bobsleigh.

Within only five years she has risen to the top of her game. She currently holds the Olympic, World and European titles in Skeleton, the second woman ever to hold all three titles at the same time and the first British slider to do so.

Her Olympic Gold was won at the Sochi Winter Games in 2014 after joining the national squad in 2010, and then this year she added the European (February) and World (March) titles.

She lives and trains in Bath, where the British Skeleton Team are based during the summer months.

  • Mary Berry, C.B.E. Food Writer and T.V. Presenter (1935-)

Mary Berry

Born and raised in Bath, Mary’s father was to become a Mayor of Bath during her childhood in the city.

Mary attended Bath High School where it was her Domestic Science teacher, Miss Date, who encouraged her cooking skills and interest in food. She went on from Bath High to study catering and institutional management at the Bath School of Home Economics.

Her first job was at a Bath Electricity Board showroom, demonstrating how new electric ovens worked by baking Victoria sponges in them. From here she made the move to the Dutch Dairy Board where she managed to convince them to pay for her to train at The Cordon Bleu cookery school in Paris.

She began to write cookbooks throughout the 1970s and 1980s and was especially associated with Aga cooking, running her own workshops in the 1990s. Mary was also for a while the cookery editor of the Housewife Magazine, then the Ideal Home Magazine. Since 1994, she has also had her own range of salad dressings, a business she set up with her daughter.

Despite having a full career having written over 70 cookbooks, Mary’s popularity went stellar in 2010 when she became a judge on the BBC’s programme The Great British Bake Off (GBBO). She even became a fashion icon, with a floral bomber jacket from a High Street store that she wore in one episode selling out all over the country.

Since her move to GBBO, Mary has written further recipe books and has been involved on the Junior Bake Off, Comic Relief and Sport’s Relief Bake Off programmes.

In 2014 Mary was awarded the Freedom of the City of Bath, and has continued to return to her home city, whether to do talks at local bookshops or to switch on Bath’s Christmas lights.

PHOTO BY PAUL GILLIS/paulgillisphoto.com

So, what do you think of our list? It’s difficult to pick just ten people.

There are many other women of the city who have made an impact or influence on Bath.

Here are a few more names of women of or from Bath who have had an impact in the city – Viv Groskop, Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, Jacqueline Wilson, Elizabeth Montagu, Hannah More, Elizabeth Landon, Catherine Macaulay, Mary Shelley, Georgette Heyer, Helen Augusta Hope, Elizabeth Linley and Sarah Siddon. Who would you choose for your list?

[Note – We have endeavoured to ensure that all information is correct and up to date. However, we welcome amendments.]

Focus on Bath: Amy Laws – Fashion Designer

With the fantastically glamorous festival, Bath in Fashion 2015, starting this coming Saturday, March 21st, for a whole week, we thought we’d take a closer look at one of the many Bath based designers within the city.

Bath in Fashion 2015

Bath’s history of being a Spa town, and THE place to go and be seen during the “season”, meant the city developed a reputation over the centuries as being a city of Fashion and Fashionistas. Today, Bath still has a hub of creative individuals who all produce wonderful things for the fashion lovers of the city who want something not just of quality but individualistic.

The city is also host to a number of Fashion design courses. One can study at both Bath Spa University and Bath College for a Fashion Design degree or B.A. in Fashion and Textiles. Many of these students will then move on to the bigger cities such as Bristol, London and Manchester to explore their potential further, and to gain invaluable placements in nationally renowned design and fashion agencies. However, in Bath itself you can also find designers beavering away creating their own collections.

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You can pick up items made by local Bath based fashion designers within the city itself or online. For luxurious leather handbags with a difference buy from Liz Cox (17 Margarets Buildings) or Peony & Moore (concession within Sisi & May, Bartlett Street). Beautiful hand-printed 100% silk scarves by Eleanor J Shore can be obtained through her online shop. While if you want to add some fun jewellery and accessories to an outfit for either men or women, pop into Charlie Boots on Broad Street.

EleanorJShorescarves

If you look up dressmakers in Bath you will come across many skilled seamstresses who choose to go into the very lucrative market of occasion and wedding wear. However, what about day to day clothing? This is a side-line somewhat overlooked; however not by one Bath based designer and dressmaker, Amy Laws, who runs There’s Only One Amy Laws.

Amy, well deservedly blowing her own trumpet!

Amy, well deservedly blowing her own trumpet!

Situated behind The Circus in an un-assuming flat on Rivers’ Street, lies the workshop and home of Amy and her partner Chris. Amy had moved to Bath in 2012, having originally grown up in Stoke-on-Trent and studying a BSc in Product Design Engineering at Brunel University. Not quite the path to becoming a dressmaker you may think; however Amy had been taught to sew from a very early age by her grandmother.

The days of living on a small student budget, but the desire to wear a new dress when going out with friends, forced Amy to put her skills to use, and she began to rustle up new outfits for herself. It was a hobby that she didn’t think much about expanding until friends and strangers began to comment on her outfits. She tried Brick Lane market in London, only producing one size of her dresses, and was surprised when she actually sold items, and people were interested in more. Inspired by this, Amy decided to continue selling her designs on e-bay, and while working took an evening BTEC in Pattern Cutting course.

