Category Archives: Things to do in Bath

Things to do in Bath

Focus on Bath – Guildhall Market

Bath has a plethora of shops to suit everyone’s tastes, whether you decide to go and explore Southgate, Milsom Place, Walcot Street, Kingsmead Square or The Corridor; however do take some time to visit a shopping destination that has been in the city for over 800 years – the Bath Guildhall Market.

Guildhall Market Logo

According to 15th Century records there has been a market in Bath since “time immemorial”. How true this is is impossible to prove, however what IS known is that the city certainly has held a market charter since 1189.

Guildhall Market Charter

Originally the Market place was in the centre of the High Street, just outside the present day Guildhall, overlooked by the mighty Bath Abbey. Today the buses and taxis head directly through what would have been the original area. In 1627 a Stuart Guildhall was completed, but all that remains of this Guildhall are two headless statues, probably of kings, that now are located by the Thermae Spa entrance on Bath Street.


A new Guildhall was built in 1776 and it’s known that in 1818 there were around 438 stalls selling anything and everything from cloth to fish. The Guildhall Market you see today was erected in 1861 and has a beautiful cast iron and glass dome by Hicks and Isaac that was added in 1863. Part of this market was demolished in the 1890’s when the Guildhall was extended, but what we are left with today is a perfectly formed under-cover market area with over 20 different stalls.

Guildhall Market Sign

There are two entrances to the Guildhall – either via the High Street, where you will see a lovely lit up lamp and an Art Noveau entrance welcoming you in, or via two huge 19th Century wooden doors, studded with iron bolts, that face onto Pultney Weir and Pultney Bridge.

Inside you will find yourself walking around and in and out of the various shops, all independently run, and often family run. Most have been in the Market for at least 10 years, some 20 years, and a few over 30 years. The oldest business in the Market, and in fact one of the oldest family run businesses in Bath, is Gillard’s who are a Tea and Coffee merchant and have been serving the city since 1886. Here you can stock up on speciality teas and their own coffee bean roasts.

Guildhall Market Gillards2

Gillard’s in fact supply the American style diner, Time Out, that is located opposite. Here you can perch on one of the many stools that surround the central serving area and enjoy a bite to eat, a milkshake or an espresso, while watching the bustle of the market. You might even be sat next to George Clooney or Marilyn Monroe!

If you want to experience a proper market cafe, where you can indulge in an All Day Breakfast, Jacket Potato, freshly made sandwiches or simply a mug of builders tea, then the Guildhall Market Cafe is where you want to be. They do take away if you so desire, so if it’s a lovely day and you want to sit outside, simply pop in to grab a tasty treat.

Guildhall Market Deli

The Guildhall Deli is another food outlet that is best to head to for a takeaway lunch or decadent dessert. Here at the Deli you can pick up anything from Bhajis to Bath Buns. Selling traditional delicious cakes, homemade rolls, and fabulous deli meats and pies this stall is one you cannot miss. Handily it is one of the first stalls you see when you enter via the High Street entrance. Run by two sisters they still sell some of the traditional deli items, like haslet, brawn, chitterlings and a Bath special – Bath Chaps.

Guildhall Market Centre2

After all this food, you’ll need to walk it all off, so go and explore what else the market has to offer. There’s pretty much everything from screwdrivers to lightbulbs, courtesy of M & K Hardware and Electrical; leather goods and bags from Bath Leather Goods Ltd and Dufflebag; plus fabulous contemporary jewellery and vintage inspired pieces and originals via Utopia and It’s Not Cartier respectively.

Guildhall Market Books

You can pick up a second hand book for a few pounds at Skoobs who have a vast array of genres to venture through. Opposite their stall is Sew ‘n’ Sew, an incredibly popular craft and haberdashery place where multitudes of wool, buttons, needles and lace trim is sold.

If you’re planning a celebration, party or birthday, then the Bath Party Shop is the place to pop in and pick up a costume, decoration or card. Smarten yourself up for that night out with a trip to the Barber’s opposite who can do a Gent’s Cut from only £15.00; and freshen up later on with some natural body care and aromatherapy oils from Aranais around the corner.

Guildhall Market Aranais2

Entering the Market via the High Street entrance, the first stall you come to is Dream of Olwen. Along the cream and brown tiled corridor are swathes of brightly coloured and patterned scarfs, bed-sheets, cushion covers and pashminas that catch your eye. Pick up a gift here for a friend or for yourself.

Nibbles in the centre of the Market has been in the Guildhall for over 25 years and sells over 90 different varieties of cheese. Other local treats are available plus they have a great French produce section if you want to indulge in some lobster bisque or pate.

Guildhall Market Pets Supplies2

Dogs are welcome within the Market area, which is a good job too as they aren’t forgotten with the Guildhall Pet Supplies, a stall that has been supplying the pets of Bath with food, bedding and toys since the 1980s. They even provide free delivery to addresses in Bath and the surrounding area.

Finishing your wander around the Market, it’s best to stop off for a few sugary treats at Bath Humbug Shop, where you can pick up any of your old school favourites from Lemon Bon-Bons to Rose Creams.

Guildhall Market Pillar

Opposite Bath Humbug Shop there is a relic of Markets long gone before – the 18th Century Market Pillar, or “Nail” as it would have been known. Here business transactions would take place. and once agreed over this “nail” one’s word was one’s bond. It is where we get the term, to pay “on the nail”.

During the Christmas Market period (26 November to 13th December 2015), the Guildhall Market also has it’s own festive market in a separate area, and again is worth popping in to see what one can buy as a gift to another, or present to ones-self.

Finally, one great idea created by the Market is that if you’ve got any spare change from your shop around, do pop it into the box located by the Grand Parade entrance, opposite Pultney Weir, where all monies received go towards helping Bath’s homeless.

Guildhall Market outside

If Bath’s Market really has been running since “time immemorial”, let’s hope that it continues to do so. There’s wonderful shops and food outlets within to enjoy, so make sure on your visit to Bath to take a look inside.

To find out further information and opening times of stalls in Bath’s Guildhall Market, please visit their website or call 01225 460808.

[Photographs Copyright (c) Catherine Pitt and Bath Guildhall Market ]



Christmas is coming!

The nights are drawing in and the temperature is dropping, as are the leaves; it’s time to get the winter woollies out and start thinking about that festive time of year coming up…yes, Christmas!

SouthGate centre Bath Xmas Lights  12/11/13 Picture  Sam Farr

Bath is the perfect place to visit during the seasonal celebrations, with its plethora of independent shops, boutiques, brand names and the wonderful annual Christmas Market, you’ll really feel as if you’re in a winter wonderland.

Christmas and New Year at The Royal Hotel


If you’re looking for somewhere to host your work or family Christmas party or simply looking for somewhere to take a relaxing or shopping break then look no further than The Royal Hotel.

Our chefs have been busy in the kitchen whisking up scrumptious menus to tickle your tastebuds, and we think we’ve got something to please everyone this year.

Whether you’re planning a meal with work colleagues, friends or family, then our Set Lunch or Christmas Lunch menus are for you.

In charge of organising the Christmas party this year, then we’re rewarding every organiser too. From a free meal to a night’s Bed & Breakfast!