By the time she had moved to Bath, by way of Edinburgh and a screen printing course there, Amy had made up her mind to set up her business; but she only became fulltime since April last year. She produces not just women’s dresses, skirts and blouses; but children’s skirts, dresses and tops.

Theres Only One Amy Laws

The first thing you are struck by is the quality of her clothes and the materials used. Amy said it took her a long time to source exactly what she wanted, and to her credit she has also kept to using British based companies. Her fabric, mainly cottons and stretch cotton, she orders from a textile company in Manchester, and the water based inks she uses come from Handprinted, a small business based in Sussex. The inks are environmentally friendly, and she thoroughly tests each new dress and design herself to ensure that it can withstand continuous washing at 30C without fading or loss of the print.

The second thing you are struck by is the unusual name for her business – There’s Only One Amy Laws. She’s even had other Amy Laws contacting her to tell her she’s not alone! Amy says that the name though has always been there, even before she was sewing or considered taking it up as a business. A chant at her school it seems has been the inspiration for a whole brand.

There's Only One Amy Laws

Since starting her business back in 2012 Amy guesses she’s had around 10-15 designs. She’s created many more, but as she confesses, some have been hit and miss and those have never seen the light of day on a dress or shirt. Some of these ideas may be resurrected at another time and reworked into a design that will eventually be used in her work.

Her work has ended up in America, New Zealand and around Europe and she says her most popular print has been her Flamingos. There’s an easy on the eye simplicity to Amy’s fun and bold designs that reflect familiar images and childhood memories – from ice cream cones to umbrellas, from daffodils to bees, and balloons.

Her winter collection saw squirrels and robins nestling in the folds of fabric and proved very popular. One lady even bought every female member of her family an item of Amy’s Robin collection and posted her a picture of them all wearing her designs on Christmas Day!

Child's Red Robin Dress

When asked what inspires her collection and designs, Amy said it’s really what interests her, what catches her eye in magazines and when walking around the city; plus she loves looking back at the designs of the 1950’s. Since her clothes have that straightforward classic 1950’s shape, she likes to keep the style and design simple too.

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We’re hoping she may come up with a Bath design too. We have dropped a few hints, so you never know. Amy agreed with us that a design of the Circus around the bottom of a skirt or dress would look exceptional, so we’re keeping fingers crossed it becomes a reality!

All of Amy’s work is currently produced in her flat. We asked to see what goes into making one of her designs, so here’s a run-down of how Amy makes her wonderful clothes.

1) She drafts and grades her own patterns by hand, and each new design and item has to be hand drafted in the range of sizes she produces as well (Sizes 8 to 16 in womenswear).

Drawing Designs
2) Amy also makes her own screens using lengths of wood and plain mesh. Each new design requires a new screen. Plus if there are different colours or elements to a design then a screen has to be made for each part.

Amy making one of her Screen Frames
3) She draws her design by hand then downloads it onto Illustrator on her laptop so she can create a smoother image which she then prints onto acetone. In the meantime her mesh screen has been painted with a light sensitive emulsion and left in the dark for 8 hours (this she does in her bathroom. Pity anyone getting up in the night for the loo as you have to scrabble in the dark. Strictly no lights allowed!).
4) Once the screen is dry and the design is ready, the acetone is placed on the screen, and Amy uses a 500w lamp to expose the image to the mesh for 30 minutes. The emulsion hardens around the image, but any of the mesh that’s under the design, will still have soft emulsion that can then be washed off.

Emulsion is setting
5) Amy then selects the fabric and colour of fabric she’s going to use and begins to cut out the panels
6) She will then print her design on the fabric before she sews the item together. To do this, she gets her prepared screen and pours ink onto the mesh, and uses a sponge to push the ink through.

Selection of Screens
7) Once the ink has dried after a few hours she will then heat set the design using an iron. This she says is helped by lots of TV and Radio 1; plus her boyfriend is put to good use with the iron when there are lots of orders to do.
8) If it’s a new design, then the item will be washed and tested to ensure the print quality is fine.
9) Eventually we come to the sewing part! Once all the pieces of the item are assembled, then there are the last few things to do. By law Amy has to ensure that every item is marked with labels telling you how to wash the item (30oC), where it’s been made (In England) and what fabric it is (100% cotton). She also adds a size label and her own label.

Sewing up!
10) Then viola, she has the finished item! Amy either hangs it up ready for taking to sell at markets; or when postal orders come in, she carefully packages the piece up with labels, tissue paper and a sticker showing the print of the item on the front of the wrapped package.

Phew, then it’s time for a cup of tea! These dresses really are a labour of love.

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It’s the attention to detail and the extra touches that really makes one of Amy’s dresses such a beautiful masterpiece. It’s simple and practical yet individual at the same time. In the winter time the dresses are lined and cap sleeves are added; though Amy said that she is happy anytime, when people order, if they want her to lengthen the dress, add pockets or sleeves, for a small extra cost.

It’s such a surprise that everything is produced in her flat, and we have to say she has a wonderfully supportive and tolerant boyfriend – who’s also handy with an iron and getting to the loo and back in the dark it seems!

Amy is currently looking for local studio space, but in the meantime, to get herself out the flat, she will soon be found for a few days a week in The Makery in the centre of the city, where she can sit and sew her dresses together.

Apart from selling on her website and Folksy, Amy can also be found with a stall every month at Green Park Station’s Artisan Market, every second Sunday of the month; as well as other local markets such as in Frome and over in Bristol.

Amy hopes for the future that eventually she will have her own studio and take more people on so that she can expand her ideas and designs, but she doesn’t want to stray from what is her key ethos for her business – the uniqueness of getting a handmade and hand printed item of clothing. Hear hear to a British, and more specifically a Bath based fashion business! There is indeed only one Amy Laws!

Amy's Market Stall

Amy’s clothing ranges start from just £25.00.

You can purchase her collections online or at local markets.

Amy can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter.

Easter Fun – Hop over to Bath!

It doesn’t feel that long ago that we were gearing up for the February Half Term, but then Easter Sunday does fall early this year, on 4th April. We know you’ll all be looking for fun activities and things to enjoy in Bath over the Half Term period, so we’ve rounded up a good selection of what’s on to keep the children occupied over the Easter break. For those activities that are free we’ve put this in brackets at the end of the sentence. For those where you have to pay we’ve put a “£” sign. Some activities will require booking. Please double check all links and websites for full details, prices and times.

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Of course the importance of Easter within the Christian Calendar shouldn’t be over looked. It’s a time of celebration for those of Christian faith, regarding Jesus Christ’s resurrection after his crucifixion. There are plenty of services in the city over the Easter weekend that you can go to as a family, including at Bath Abbey on Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.

The idea of new life and new beginnings is also expressed in nature. Spring has sprung and as you make your way into Bath you will start seeing the new born lambs and calves in the fields, the buds on the trees, and the flowers including the beautiful yellow daffodils in bloom. It’s a great time to be outdoors and get some fresh air, so our first few activities reflect just that!

Fresh Air!

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* Hidden Woods near Bath is a great place to take kids to if they want to channel their inner Ray Mears or Bear Grylls. Over the Easter Half Term they are running their Easter Holiday Club which involves woodland craft and games, Bushcraft and Environmental Art. Minimum Age is 5 years old. (£)

* Bath City Farm – you can join in with their Easter Fun Day on March 31st (FREE) where children can take part in various fun craft activities and games, including an Easter Egg Hunt!

– On Saturday 11th April the Farm is also running a Family Fun day where your young ones can try being a Farmer for a day. They will get to groom, clean out and feed some of the animals. Booking is required (£).

* Prior Park – If you love birds and birdwatching then on Sunday 29th March you can join the RSPB on their special walks at 10.30am or 3pm around the gardens where you’ll learn about the birds that are in the Park and maybe spot a few nesting too. (Free event but Entry Fee to Gardens)

– You can also enjoy a spot of Easter Egg Rolling in the Park on Easter Saturday morning (3rd April). One for all the family. Bring your own decorated eggs to roll and see who the winner will be! (Free event but Entry Fee to Gardens)

* The Egg Hunt (21st March to 11th April). To celebrate The Egg Theatre’s 10 Year Anniversary the team at The Egg have hidden 25 decorated eggs across the city. If you can find them all and deduce where the Golden Egg may be you can win not only the Golden Egg itself, but also tickets to for The Egg’s Christmas Show and The Theatre Royal’s Pantomime. The first 100 completed forms handed in will also win a treat from the San Francisco Fudge Factory. So grab a map and get cracking! (FREE)

Making Stuff Up!

Many of the Museums and Galleries in Bath are running Family Fun Days or Children’s Games and Craft days.

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* Museum of East Asian Art – On  Monday 30th March come along to the Museum to make your very own Chinese Opera Mask! Your kids can also enjoy dressing up and even putting on make up as they learn more about Chinese Opera as part of the Music in China Exhibition. They will even get a chance to play on some traditional instruments. (FREE)

* If an Opera Mask doesn’t appeal, then you can design and make your very own hat at The Fashion Museum on Tuesday 31st March. (FREE with Museum Entry)

* Once again the fantastic shop Ora Et Labora are running their Children’s Activity days over the Easter holidays. Here in their small museum children can be transported back in time to learn how to make candles and the art of Apothecary. (£)

* On Sunday 29th March The Holburne Museum are running an Easter Eggstravaganza whereby you can explore their miniature collection with crafts and entertainment for all the family. There is even a fun mini Easter egg roll to look forward to. (FREE)

– The Holburne Museum will also be running Easter Art Camps during the two week break for children aged 5 to 13 years old. Under the supervision of their team of experienced artists your kids will enjoy days of various arts, crafts and activities. (£)

* If your children love sports and fancy the opportunity of being trained by some of the best coaches in the country, then why not send them to Team Bath Tribe. Their Easter Camps involve athletics, hockey and trampolining, and some activities are even suitable for children as young as 2 years old. (£)

* Take a closer look at The Roman Bath’s coin collection and some of the fantastic animal designs stamped on them, plus make your own Imperial Eagle at this Family Fun Day on Monday 30th March. (FREE with admission)

American Museum Yarn Bombing Trail

* See if your little ones can find Goosey Gander as she’s on the run at the Victoria Art Gallery this Easter. Join in the fun trail to find all the Geese in this great gallery in the heart of the city. (FREE)