Xmas Menus Royal Hotel 2015 2

Starting at only £10.95 for 2 courses, or £14.95 for 3 courses you can choose from delicious sounding treats such as warm mushroom, shallot and Parmesan tart, grilled Halloumi with roasted red pepper and buttered linguine, and Belgian chocolate praline torte, as well as the traditional turkey and Christmas pudding!

Xmas Menus Royal Hotel 2015 3

Our Christmas Dinner Party menu is great if you’d prefer to dine in the evening, and it’s fantastic value too, with 2 courses for £17.95 or 3 courses with coffee for £21.95. Again there’s plenty of choice, with at least 5 tempting dishes each course!

To add a bit of sparkle to your lunch or dinner you can also enjoy a glass of Prosecco for a very special price of only £3.50 per glass.

Talking of sparkles, why not see 2016 in with a bang with our 8 course New Year’s Eve Dinner at £75.00 per person. This includes a glass of champagne to toast in the New Year and you can dance the night away with our Resident DJ who will be playing all the classic hits.

Xmas Menus Royal Hotel 2015 4

Rather than driving home after such a fun evening, why not stay over at The Royal Hotel instead. We’re offering a very special New Year’s package. From only £155.00 per person you can enjoy all the fun of our New Year’s Eve Dinner and Dancing, a comfortable night in one of our en-suite bedrooms, followed by Champagne brunch on New Year’s Day.

Xmas Break RH 2015 3 Xmas Break RH 2015 4

Fancy making it 2 nights over New Year, then we’re offering all of the above, Bed and Breakfast for your second night, plus a 3 course dinner on New Year’s Day, from £245.00 per person.

We also have great value Christmas breaks, In-Between Breaks, and of course our ever popular Spa Breaks too.

Take a look at our great offers and full Terms & Conditions here or pick up a leaflet from the hotel.
Bath Christmas Market (26th November to 13th December)

Bath is simply wonderful at Christmas time, and in the run up to the big day, you couldn’t do any better than come enjoy a day or two exploring the city and enjoying the annual Bath Christmas Market.


Bigger and better this year, Bath Christmas Market features over 170 wooden chalets, selling everything from ceramics and iron work to cheese and liquors. You’ll be bound to find something for everyone here, including the dog!

Over 80% of the businesses at the Market are local, so you’ll be able to pick up gifts that are totally unique to the area, and this year a quarter of the stalls are new which keeps the market fresh and fun to explore.

If you’re a resident of Bath and have a Discovery Card, remember you also get great discounts at the Market too.


The Market snakes its way from the Abbey around the Orange Grove and down Beau Street, but do remember to take a look along Stall, Union, Milsom, Bartlett and Walcot Street, plus Kingsmead Square, for further fantastic shops and boutiques.

Bath Guildhall Market hosts many interesting stalls, plus its own festive market during this period. You can also pick up everything you want for Christmas Lunch at the Bath Farmer’s Market at Green Park Station.

Not only will you have the Christmas Market and shops to enjoy but during this time there will be plenty of street entertainment, musicians, plus Santa’s Grotto and the Victoria Park Ice Rink will be nearby.


Christmas Market time in Bath means it’s busy on the roads, so we’d recommend some alternate ways to get into the city.

Firstly you could come to Bath by train. Trains are direct from London, Bristol and Cardiff. Bath Spa station is only a 5 minute walk from the main Market site, plus The Royal Hotel is mere seconds from the station, since we are situated directly opposite it; perfect for that morning cup of tea before shopping commences!

FGW in Snow

Secondly you have the option of travelling by bus. Again, the bus station is mere minutes from the main shopping areas and The Royal Hotel, plus some even drop you opposite the Guildhall near the Abbey.

Lastly, if you’re determined to drive in, we’d advise that you use one of the three Park and Ride schemes that Bath has. It certainly takes the hassle out of having to try and find somewhere to park in the centre, and is a much cheaper option too.

However, if you’d rather have a more relaxing shopping trip, why not choose to make a few days of it instead and stay right in the heart of the city with us. We’re in a perfect location, and only a five minute walk from Bath Christmas Market, and seconds from the main shopping areas.


Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know that after a few hours shopping you can drop your purchases off at the hotel and go back out for more retail therapy without feeling bogged down by those bags?

It would be the perfect end to a long day in the city with a seat in our comfortable bar, supping one of our Christmas cocktails, followed by a delicious meal in our Brasserie Brunel, all topped off by a great night sleep in one of our 35 en-suite bedrooms.


Perhaps after all that retail therapy you’d like to soothe your weary limbs in the warm waters of the Thermae Bath Spa. The Royal Hotel offer special Spa Breaks that include Bed and Breakfast, a 2 or 3 hour visit to the Thermae Spa, plus a champagne cream tea when you return.


To enhance your stay you could even add a Pampering Package during your time with us. Awen Health and Beauty offer an exclusive service of massages, facials and manicures for our hotel guests, that either you or you and your partner can enjoy.


For further details of our Festive menus, Christmas, Spa and other hotel packages, and to book please contact us on (+44)1225 463134, email: or you can look online here.

We also have our sister hotel on the outskirts of the city, Bailbrook Lodge, where you too can stay during the Christmas Market and Festive season. Take a look at their website here or call (+44)1225 859090.

Wishing you all, a very Merry Christmas!

bath Xmas market
(Note: All our food at The Royal Hotel and Bailbrook Lodge is prepared on the premises and cooked fresh to order. If you have any dietary requirements or food intolerances, do please let us know at the time of your booking.)

Focus on Bath – Museum of Bath at Work

Walking around Bath you can’t help but admire the beautiful architecture, wonder at the ancient baths, or imagine yourself dolled up to the nines at a Regency Ball in the Assembly Rooms. However, all that you see in beautiful Bath was constructed and created by the working people of the city; an oft forgotten element to Bath’s story.

MOBAW - outside

The Museum of Bath at Work records and celebrates all that made Bath great – the industries within it and the people who made it happen.

The main bulk of the Museum of Bath at Work’s collection is the J.B.Bowler collection, an amazing reconstruction of an entire business that was saved by local businessman Russell Frears in the late 1960’s.

Bowler’s was a shop that supplied practically almost anything to the industries of Bath, from nuts and bolts to fittings and brass works. What was even more extraordinary about Bowler’s and thus the items that were saved, was that nothing seems to have been thrown away from the time it began in the 1860’s! Next door there was also the family owned Mineral Water factory, and this too was saved piece by piece.



Bowler’s really was a family business. Started in 1860 by Jonathan Burdett Bowler, or the “Governor” as he became known as, eventually every member of his family was involved in the business. His daughters ran the Mineral Water side, while his sons assisted him in the brassworking and shop side.

In the days before recycling was fashionable, J.B.Bowler was a pioneer. Nothing was thrown away, everything that could be reused was. This wasn’t just something the Governor did, this thriftiness was passed down; for example there are 19th Century receipts with 20th Century notes on the other side of them.