* The American Museum in Bath has lots of family fun this Half Term. From a Yarn Bombing trail and festive bunting making to creating your very own personalised commemorative spoon there’s plenty to keep everyone happy. You can even step back in time with the Museum’s Time Walk where a magical adventure tells the story of the Earth. (£)

* This month’s Sunday Artisan Market at Green Park Station falls on 12th April and has plenty to delight people of all ages. There’s lovely crafts, antiques and food to buy, but also there are plenty of children’s activities throughout the day to keep little hands busy too. (FREE)

* As part of this year’s Fashion Festival, both yourself and your children can step back in time at No.1 Royal Crescent and become Georgians for the day. On Saturday 28th March, you will not only select your costume, but will have a full makeover with make up and wig applied, plus there will even be a photograph to commemorate the day. (£)

– No.1 Royal Crescent will also be helping children to decorate their very own wooden Easter eggs on Wednesday 1st April. They can write their very own motto and add mini chocolate eggs to complete their very own Georgian present. (FREE with admission)

Watch with Mother

Keep the children away from the T.V. and immerse them in some fun at some of the city’s finest shows.

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* From the 24th to 29th March the magical musical that is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat hits The Theatre Royal in Bath. This story of the “coat of many colours” from the Book of Genesis is a Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber classic that can be enjoyed by all the family. (£)

* Come on a Wild West adventure at The Egg Theatre from 26th March to 3rd April with Little Sure Shot, otherwise known as Annie Oakley; a little girl who grew up fast in the heart of the American Wild West. (£)

* Kids’ Comedy Fest – for the first time during the annual Bath Comedy Festival, there’s some side-tickling fun for children too. With magic, balloons, clowns, puppets and lots more silly entertainment, head along to Bath Cricket Club to enjoy. (£)

Food Glorious Food!

Finally, we come to some scrumptious cake making classes and fun afternoon teas for Half Term. If the kids haven’t eaten what they’ve made before they get home, you’ll get to try a plethora of delights.

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* Bath Cake Company is running on Wednesday 8th April a Kids’ Cupcake Decorating Class for those children aged between 7 and 11 year’s old. Call 01225 446094 to book. (£)

* There’s lots of messy fun to be had again at Coffee@Camden with their popular Easter classes for Children. This Half Term your children can enjoy decorating cookies, cupcakes and Easter eggs; as well as enjoy tasty treats and drinks available at the café. (£)

* You may not have realised, but the luxurious Royal Crescent Hotel welcome children to join their parents in taking part in the quintessentially English Afternoon Tea experience. Your kids can feel suitably grown up while sampling sandwiches, cakes and Tuck shop sweets. (£)

* During the Easter Half Term holidays, your children can also enjoy an Afternoon Tea in the surroundings of the historic Pump Rooms, overlooking the Roman Baths. Supping on apple juice or hot chocolate with their treats will probably be more preferable to the sulphuric waters on offer from the fountain! (£)

After all those fun activities and games you and your kids are going to need a good night’s rest! To book your room for the Easter break, simply call us on 01225 463134 or book online.

Half Term Happenings!

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If you’re aiming to visit Bath over the upcoming Half Term holidays, and are looking for some fun things to do with your children, not just the usual museums, then we’ve got a few suggestions for you.

Go Medieval mad this February with the unique Ora Et Labora. Not only do they sell products exclusively made my monastic communities around the world, have sampling suppers and now Lunchtime platters for everyone to enjoy; but from Monday 16th to Friday 20th February your kids can step back in time and enjoy a range of craft activities from candle making and brass rubbing to quill and ink writing and learning apothecary skills. Cost: £2.50 per child. No booking required.

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If they haven’t had enough of medieval life then Bath Abbey is running a “Day in the Life of a Monk” on Tuesday 17th February, where from 10.45am to 2.30pm children will have a chance to enjoy a range of activities, dress up as a monk and even meet a real-life Benedictine Monk from Downside Abbey in Somerset! Bring a packed lunch to enjoy in the surroundings of the Abbey. Booking is essential and costs £5 per child.

If you want your little ones to get green fingered and enjoy the fresh air then grab the wellies and head on over to some of the National Trust owned parks in and nearby Bath this holiday. At Dyrham Park you can join in with the Spring bulb planting, from 2-3pm from Monday 16th to Friday 20th February. What a wonderful sense of satisfaction for all to return later on in the year to see your hard work blooming. If you don’t want to get so “hands on” then on Tuesday 17th and Thursday 19th February you can join a guided discovery tour around the more wilder parts of the parkland, with pond dipping and bug hunting to enjoy. There is also the chance to feed the Deer until March too.

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The Bath Skyline walk is always a popular option when the weather is lovely, and a great way to tire the kids out with plenty of fresh air and hills! Prior Park has free activities for children (normal admission fee applies for entry to Park) based on traditional English customs, and working with local artists. Your children can enjoy Greenman workshops, tree dressing and magical trails through the Park.

Talking of traditional English customs, on Tuesday 17th February it’s Pancake Day! Otherwise known as Shrove Tuesday, in the Christian calendar it signifies the last day before the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter. Traditionally a time to use up all your excess food before the time of self-restraint; in England, Pancake Day now sees perfectly sane people run up and down streets, gardens and roads with a frying pan frantically flipping a batter mix! Bath is no exception and it’s that time again for Bath’s Flipping Pancake Race, organised by Fringe Arts Bath. Taking place in the Abbey Courtyard on Tuesday 17th, both children and adults can join in the fun or simply cheer on the competitors. All money raised is going to Food Cycle, a charity that aims to reduce food waste and food poverty in the U.K.

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During Half Term another important celebration takes place – that of the Chinese New Year. Thursday 19th February sees the Year of the Horse ride off into the sunset and the Year of the Sheep make its way to the forefront. The Museum of East Asian Art will be holding its Annual “Lunar New Year Extravaganza” on Sunday 22nd February, at the Assembly Rooms in Bath. This free event is a fantastic family attraction, and everyone can enjoy a day of entertainment, arts and crafts, and dance spectaculars. It’s certainly not an event to be missed!

For further ideas of what to do and where to take your kids this Half Term, take a look at Visit Bath. There’s plenty on at the Museums and Art Galleries, plus other great suggestions to keep everyone happy and having fun. If you’re celebrating the Lunar New Year, we wish you a very “Gong Hey Fat Choy/Gong Xi Fa Cai”, plus, we hope that everyone enjoys the Half Term!

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Love is all around…in Bath

There are plenty of reasons to believe Bath is the city of Love – not only is the famous Pultney Bridge built by Robert Adam in 1774 based upon the Ponte Vecchio and Ponte di Rialto in those most romantic of cities Florence and Venice respectively; but Bath was chosen as the setting for most of the action in both romantic novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen. John Betjeman even wrote a love poem about a couple lost in each others company entitled “In a Bath Teashop”. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote of the multi-betrothed “Wife of Bath” in his Canterbury Tales (14th Century), whose tale to the pilgrims about what women desire is a much studied text even in the 21st Century. Plus in the 18th Century the developing relationship and eventual elopement between the famous playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Bath born resident, singer and actress, the beautiful Elizabeth Linley captivated society at the time, even leading to a duel just outside the city to defend Elizabeth’s honour! This love story also inspired a ballet called “The Great Elopement” and an arrangement entitled “Love in Bath” which was written by Sir Thomas Beecham in 1945 compiled from a suite of music by the famous composer George Frederick Handel.

Sheridan and Linley

Today, couples can stroll hand in hand in the very steps of Richard and Elizabeth, Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey) or Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliott (Persuasion). There are plenty of wonderful places to discover together and museums, art galleries, markets and gardens to visit in the city; but we want to highlight a few special events and suggest romantic ideas for this year’s Valentine’s Weekend.

Brief Encounter

For the true romantics, on Saturday 14th February, The Forum, will be putting on one of the most romantic movies of all time – Brief Encounter. The showing of this 1945 classic film will be even more special as there will be a performance by the Bath Philharmonic Orchestra beforehand of some of the music that inspired the film’s soundtrack, including that of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto with international soloist Alexandra Darieuscu. There will also be roses and champagne available to purchase in the foyer if you wish to treat your loved one even more.

If you fancy something a bit more up to date in the cinema then on Friday 13th February sees the general release of the hotly anticipated Fifty Shades of Grey, which can be seen in both the Bath Odeon and Little Theatre. Back seats will be filling up fast we’re sure! If some S&M isn’t really your scene then another romantic film released soon is The Last Five Years. This is an adaption of a 2002 off Broadway musical that chronicles the love affair and marriage of a couple over five years told almost entirely through song.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Eve may have been tempted by an apple in the Garden of Eden, and you can too in Bath this Valentine’s weekend at the 9th Bath Cider Festival, taking place at The Pavilion. Opening on Friday 13th until Saturday 14th February, you can enjoy over 100 ciders and perries along with a hog roast and cheese platters. The Wurzel’s tribute band, The Mangledwurzels will be playing at all sessions as well, to add some Scrumpy and Western flavour to the event.

There are plenty of other musical events over the Valentine’s weekend that everyone (not just couples) can enjoy. Komedia will be running its regular Saturday Comedy Night followed by the fantastic Motocity where you can dance the night away to some soul and funk classics. On Friday night at Komedia there’s also a DJ set entitled “Valentine’s Payback Special”; while over at The Chapel Arts Centre you can enjoy a night of 60’s and 70’s classics by The Mods Band. The Chapel Arts Centre will also have the Zen Hussies playing on Valentine’s evening, bringing you a night of swing, jive, boogie and surf from this fantastic six piece band.

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If the theatre is more your thing, then at TheTheatre Royal, you can enjoy Tom Stoppard’s Olivier award winning comedy about science, sex and landscape gardening, Arcadia. Over at the Ustinov Studio you can take your loved one to see Stella, about Jessica Bell and Caroline Herschel and their two loves – men and astronomy. A rather apt play as Caroline lived and worked with her astronomer brother William (who discovered the planet Uranus) in the 18th Century at 19, New King Street, Bath, where there is now the Herschel Museum. The Rondo Theatre will have on Saturday 14th February the celebrated chanteuse Fiona-Jane Watson who will be recreating the changing times for women in the 20th Century in a one woman show, Wartime Women – the Khaki Cabaret.