J.B.Bowler was also a real Alan Sugar of his day. He tried his hand to everything. We know from the collection that he attempted a boot and shoe business in Southgate Street in 1882, however significant losses meant that it was closed within 3 years. His entrepreneurial spirit lived on after his death in 1911 through his 13 children, and the business continued to put its hand to everything and anything. By the 1930’s the shop was involved in the public house and brewery hardware side of business, as well as its other concerns, and as such at one point the company started to buy Smith’s crisps and sell vinegar to the pubs it did work for!

Bowler's in 1972 being pulled down to make way for Avon St car park (in the background).

Bowler’s in 1972 being pulled down to make way for Avon St car park (in the background).

Bowler’s building was to be found on Corn Street, the site of which is now the Avon Street car park. There is brilliant footage that the BBC produced of inside Bowler’s. The building was compulsory purchased by the Council to build a new car park in 1969; its fate was sealed, but Frears had enough foresight, and money, to offer Ernest Bowler, the last of the Bowler family working there, to save the entirety of the shop and Mineral Water factory. He then went about photographing every single room and pieces so that when it was reassembled it could be done so exactly.

By the 1970’s Frear’s had found the perfect building for the collection, and set up the Bath Industrial Heritage Trust to maintain the museum and to portray the rest of Bath’s Industrial history. In 1978 the doors of what is England’s only 18th Century Real Tennis court opened its doors as The Museum of Bath at Work.

MOBAW - Russell Frears

Russell Frears

If you’re visiting Bath it’s important to go and see this collection, not only because of its uniqueness and rarity, but to get a more rounded picture of the city. For instance, did you know that Plasticine was invented and produced here? Shorthand was also developed here by Isaac Pitman. You can learn more about the local stone mines that turned out the creamy coloured limestone that makes up the beautiful buildings of our city today, and even see a car that was created and built in the city between 1914 and 1928, the Horstmann.

MOBAW - Horstmann

When you arrive at the Museum, the building itself is imposing. You walk up to the first floor where the shop is and the first thrill is that you purchase your tickets at what was the original shop counter of Bowler’s. Everything is exactly how it was, with drawers stuffed full of items, chains hanging from the ceiling and plaques around the walls. You really feel as though you are transported back to the 1900’s!

MOBAW - Front desk 2

You’re given an audio guide to use as you walk around the Bowler collection, and it really is worth a listen. The Museum has also added sound effects as you walk around, which really brings alive the working areas, such as the forge and brass finishing room. There are panels on the walls too that give you further information if needed, but it’s just great to look at the plethora of items that are piled everywhere.

MOBAW - workshop

On the tour you are able to even start original 1880’s machinery. This is a real thrill to watch the fan belt machines begin to start up one by one until they are fully going. Originally powered by steam, and then gas, it is electricity that starts these great pieces today.

MOBAW - typewriter

Another room has the Bowler’s office fully assembled as it was found in 1969. It’s amazing to see piles of original ledgers and invoices, some dating back to the 19th Century, in situ. You almost feel that the staff have popped out for tea and will be back soon; a real Marie Celeste moment.

MOBAW - Mineral vats

Frear’s saved every single bottle, every single scrap of paper, every nut and bolt of Bowlers; so when you walk into the area that displays the Mineral Water Factory, you can see every element. In the mixing room, where flavours were created for their cordials, even the jars still have the original brightly coloured mixes within them. Above the bottling area is crate upon crate of glass bottles, unused. Simply extraordinary.

MOBAW - mineral flavours

Once you have finished with your tour of the Bowler collection you head up to the mezzanine level where you can find out more about the history of industry in Bath over the centuries, plus children can enjoy the dressing up box and activities here. There are also wonderful displays about the medieval cloth trade, the crane works of Stothert and Pitt, and even the last plate from the printing press of the local paper, The Bath Chronicle, before they turned to lithography.

MOBAW - Stothert

This floor is also where you will find the temporary exhibition space. Currently, until the end of October, there is an exhibition celebrating 65 years of Clark’s Desert Boot. Plus there are some interesting panels created by local groups of Bath, giving an historical A to Z of their area that is definitely worth a look at.

You can also find refreshments up here and seats where you can enjoy a sit down and reflect on what is all around you. When you’re ready to continue, head down the stairs to the ground floor and enter the final part of the museum. Here you can listen to part of the Museum’s oral history collection; an important record with hundreds of the city’s workers’ recollections preserved.

MOBAW - Mining

There is also a reconstructed workshop of one of Bath’s many cabinet makers which once again reminds you of the craft and skills that once dotted the streets of the city. There is also stone quarrying equipment plus a mock-up of a mine with explanations of how the stone was cut and transported to the city for use in the building trade.

I was privileged enough to be shown into the basement of the Museum by Stuart Burroughs, the Museum’s Director, and there I saw the shelves of paperwork gathered from Bowler’s, along with the boxes of negatives, prints and photographs by Russell Frears. All the equipment and machinery from Bowler’s is actually on display, there is nothing in the archive, which is incredibly unusual for a museum as a lot of the time not all can be shown. It’s only the vast amount of paperwork that can’t be put on display, for preservation reasons as well as sheer size of the collection.

MOBAW - Archives

It is in the basement that you are reminded again of the original building’s use, for it is at this level you have the original 18th Century flagstones of the Real Tennis court. It was only a tennis court for a short period of time before going through many transitions before it became a museum in the 1970’s.

To be honest the Museum is packed with so much it cannot all be listed here! But is it worth a look? Absolutely! I have to confess having lived here all my life I had never been, and after my visit I do wonder why I hadn’t before.

You don’t have to be into engineering or industry to enjoy this collection; it’s fascinating for anyone who has an interest in the past. It’s also a great place to bring children. With the advent of the computer age, it is a good reflection on what has been, and how far we have come. It also looks to the future too. Some areas of the museum are available to hire for meetings, lectures and performances; plus it hosts the Bath Young Inventor of the Year awards.

MOBAW - Awards

The most important thing to come out of my visit was that when I re-emerged I realised we need to appreciate that there is much more to the city than just the tourists, the Romans and the Georgians. We should be more aware of and celebrate what enabled Bath, and still does today, to feed itself, to clothe itself, to run itself – the industries and the workers!

MOBAW - Come again sign

Museum of Bath at Work – for opening times, hire costs, and ticket prices, please see website
With thanks to Stuart Burroughs and all the volunteers at the Museum

Focus on Bath – Dorothy House

Most Bathonians will be familiar with the blue, pink and white colours of this charity that adorn its retail shops around the city, or have spotted the tulip logo and name on the chests of runners in the annual Bath Half. Many of you will have also taken part or contributed to the regular events that they organise in Bath – from walks and charity auctions to street collections. Yet how many of you really know about this charity, one that has been an important part of the local community for almost 40 years?

We felt it was time to enlighten you on what exactly goes on just a few miles outside of the city centre, in the lovely village of Winsley, which is where you will find the bustling hub of the charity and hospice of which I speak – Dorothy House.


Who or what is Dorothy House? Dorothy House is the primary hospice care facility for the community in Bath, north and west Wiltshire and north east Somerset. They serve an area of around 700 square miles and a community of 500,000 people. But it’s more than just a hospice where people go to die – it’s where people go to live their life, however long, to the max! It’s a whole network of advice, support and activities for people diagnosed with a life limiting illness, as well as their family and friends.