Of course, we mustn’t forget food. After all, it is said that the way to a person’s heart is often through their stomach! At The Royal Hotel we are delighted to be organising our candlelit romantic dinner once again. Arrive at our Parisian style Brasserie Brunel to be seated and surrounded by warm wood, candlelight and crystal chandeliers. A complimentary glass of pink bubbly will be offered to you as you contemplate our specially created Valentine’s menu. You will then be served six courses of sumptuous delights to dazzle and delight the sense. This romantic menu is only £28.50 per person. If you’re thinking of making it even more special with a proposal, simply talk to our staff on booking and we can see what we can do to make the night even more memorable for you both.

Valentines Candlelight Dinner 2015 Royal Hotel

Other romantic things to do over the Valentine’s weekend that we can suggest include –
• A Hot Air Balloon ride over the city
• A pampering time at the Thermae Spa
• A walk around The National Trust owned Prior Park – a popular place to drop to one knee and propose!
• High Tea at The Pump Rooms
• A night’s stay in one of our Four Poster or Superior rooms at The Royal Hotel – where you can enjoy romantic DVD’s in the comfort of your own room, our Valentine’s Candlelit dinner, and even order flowers, chocolates and champagne on arrival.

BalloonsoverBath

If you’re be looking for presents for your loved one then you’re spoilt for choice with so many shops in Bath – perhaps consider a box of handmade chocolates from Charlotte Brunswick, they have a Captured Heart Cube for £8.50 or their Heart Boxes start from £14.95. Nearby San Francisco Fudge Factory can tempt with cookies and cream, vanilla and caramel or raspberry and white chocolate Pavlova fudge pieces that you can buy by the piece or box. Say it with flowers, and you can’t go much wrong with the beautiful bunches from Flowers of Bath. They offer a stunning selection, plus bespoke orders are taken too. During the Victorian period the meaning of flowers was incredibly popular and you can’t go wrong with a red rose which is said to represent “passionate love”. If you want to be someone’s secret Valentine then yellow chrysanthemums are for you, Yellow tulips represent “hopelessly in love” and Lilacs mean “first love”.

FlowersofBath

If wine is more your other half’s passion then why not try a tutored wine tasting with Raisin Wine; tickets start from £17.00. On Sunday 15th February there is Bath Market (9.30am to 4pm) at Green Park Station where you and your partner can go explore and perhaps buy something special for one another. There is everything from food and jewellery, vinyl, book and art, as well as gifts, crafts and much more. If your other half is a label and fashion lover, designer goods need not be out of your reach – simply call into Grace & Ted and take your pick of their second hand designer accessories, shoes and clothes. Finally, for that special piece of jewellery, you can’t go wrong with the family run Mallory’s of Bath. Based in the city for over 100 years, they sell the finest in watches, jewellery, handbags and much more. A fantastic place to go and hint at the engagement ring of your dreams.

We’ve also asked a few of the local independent retailers about Valentine inspired gifts this year:

For the beguiling bibliophile in your life head to the experts, George Bayntun’s on Manvers Street. They recommend for the budding foodies in your life The Foods of Love a little book about aphrodisiacs (£2.00), for your gorgeous Gothic romantic try A Sicilian Romance by Ann Radcliffe or perhaps a First Edition of Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass (£35.00); and for the charming Classicist perhaps purchase bound copies of Restoration Love Songs and Shakespeare’s Sonnets (from £400.00).

ValentineCupcake

Along with a good book one needs something to nibble on, and perhaps a box of scrumptious “sealed with a kiss” Valentine cupcakes or Love Bug cookies from Coffee@Camden will do the trick. A box of 4 Valentine’s Cupcakes, ribboned with a love tag costs £11.00; Single love bug cookies ribboned with a love tag are £4.00 each. You could even get your children involved in Valentine’s Day with the fun Cupcake class Coffee@Camden are running on Friday 13th February, 4-5.30 pm where they will make 4 cupcakes to enjoy, along with tea afterwards (£15.00 pp).

kwai feh

What about something to wash all those goodies down? You could prepare yourself pre-Valentine’s Day at Independent Spirit’s Cocktail Masterclass on Friday 6th February where if you fancy yourself as the next James Bond you’ll learn to make the perfect Martini, shaken or stirred. Woo your loved one with your mixology skills by picking up from the shop, the very special Kwai Feh liquor (£26.95). Recommended by Chris Scullion, Director at Independent Spirit as their Valentine’s Day drink, this Lychee liquor not only has a romantic story attached (naturally) to its name but it works well as a floral alternative to Kir Royal with champagne or added to a cosmopolitan. Perhaps while you’re there pick up a bottle of their bestselling Cartier NV Brut champagne (£24.95) to create your own Kwai Royals.

Most of all during your time in this beautiful of cities just simply take time to be together with the person that means the most to you. Life can go by too fast these days so just pause a moment and take in the words of John Betjeman from his poem, “In a Bath Teashop”,
“Let us not speak for the love we bear one another –
Let us hold hands and look…”

 

 

 

Happy Healthy New Year!

With Christmas and New Year behind us, January is typically the month of good intentions; and we at The Royal Hotel can recommend some great ways to get fit and eat well in Bath this year.

If you’re thinking of staying with us at The Royal, then enjoying one of our great value Spa Packages is one way to prep your body for a new you. The naturally hot spring waters at the Thermae Bath Spa are packed full of different minerals that are great for your body, and having been enjoyed by the Romans, Georgians, and Victorians, centuries of use can’t be wrong! Your visit to the Spa can be supplemented with one of the many treatments on offer, from facials to massages and wraps, they will detox your body and rejuvenate your skin. If you’re visiting The Pump Rooms, then you can also take the waters internally too, trying a sample of the mineral rich water from the dipper.

Thermae Bath Spa

Exercise is a great way to boost the body’s metabolic system and clear the head, and there are plenty of walks for all abilities throughout the city (or run the routes if you’re even keener!). Even just strolling up and down the city window shopping and enjoying the sights can burn off calories. There’s a great incline from Queen’s Square to The Circus up Gay Street, or via Milsom Street and Bartlett Street past the Assembly Rooms. Plus don’t forget to enjoy walking up and down bohemian Walcot Street, and you can cut back into the city via The Paragon which takes you back to the top of Milsom Street again. If you’re feeling a bit fitter and want to see another crescent, then head up Lansdown Road and go explore a part of Bath you may not have discovered before.

Bath Skyline Walk

The National Trust Skyline walk around Bath is the most downloaded walk on the National Trust website, and with good reason, as you are treated to beautiful views over the city, hidden valleys and woodland, while walking past 18th Century follies and Iron Age hill forts. According to the website if you complete the full 6 mile walk you can burn on average 735 calories (kcal) which is as much energy as playing 90 minutes of football! The walk can take up to 3 hours depending on speed, and dogs are welcome on the walk as long as on a lead. Remember to dress appropriately and wear suitable footwear as the paths can be muddy and there are stiles to negotiate. Starting point is up Bathwick Hill near The American Museum.

If you fancy something a little easier on the feet, maybe try a walk along the Kennet and Avon Canal path that runs through the city. There are also other riverside walks available too, but we particularly like this 2 mile walk that starts off at Pultney Weir. From there you head over Pultney Bridge and along Argyle Street towards the magnificent Holburne Museum. From here you can detour through Sydney Gardens behind the Museum where you can find a Roman temple, tea rooms and little bridges that take you over the Avon. Considered a “little Venice”, this park was created in 1795 as a pleasure garden, and continues to delight visitors to Bath today, as it did back when Jane Austen visited. Back to our route, carefully cross over the main road on Beckford Road where you will find the canal path. Follow the path along the canal until you reach The George Inn, a 17th Century hostelry usually surrounded by narrow boats, where you can relax with some refreshment before heading back into Bath the same way you walked.

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Of course Bath doesn’t have to be explored by foot – cycling is a great exercise too, and there are a number of places you can hire a bike from if you haven’t brought your own – Green Park Bike Station is one place, as is Bath Bike Hire. Remember to always make sure you get and wear a helmet with your hire too. Maps and recommended routes are available if needed, but again you have the city to explore, the waterways through and out of the city – both toward Bradford on Avon, and toward Bristol; plus the new Two Tunnels cycle route is a recommended 13 mile new route out of Bath.

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There are of course Golf Courses around the city if you prefer to be out on the green with a putt in your hand, such as one of England’s oldest clubs – Bath Golf Club, or the 9 hole Entry Hill Golf Club. If you want somewhere if the weather is wet, perhaps for tennis, squash or badminton, then you can enjoy the Gym and other facilities of the YMCA Bath, or the Pavilion Sports Centre, where membership is not always necessary for certain activities (please contact sports facility directly to check).

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After all that exercise, you will need to refuel with something tasty, but healthy, and here, at The Royal Hotel, we try and cater for all. We pride ourselves on our great range of freshly made to order food; most of which is sourced locally. You can view our menus online, but to give you an idea of some healthy choices, perhaps we can tempt you with a starter of Avocado and Strawberry salad, with mixed leaves, toasted pine nuts, fresh Parmesan and balsamic dressing (£4.55), then to follow a Fillet of Salmon garnished with fresh asparagus and lime hollandaise (£13.25), finishing with perhaps a selection of sorbets, or a Poached pear in red wine syrup with honeycomb ice cream (both £4.95 each). These delights are from our A la Carte menu where our steaks are grilled to your liking, and you can enjoy side dishes of seasonal vegetables or a mixed salad too.

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Our Bar Menu and great value Fixed Price Menu also have great healthy options – from Chicken and Fresh Mango Salad to Omelettes or a Vine tomato, rocket and fresh Parmesan salad. We have a wide range of non-alcoholic drinks if you’re having a dry month, plus herbal and fruit teas available. Do let our staff know if you want something left out, or a sauce on the side so you can add it yourself, and we’d be happy to help. We also cater for food intolerances, such as Gluten; just inform us at the time of your booking. We also offer a healthy choice at Breakfast too, if you’re staying with us, so you can start your day off the right way.

Whatever your intentions are this New Year, we hope you have a happy and healthy 2015!

Beat the January Blues in Bath!