The concept of a hospice has been around since the 11th Century but the pioneering service of providing care and support for the incurably ill came about through the work of Dame Cicely Saunders in the 1950’s.

Prue Dufour Dorothy House

Founder, Prue Dufour

Dorothy House was formed by one woman, Prue Dufour (nee Clench), in 1976, whose own experience as a nurse, and inspired by the St Christopher’s Hospice in London, drew her to open up her own home in Broomfield Road, Bath to terminally ill patients. As her services grew in popularity, so Prue had to expand. Firstly next door, and finally Dorothy House purchased the Sutcliffe School for Boys in the village of Winsley, where the hospice moved to in 1995. The name Dorothy House incidentally did not come from a patient, but chosen as “Dorothy” means “Gift of God”.

Although founded on Christian principles, Dorothy House welcomes any patients aged 18 years and older, whatever their beliefs. Next year (2016) the charity celebrates its 40th anniversary and there are lots of celebratory events in the pipeline, so keep your eyes peeled for these!

Anyone can call up and ask to take a tour around Dorothy House (or Dotty House as it’s affectionately known). It’s definitely worth it to understand more about what the facility provides, how much it does for the community at large as well as the patient’s within its care. Personally it’s good to go as it helps to break down any fears one may have about “hospices”, death and “palliative care”. Trust me…it’s not what you might be expecting at all!

Dorothy House Emily

My guide, Emily Knight, Events Fundraiser for Dorothy House

You can get to Winsley either by Bus from Bath (Number 264 or 265) or by driving/cycling to the village. Coming from Bradford on Avon you follow the line of a 17th Century listed wall that is topped intermittently by 3 imposing Talbot’s (hunting dogs). Whichever way you come you are welcomed by a brand new entrance stone with “Dorothy House” carved upon it. This grey millstone was found hidden in shrub land in the grounds and was polished up and carved for the charity by James Long, a Stonemason of Trowbridge.

Sutcliffe School, Winsley

Sutcliffe School for Boys, Winsley

The building is a mix of old and new. Originally the main part of the house, where most of the administration offices now are, was a family home built in 1902. In 1953 the building was taken over and run as Sutcliffe School for Boys, before it was purchased in the 1990’s by Dorothy House and transformed into the place it is today. In 2006 two brand new wings opened at the site, which meant extension of the charity’s resources and offerings to its patients.

Dorothy House Entrance_reduced

When you arrive you make your way from the car park through a pretty trellised walkway, surrounded by flowers and plants, some winding their way up the wood. The main entrance is the original stone porch of the old house, topped with a weatherworn crest, but through this you enter into a light bright Reception area where you are welcomed and asked to sign in.

Dorothy House Reception

A welcoming entrance to Dorothy House

All about there is information about the hospice, comfortable chairs to sit and relax in, and cabinets with patients’ and families’ work, toys and gifts for sale. One of the lasting impressions on me from Dorothy House were the cabinets dotted around filled with objects that patients and their families had made together. These “Creative Keepsakes” are a lasting legacy as well as the making of them being a therapeutic and bonding experience for all.

The main thing you notice walking about Dorothy House is there is an air of happiness. Everyone smiles at each other, laughter echoes around the building and every room is light, bright and airy, even those offices within the older part of the building. It’s a hive of bustling activity, whether in the fundraising department or the day patients’ craft room.

One of the beautiful outside spaces at the Hospice

One of the beautiful outside spaces at the Hospice

Dorothy House isn’t just about palliative care but it also offers respite for patients, somewhere their medication can be checked, or as a half-way house after an operation. Dorothy House is about finding ways to assist patients to manage their conditions, and to enjoy their life whatever lies ahead. It’s also a place that offers support and techniques for friends, families and carers of those who are ill. The main ethos is helping patients with what you CAN do, not what you can’t do.

There is an in-patient’s unit which provides 10 beds, as well as a room for partners or families to sleep in overnight. The day unit welcomes 11 patients daily who use the light bright spaces for art classes, music recitals and there are facilities provided so that patients can undergo physio, occupational and complimentary therapies. The day patients are picked up from their homes by volunteer drivers, so their day at Dorothy House means their family and carers can have some respite too.

Dorothy House Couple

Each patient is referred to the facility by their Doctor, Hospital or District Nurse. The next point of call is the Contact Centre where a triage nurse assesses what care can be given. For those patients without close family volunteer companions can be assigned to them, which is another thoughtful, and  much appreciated touch, that along with the one to one care, makes Dorothy House so unique in the field of hospice care in the country.

The new state of the art gym at Dorothy House

The new state of the art gym at Dorothy House

As my guide, Emily, told me, Dorothy House offers the whole package – spiritual, psychological and physical care for the patient AND the family. It isn’t about what’s to come, it’s about the here and now and making the best of it!

Small elements of the school still remain. For example, the old gymnasium has been turned into a conference room, available to hire by the public, businesses and organisations. Now called the Bloomfield Suite, this ex-gym, along with The Roper Room are perfect to hire for conferences, training days or coffee meets.

Dorothy House Boardroom

One of the two Conference Rooms that can be hired out

Walking about Dorothy House, the transition between the old building and new wings is seamless, though you do notice the bigger windows on to the stunning vistas and the skylights provided in the new parts. Nothing feels clinical; everything feels warm and homely, with only small hints at the medical environment that we are in, such as alarm bells outside in-patient’s rooms or a wheelchair here and there.

Dorothy House Light

In the Family room, everyone can relax, chat, and children can play and draw. Even those who want some peace and quiet to be with their thoughts this is also possible here at the hospice. A Quiet room is provided for those who need it, and the chaplaincy team are on hand if you need a chat. The vast grounds and beautifully kept gardens are also perfect as a place of reflection as you walk around.

Dorothy House Family room 2

The Family Room

It’s like one big family at Dorothy House – from staff, volunteers, and patients, everyone mingles, especially when it comes to eating! In the on-site restaurant, the chefs provide tasty, appealing and nutritionally balanced meals for all, and will go above and beyond to cater for any special dietary requirements people may have.

One of the major appealing factors of Dorothy House, apart from the one-on-one time given to each and every individual patient and their family, is the stunning views of the Limpley Stoke Valley that the house overlooks! Beautiful even in the rain as it was the day of my visit! Every single one of the bedrooms at the hospice has a view over the gardens and valley. The Chapel at the end of the Outpatient wing has enough room for a bed to be comfortably wheeled in so that a patient who is unable to walk can watch the sun rise from the panoramic windows.

Dorothy House Chapel

The Chapel with it’s stunning views, despite the grey day!

There are around 24 specially trained Dorothy House Nurse Specialists who not only work within the Hospice but also have a portfolio of patient’s whom they visit at home. There are also 2 Outreach Centres, which are located in Peasedown St John and Trowbridge, where patients, carers and families can come to find out more information, share their stories, get advice and support. The charity even has their own allotment which is used by all – and currently they have over 35 different vegetables and fruits growing, some of which will be used by the restaurant.