All the excitement of Christmas is over…the last of the turkey has been eaten…those New Year resolutions are tentatively being planned out; what a perfect time in what can be a dull, quiet and cold month to come to beautiful Bath and enjoy a lovely Spa Break and all the events that are on during January.

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There is plenty to do in Bath during the month of January. The Ice Skating Rink in Royal Victoria Park finishes on the 4th January so you could get some last minute practice in. From the 3rd to 10th, there will be the fantastic free, Festival of Light – Illuminate 2015, throughout the city. Now in its fourth year and organised by Bath Spa University, this collaboration of local and international artists bathe the city in wonderful light installations in unusual and unexpected public spaces, making a walk around the city an adventure to find these wonderful pieces of art.

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If you want to be in the warm and keep everyone entertained, then the Theatre Royal Bath’s annual pantomime runs until January 11th. It’s that classic tale of Cinderella, with CBBC’s Tracy Beaker (aka Dani Harmer) in the feature role, and Gavin & Stacey’s, Gwen (Melanie Waters) as the magical Fairy Godmother. Full of fun, laughs and magical moments, this pantomime is not just for the kids!

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There are plenty of exhibitions running in all the museums and galleries in Bath to delight and entertain during January too. One particular interesting exhibition that begins on 17th January and runs until 1st March, is Jeremy Gardiner’s installation at the Victoria Art Gallery entitled “Jurassic Coast”. Cleverly linking two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Bath and the Jurassic Coast of Dorset and Devon, Jeremy’s work involves him building up layers of paint into collage and sanding it down to create fascinating textures and effects. The exhibition includes fossils and a 3D model of the coastline, plus a film. Cost is £3.50 for the exhibition, the rest of Victoria Art Gallery is free.

Pembroke Castle, Wales circa 1829 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

To tie in with the recent release of the biopic film about J.M.W. Turner, “Mr Turner”, starring Timothy Spall, get your fill of those swirling landscapes and big skies and head to the fantastic Holburne Museum. From the 10th January to 8th March 2015 there is an exhibition of eight of Turner’s work including those painted during his time in Bristol between 1791 and 1793. Entitled “Turner: Watercolours from the West – An Intimate Touring Show” this is a FREE exhibition and should not be missed.

Of course, while you’re visiting Bath, why not enjoy not just a taste of the famous waters in the Pump Room near the Abbey, but immerse yourself in it’s warm waters and have a relaxing few hours, half or full day experience in Britain’s only naturally heated spring, the Thermae Bath Spa, in the centre of the city. After all that indulgence of Christmas and New Year a Spa Break would be the perfect treat, and our Spa Breaks offer all that luxury without breaking the bank.

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We offer two options for great value indulgence – the Classic and the All Inclusive Package here at The Royal Hotel. Your Classic Spa Break involves two nights accommodation in one of our comfortable en-suite bedrooms with complimentary toiletries and room tray that includes tea, coffee, mineral water and biscuits. A full English breakfast every day (or “healthy choice” breakfast). One two hour visit to Britain’s only natural hot spring, the £40 million Thermae Bath Spa, with a complimentary robe, slippers and towel provided by the Spa. Plus, a glass of delicious and refreshing Tattinger Champagne to enjoy after your spa visit, along with a complimentary cream tea.

Our All Inclusive Package includes all of the Classic Break, but with an excellent 3 course dinner to enjoy each night from our wide and varied menu in the Parisian style Brasserie Brunel also included. The Classic Option is from £159.00 per person, the All Inclusive Option from only £189.00 per person (all prices are based on two people sharing a twin or double bedded room). Supplements for upgrade to Superior or Four Poster Rooms. For information about single person options, or to book, please call us on 01225 463134.

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Everyone deserves a little pampering in those cold winter days of January, and with plenty of things on during the month, and with such great value prices, we look forward to seeing you soon!

Christmas at The Royal Hotel

The temperature is dropping, the decorations are up, and the festive menus are out; we’re all getting in the Christmas mood here at The Royal Hotel!

Bath has seen the Christmas Lights switched on last week and over the next two weeks will see Bath Ice Rink open in Royal Victoria Park, and the Christmas Market open throughout the city.

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If you’re thinking about visiting Bath, whether to stay or for a day to do some Christmas shopping, make The Royal your port of call. Situated by the train and bus stations, we’re a perfect stop off to warm up with a hot drink and a tasty meal before you start your day; and being in the heart of Bath we’re only minutes from the famous sites and markets which make us a perfect location to lay your tired head after pounding those streets in search of those presents and gifts.

If you’re looking for somewhere to hold a Christmas party or meet up with friends, then our festive menus are online now; you can enjoy lunch from only £10.95 per person, or dinner from £17.95 per person for 2 courses.

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Bookings for stays over the Christmas period are being snapped up, especially our great all inclusive offer where not only do you get all meals, but you can upgrade to include drinks too! Or why not wait until the sales after the 25th, and see in the New Year with us at The Royal Hotel. You’ll enjoy a Gala 8 course dinner with resident DJ and champagne at midnight as well as a great night’s sleep in our comfortable rooms.

We’ve got lots of exciting festive additions coming up too, so let The Royal Hotel put the sparkle in your Christmas this year!