Dorothy House also provides two self-contained Community Lodges where patients and their families can enjoy some private time together outside of the in-patient unit. This is very unique and one of only two hospices in the country currently to provide this facility. Nurses are on site but the lodges give more of a homely feel to a patient’s stay. Stays are usually around a week and are an alternative short term place of care for respite.

Dorothy House Lodges opening

Opening of the new Community Lodges at Dorothy House

Giving people the option of dying in their own home is an important and valued part of Dorothy House Hospice Care. The Hospice at Home Team is made up of approximately 40 highly trained carers who are in high demand across the area Dorothy House covers. Hospice at Home enables the families and carers of those people in their last days or weeks of life a chance to have some respite, whether sleep at night or time to themselves during the day time, with the assurance that their loved one is being looked after. Emily informed me, “The cost of one night’s care is £205 and in 2014 our Hospice at Home team provided 17,570 hours of night care, all of this free of charge to the individuals.”

Dorothy House Fundraisers

Of the 400 members of staff at Dorothy House (220 of these are part-time workers), the Hospice also couldn’t do its wonderful work without the help of over 1100 volunteers. Not only do these unsung heroes work within the retail shops out and about in the community, but there are also many people who volunteer their time to act as drivers, companions, fundraisers, gardeners, chefs and much more for the Hospice. They are always in need of more volunteers so take a look at the current vacancies and perhaps you can donate a few hours of your time to help others.

Everything Dorothy House Hospice Care provides is in fact FREE of charge, which is why donations and fundraising is an important element of the work done here at Dorothy House! It costs almost £9,500 a DAY to run Dorothy House and as such they are constantly looking for innovative ways to raise money to keep the facilities they provide running. £1.2 million of annual funding comes from the NHS but the remaining money is obtained through donations, events, legacies, the shops, investment income and of course community fundraising. Of this money, 92 pence of every pound is spent solely on the facilities Dorothy House provides.

Not only is there a weekly Lottery that you can join, but there are organised annual events for all the family in Bath and the surrounding areas, that include a Men’s Walk through Bath, Fire walking, a Santa Dash; and a Marquee Week at Dorothy House itself, filled with comedy, pampering and talks. Coming up in September is the ever popular 8km Bath Midnight Walk, and it’s not too late to register your place now!


Bath Men’s Walk on behalf of Dorothy House

You can also choose to create your own fundraising activities. Simply contact the Fundraising department to find out how you can go about this, and before long you’ll be jumping out of a plane like 79 year old Eric Ashman, chaining yourself to your best friend as Layla Bradfield and Sam Sudbury did for 12 hours, playing the spoons at different venues over a month like Jo May, or taking part in extreme ironing on Snowdon like local policeman Paul Langdon!

Paul Langdon at the top of Snowdon with his Ironing Board!

Paul Langdon at the top of Snowdon with his Ironing Board!

If you have a few hours spare in your week, maybe think about being one of the many valued Volunteers at Dorothy House. You can help out at one of the 28 retail outlets, or use your particular skills at Winsley or the Outreach Centres whether gardening, helping out at street collections, being a companion or offering administration assistance.

Helping Fundraising can be fun!

Putting the “Fun” in Fundraising!

Most recently the charity has opened its newest venture in the heart of the city –Coffee House 76- the fantastic Vintage and Retro shop on Bridge Street, which has its own Coffee Shop situated above. Cakes are made fresh every day by the chefs at Winsley and the coffee is a blend of 100% Arabica beans, directly traded and then blended and roasted locally near to the hospice in Winsley. You can also find out more about the charity by picking up leaflets here or in any of their retail outlets.

Dorothy House Vintage Shop

Dorothy House Vintage & Retro Shop in Bath

Even if you’re just visiting the city but want to contribute to the amazing work done for the local community, why not spend a few pennies picking up a treasure in one of the eight Dorothy House shops located around the city, and after your shopping spree put your feet up and relax at Coffee House 76 with a well-deserved drink and slice of cake! You can also drop any spare pennies into the collection box in our 1846 Bar, so if you’re a guest staying with us, or popping by for a drink at The Royal Hotel, you too can contribute to this wonderful facility.

For further details of Dorothy House and how YOU can help, please either call 01225 722 988 or visit their brand new website HERE.

With thanks to Emily Knight, Events Fundraiser and all the staff at Dorothy House.

(Images copyright Catherine Pitt, Dorothy House, Zak’s Photography, Colerne Photographic Company)

Dorothy House Vision

Focus on Bath – Vintage Bath

Now most people enjoy a rummage around a good charity shop, market or antique shop and it’s no exception in Bath. We’re really lucky to have some fantastic vintage and antique shops in the city, plus a regular Sunday Vintage & Antiques Market, which means plenty of trinkets and treasures to find.

Vintage Bath - V2VBoard

Looking around at what’s on the internet, we noticed there’s not really an up to date comprehensive list of Vintage establishments in Bath, so we thought we’d best correct that for you. So, here is our fun trail around the streets of the fabulous furnishings, terrific trends and eclectic emporiums of Vintage in the city.

Let’s start right at the top – that’s up near the Royal Crescent and The Circus. A great place to start to take in the striking architecture and history before immersing yourself and your wallet in the world of consumerism.

* Margaret Buildings

A growing mecca of Vintage and Antique businesses. Here on the corner of the street you have the well established shop of Alexandra May that sells stunning modern and vintage jewellery, accessories and gifts. It’s jam packed full of delights, so much so that you feel at any moment you are about to knock something flying from the groaning tables and shelves.

VintageBath - HeavensB

Heaven’s Bazaar at Number 3, is a little decadent treat of a shop with Vintage and pre-loved designer pieces including furnishings as well as fashions. Stock is on two floors and delightfully presented. You can also buy online. They stock anything from 1900 upwards.

Next up is a shop that doesn’t have a name but is painted royal blue and has a small sign with opening times upon it. This is Brian & Caroline Craik’s Antique shop at No.8. Worth a look in just for the sheer randomness of the items they have for sale. The window display is always a delight, with the huge toy bear a great draw for kids. As described by The Telegraph as “eccentric”, it lives up to this description!

VintageBath - Mantiques

At the end of the buildings you will find a brand new shop – Geoffrey Breeze’s Mantiques. Bang on trend this is a tiny but perfectly formed gentleman’s emporium. With items from beautifully carved canes to tiny silver snuff boxes, even I was getting chap envy! Great for accessories and a few choice furnishings.

Turning back on oneself, head back along Margaret Building’s and turn into Brock Street. Here you will find Beau Nash and silver experts Duncan Campbell and Ron Pringle. Their lovingly designed window draws you into a world of sumptuous decadence of other eras but their pieces will sit as comfortably in a 21st Century home as they once did in a 1930’s lady’s apartment.

* Saville Row leading to Bartlett Street

London’s Mayfair has its own tailoring capital of the same name but we in Bath put the “b” in bespoke (and an extra “l” in Savile) with the eclectic mix of pieces in the vintage and antique shops that line both Saville Row and Bartlett Street.

VintageBath - BeasTeaRooms

Firstly head behind the wonderful Assembly Rooms and find a rather welcome sight, where one can rest one’s weary feet after the initial vintage spree of the day, Bea’s Vintage Tea Rooms.

Step back into the 1930s and 1940s where you’ll be served by ladies in red lippy and t-strap shoes. The menus are kept within a ration book cover, but there’s no war time scrimping on portion size here. Tuck into classics such as Corned Beef hash, Ploughman’s, Bubble & Squeak and home-made pies. Drinks include elderflower bubbly, a selection of loose leaf teas and milkshakes. A perfect end to your meal is a slice of the ginormous home-made cakes that seem to wink at you from their display cabinet. Well, there is a lot more vintage shopping to do!

VintageBath - BeasTeaRooms2

Fuelled up you simply have to roll next door to Saville Row Retro shop. Here Bea of next door’s Vintage Tea Room fame has expanded to sell some of the wonderful items you see in use in her cafe. Concentrating on the period of the 1940’s to 1970’s, there will be many familiar household items for sale here. Pick yourself out a stunning brooch or a decorative glass vase to enhance your home. Staff are friendly and knowledgeable about the products and love that items evoke memories from browsers – from the Marmite toastrack to the Ercol dining sets.

VintageBath- SavilleRowRetro

On the corner of Savile Row you’ll find a totally different shop. The windows blanketed in dark clouds of fabric, here the stock speaks for itself. This is Westbury Fine Art, where Marcus Westbury sells art from the Renaissance to the 19th Century. A well established and renowned art seller around the world Marcus displays the paintings in a selective but sumptuous way.

Crossing over Alfred Street, head downhill along Bartlett Street. Keep your eyes peeled to the left as there are more vintage and antique finds here.

Firstly we have Felix Lighting Specialists. At first glance it may seem rather a stark industrial window, but look beyond and you see the beauty of the pieces, both vintage and designed in store. They’ve worked with companies such as Jamie’s Italian and Soho House, and will be happy to work with you too to find, or create, that piece of lighting perfect for your home or business.

VintageBath - FelixLights

A lot of the Antique shops in Bath have disappeared over the years as more and more sellers turn to the Internet, however Bartlett Street Antique Centre remain a stalwart of the vintage and antiques scene in the city. It may have had a reduction in size but the quality of the antiques you will find here are second to none. There are specialist dealers here, as well as a further 60 dealer showcases. Great for a browse around with everything from dolls and ephemera to clocks and watches.

* Walcot Street

Walcot Street is known as the bohemian heart of Bath. It’s lost a little of it’s uniqueness since the disappearance of Walcot Nation Day and some of the businesses like Walcot Reclamation, however it retains some gems of retro retail heaven.

VintageBath - JackandD

Jack & Danny’s could be called a Walcot Street institution. Though its address is actually London Road, it’s situated right at the top of Walcot and you can’t really miss it with the windows covered in clothing hanging from every conceivable part of its frontage! Since opening its doors in 1967 this family run business has supplied most of Bath as well as students and stars with fancy dress and vintage delights. There are so many unusual items in here but be warned you need time to rummage through everything and pull out the pieces you love. Nothing is sorted by size and hardly anything is priced, but that’s the wonderful thing about Jack & Danny’s; it’s old school and isn’t apologetic about it in the slightest. Long live J&D!

Opposite the great co-operative owned pub, The Bell, there is a charity shop that takes a page from Jack & Denny’s book with piles of clothes and shoes in both tiny rooms ready for you to rummage through. This is the Bath Women’s Refuge Shop and is a must for bargain hunters. It may not have vintage treasures dating back to the 1950’s (although who knows what’s beneath the piles of clothes and boxes in there?!) that you may be seeking but you can still find a few gems if you have the time to look.

VintageBath - JulianHouseInside

Near to the end of Walcot Street you will find two more shops that will keep vintage lovers busy. The first is Julian House Charity Shop. I’ve deliberately not focused on charity shops here, but only those that specifically are worth a mention because of the treasures they have and Julian House is definitely included in this list. At the back of the shop is their Vintage & Retro section, including menswear. Here in a polyester and rayon static heaven you can find anything from clothing, shoes, annuals and china. Don’t forget the book shop downstairs!

VintageBath - YellowShop2

Only a few doors down from Julian House is another stalwart of Bath’s vintage scene – The Yellow Shop. Open for more than a decade both men and women can dig around to find original and new clothes, shoes and accessories, all with a kitsch and vintage feel. Mainly concentrating from the 1950s onwards, but with a few steam punk items thrown in.

* Broad Street & Milsom Street

There’s been a recent change on Broad Street and one that leads me to add an extra street to my list, but the original shop remains but just rejigged. I’m talking about the Dorothy House Hospice Charity Shop on Broad Street. Always a go to for vintage and retro pieces that were displayed at the back, past the bookshelves, they’ve recently opened up a new specific vintage shop in the city, and thus moved out all the fashion stock. However, they’ve replaced fashion with furnishings and vintage ones to boot. So take a look if you need to revamp and retrofy your pad.

VintageBath- DorothyHouseBroadSt

Walk towards the top of Broad Street and you will find The Black and White Shop. Having been opened only a few years this is a great place to go for vintage and designer pieces for all genders. They have window displays of furnishings, great kitsch pictures on the wall for sale and racks upon racks of wonderful clothes. Vintage can be found near the back, accessories and bags are dotted around, plus shoes are ordered in areas by size. For me, with big feet, I have to follow the trail up stairs, but it also means I get to poke my nose into the men’s room, where again there are great jackets, shoes and much more to be found for the chaps.

VintageBath - BlackandWhiteShop

Crossing over Broad Street you head through an archway that leads you to a car park. Don’t worry, you’ve not gone the wrong way, just keep walking ahead and the alleyway you find yourself in will reveal to you one of the wonders of Bath – Vintage to Vogue (if you’re coming from Milsom Street direction, look out for the sign boards outside the alley entrance).

I’ve been going to Vintage to Vogue since I was a teenager. Now owned and run by two vintage savvy lovelies, Imren Eshref and John Lowin, they’ve taken Vintage to Vogue onto another level entirely with their well kept pieces from as early as the 19th Century. Sourcing from all over the world their prices aren’t cheap but the clothes are beautiful. This shop has one of THE best vintage menswear departments I’ve ever seen and certainly takes up as much space as the women’s collections. It’s so well regarded in the vintage scene that the wardrobe department for Downton Abbey bought up their stock of original flapper dresses for last seasons series.

VintageBath - V2VMens

* Bridge Street

If you’re heading to look at the stunning Pultney Bridge, or perhaps hurrying to catch the match at The Rec, then there’s a new vintage delight to tempt the pounds from your pocket – Coffee House 76. This is in fact a Dorothy House Hospice charity shop, and is where the vintage stock of the Broad Street shop is now housed. Perfectly presented, this store doesn’t feel like a charity shop at all, and talking to the Manager, the aim is to keep it strictly to its spec of being a vintage emporium only. A coffee shop is located upstairs, which if you’ve been following the above trail, you will certainly need to use to have another refuel here!

VintageBath - DorothyHouseVintage

* Guildhall Market, High Street

Open during the week and on Saturday’s the Guildhall Market has almost everything under one roof – from books to tools, but for you vintage followers out there, you’ll want to head to Not Cartier’s. It’s where I go for my clip on earrings and has something for every pocket, from 50 pence to 50 pounds. Floor to ceiling sparkling delights – with locked cabinets full of Victoriana and 1920’s celluloid brooches to busts covered in diamante tiaras, necklaces and rings  – this is antique costume jewellery heaven! Blingtastic!

* Queen Street

We sadly have to report the demise of the lovely Scarlet Vintage shop that was along here, but it’s still worth going off piste and taking a walk down this picturesque street as you will find Vintage & Rare Guitars here at number 11. With three floors of string heaven, acoustic to electric, this is the perfect haunt of that budding Brian May or Django wannabee. I love taking a stroll down this street – simply follow the sound of the tunes to find this guitar mecca. There are even rare editions and signed pieces that collectors travel from all over the globe to view. Since I can’t play I think I’ll stick to air guitar and admiring in the shop the skill of those who can on some of the best instruments in the guitar world.


* Kingsmead Square

I couldn’t talk about vintage clothing without including the newest ladies on the scene – Emma and Sharon Savage who run Grace & Ted Boutique in Kingsmead Square. This mother and daughter duo (NEVER I will hear you cry…they look more like sister’s than mum and daughter) are rocking the second hand scene, winning Best Independent Retailer in the South West of England this year! A designer re-sale shop for men and women, this is where you can pick up vintage Chanel, Prada, Michael Kors and Louis Vuitton, as well as more recent season pieces. However, even though you may not class them as a “vintage” shop per-se, stop and consider their mantra, “Fashion evolves, but style endures”, and stock up on timeless pieces that will over the years become vintage classics.

VintageBath - GraceandTed

If you are a lover of Vintage books then go no further than next door to the hotel! On Manvers Street you’ll find George Bayntun’s – a magical world of book binding, antique prints, second hand books and first editions that any bibliophile would love to get their hands on. From Biggles to Bond, Dickens to Defoe, people travel from all over the world to buy from this family run business. We’ve featured them before in a previous Focus On blog so take a look at the delights.

Keep an eye out too for irregular and regular vintage markets and fairs in and around the city. Every first, third and last Sunday in the month, Green Park Station lays host to the Vintage & Antiques Market where you can find records, fashions and furnishings galore. A regular Saturday occurrence is the Bath Flea Market, situated in the open air car park next to the Hilton Hotel at the bottom of Walcot Street. Here you can find a bargain or two and barter over anything from traditional tools to a gentleman’s trilby.


Coming up on September 27th 2015 is the return of Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair, which is a nationally run vintage fair but regularly comes to Bath. This time it’s situated in The Pavilion and will be chocca full of vintage sellers from all over the UK. Judy’s Vintage Fair is also another familiar face in the city and runs affordable fairs with goods starting from as little as £5.

You can end your day perhaps donning some of your purchases and hitting the town and the retro nights such as Komedia’s Motorcity, a Motown, Rock & Roll, funk and blues explosion every Saturday night, or live music nights at Chapel Arts Centre or jazz nights at Green Park Brasserie. Whatever you choose to do, go shake your tail feather!

VintageBath - Poster

We hope this has whet your appetite to come and explore the retro delights of our city. The shops may not be able to source anything original from the Roman or Georgian period but you are bound to come away with something you love. Why not make a few days of it and stay at our historic hotel in the heart of the city. With rooms starting from as little as £99 per couple per night B&B, you’ll have more money to spend on those vintage delights!

[Photographs copyright Catherine Pitt, Grace & Ted, Felix Lighting Specialists Ltd, Bath Vintage & Antiques Fair]

All details correct at date of publication.


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.


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?!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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?!


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.


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.


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.

[ Pictures copyright Old Theatre Royal & Masonic Museum, Catherine Pitt and Lawrence Tindall ]

Focus on Bath – Thermae Bath Spa

You can’t avoid water in Bath. Even its name implies the liquid! The name of the “Avon”, the river that flows through the city, actually means “River”, the station is called “Bath Spa”, the Roman Baths have been designated the 29th most popular UK Visitor Attraction 2015 (according to Visit Britain) and the Romans originally named the settlement Aquae Sulis – meaning the waters of Sulis. So, naturally when the council were considering ways to celebrate the Millennium in 2000, a water theme was a natural choice.


Until the late 1970s the public could still swim in the natural spring waters, just as their forebears had done for over 1,000 years. After the baths were closed due to the tragic death of a child from a strain of bacteria found in the waters, the idea of re-opening them was mooted over the decades. Over 1 million litres of water flow from the natural springs every day, and none of it was being utilised until the Bath Spa Project began looking at creating a new bath complex for the year 2000.

In the 1980s the Thermal Research Project had drilled down and found a supply of clean water that could be used, kickstarting interest again. In fact, the Thermae Bath Spa draws water from three springs – the King’s Spring under Stall Street, the Cross Bath, and the Hetling Spring.


As the project took longer than expected and was over budget, it wasn’t until 2006 that the Thermae Bath Spa opened its doors. It was worth the wait and the £40 million cost.

Designed by Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners (architects of The Eden Project in Cornwall, Pulkovo Airport in Russia, and Southern Cross Station in Melbourne, Australia) they have used a mix of natural Bath stone (from local Limpley Stoke quarries) and glass, wrapping around the historic baths already on the site, and incorporating them sympathetically into the structure.


With the 10 year anniversary of its opening only a year away, and having never personally experienced the baths, it was a real treat to go to the Thermae Bath Spa and enjoy what thousands of tourists and locals have for the past nine years.

Starting my tour, I began at the separate Cross Bath, which can be seen at the end of Bath Street. This Grade I listed building, built in 1789 by Thomas Baldwin, lies on the site of an original medieval bath. In fact, underneath the current pool is the original pool floor. When designing the new Spa the architects were up against strict historic protection orders, but despite these limitations they have been able to blend in modern facilities without one really noticing. Glass panels disappear into cracks that were already in the stone work, and where the original changing area was, doors and a roof have been added.


The Cross Bath is directly fed by its own spring which can be seen naturally bubbling up into a water feature especially created a the edge of the pool. The water is not pumped up and is a constant 46oC, but through filtration the water is cooled to 35oC so that it is more pleasant to bathe in. This bath is hired separately from the main baths and is great if you want to have exclusive use of the spring waters and a private bathing area.


Walking from the Cross Bath to the main entrance of the Thermae Bath Spa you are faced with a wall of glass, but to the side you have the magnificent Hot Bath building and Number eight Bath Street. Number eight can be easily recognised as it’s a small 3 storey town house with 2 statues above the front door. Their heads are missing, but the statues are said to represent King Edgar, the first King of England who was crowned here in Bath in 973AD, and another King, possibly Osric or Bladud. These statues came from the original 17th Century Guildhall.


Entering the Spa you are welcomed by friendly staff and given an electronic wrist band which allows you to enter and exit the complex. It also controls your locker and can be used in the restaurant to add food and drink to your bill. Here you are also handed a towel, a robe and slippers to use inside.

Interestingly the locker rooms are on a completely separate level to the shower rooms and baths, but it does mean that no one is walking dirty shoes through the shower room areas. The complex in fact is kept clean and tidy by a plethora of staff who quietly go about their duties seamlessly.

A tip on using the lockers – although there are instructions on how to use, I did find it helped to hold your locker shut and then press the wristband against the electronic pad for as long as needed until the display flashes that the locker is shut. It’s very easy to remove your wristband too quickly and find the locker has popped open again.

Although the toilets are segregated, be aware that the changing rooms and shower rooms at the Spa are communal, but I found everyone was very discreet. There are private changing booths you can use to get changed in as well.

The varying levels and facilities are accessed by stairs, ramps or lifts, and everything is signposted clearly. I still found myself making a wrong turn here and there, but there were plenty of staff about to ask.

The main thing that surprised me was the lack of noise. Children under 16 years old are not permitted in the Spa, and I soon found myself relaxing into the peace and tranquility of the setting. This certainly contrasts with the streets teeming with tourists and school groups outside!

It is also odd wandering everywhere wearing just a swimming costume and robe, but then you soon realise that everyone else is the same, and you forget about it quickly. In fact it soon becomes strange when you see someone, like a member of staff, fully dressed!

Minerva Bath2-Dave Saunders_reduced

The first bath you come to is the large Minerva pool (named after the Goddess Minerva whose bronze head was discovered in the 18th Century on the site of a Roman Temple dedicated to her in nearby Stall Street). For those of you who may have learnt to swim here many years ago, this is the site of the old 1920s Beau Street swimming baths. Today, the Minerva pool is a wonderful and tranquil mix of wood, stone and glass. Four large white pillars hold up a Bath stone cube, but you don’t feel oppressed by it. In fact the surrounding glass adds a vastness to the pool area, and it feels light and airy.

Stepping into the spring waters for the first time you’re enveloped by the pleasant warmth, and you instantly begin to feel relaxed. The waters here are a few degrees lower than the Cross Bath outside, but remain a constant 33.5oC.


After the initial warmth, I was struck also by the lack of smell. Having tasted the waters in the Pump Room, I know that sulphur is a component of Bath Spa water. However, it appears that this mineral has been filtered out (along with Iron), or certainly the smell had. The filtration process ensures that there are no bacteria build ups, and the waters still contain over 40 naturally occurring minerals, even after filtration.

Remember this is not a swimming pool as such. Relaxation is the aim of these baths, not doing lengths. Most people were using foam rollers to aid their floatation, and there was a delightful current that gently swept bathers along behind the Jacuzzi area. You could also enjoy an invigorating jet stream of water that shot out intermittently, like a giant waterfall. This was great for pummelling away knots in your shoulders and neck if you stood underneath it.


Through a glass wall adjacent to the Minerva bath you can enter the treatment room area and the Hot Bath. The Hot Bath was built around 1777 by John Wood the Younger, and adapted by G P Manners in 1831. It is used for the Spa’s signature treatment – Watsu, or water shiatsu. This treatment is for a maximum of two people at a time, and looked wonderfully relaxing.

The twelve treatment rooms surrounding this bath offer a range of massages, facials, body wraps and other treatments to further add to your pampering experience; but must be booked in advance of your visit.


Moving up a floor I entered the Steam Room and Waterfall area. A wall of steam met me as a I opened the double doors and entered the large room. It looked like the Transporter room from Star Trek, with four separate glass walled pods situated around a central shower area. However, instead of beaming people up, this was where water cascaded down on the public at varying speeds and temperatures after their turn in the steam room pods.

The essences used in the steam rooms vary regularly and seasonally. While I was there I enjoyed cleansing Euco Menthol, Lemongrass and Ginger, Sandalwood, and the fragrant Lotus Flower. The stone benches inside the pods can be hot to sit on, but you don’t have to spend too long in each room to feel the benefits on your skin and in your lungs.

Steam Rooms1_reduced

After the steam rooms you could either wander around on the terrace outside, relaxing on the wicker chairs and loungers, or you can make your way up to the final bath, the spectacular roof top pool! From here you can view Bath from a totally different perspective. Protected by other buildings the Thermae Bath Spa is quite hidden from view, yet from it you can view the rooftops of the city, look into nearby courtyards, stare at the pinnacles of Bath Abbey, and observe the green hills of the surrounding countryside. Stepping once again into the warm waters this pool, like the Minerva pool, contains neck massage jets, air benches to sit on, and a bubbling Jacuzzi area.

The roof top pool was the busiest pool, unsurprisingly. But it didn’t distract from the relaxing experience. However, if you want to avoid the main crowds it is best to get here as soon as the Spa opens, or enjoy the rooftop terrace at twilight. It is not always possible when on holiday to avoid weekends, but Tuesdays and Wednesdays are often quieter too, and would be a better time to head here.


It was surprising how so much relaxing can build up an appetite. After I had changed I chose to sample the delights of the Springs Cafe Restaurant, located on the first floor of the Spa. Many people were still in their robes while dining, so you can choose whether you change beforehand. This room was light and fresh with some great contemporary chandeliers and art work that blended in and matched the overall Spa theme of curves, water and light.


On the menu was a seasonal selection of light bites, sandwiches, as well as main meals and desserts; plus a vast array of drinks. You could choose from cleansing smoothies to decadent champagne, there was something for everyone to enjoy.

To start with I chose some warm foccacia bread with cream cheese, followed by mushroom pasta which was not overly creamy and had big tubes of rigatoni pasta. A refreshing glass of champagne pepped me up, while I also sampled one of the Spa’s fresh fruit smoothies. When you’re bathing you forget that the combined heat and minerals will dehydrate you. There are plenty of water fountains you can drink from on all levels in the Spa, but it was good to top up in the restaurant as well.


Being too full for pudding, even though the homemade cakes looked very tempting, I opted to end the meal with a hot chocolate. This came served to me with a bit size sample of sticky toffee pudding that just rounded the meal off perfectly.

Stumbling back into the bright sunshine after my wonderful relax and lunch, I took a walk over to the Hetling Pump Rooms, directly opposite the main Spa complex and to the left of the Cross Bath. Here, in another historic building, this time dating to 1718, there is a small exhibition about the history of the springs, the history of bathing, details about the original baths, as well as the Thermae Bath Spa project. This exhibition is free, but you can also pay to use a hand set (cost £10) to listen to further information or to listen in another language.


Around the corner from the museum, within the same building, is the main Spa shop. Here you can purchase some of the products used in the treatments at the Spa, along with small souvenirs of Bath. The staff in here were very helpful and great at recommending products for all sorts of requirements – from skin problems to insomnia.


The Thermae Bath Spa is more than just a series of baths, is is an all round experience. Whether you choose to just enjoy the waters, or add a treatment and dining on top, you will certainly come out feeling calmer and more relaxed.

Although the Spa cannot advocate that the minerals will help or heal any medical issues, the general ambiance and warmth of the waters certainly creates an holistic experience, and I certainly found that I slept well that night!

Bath can truly live up to its name again with the Thermae Bath Spa at its heart.

Spa Breaks are available from The Royal Hotel from only £159 per person – for two nights B&B that includes a 2 hour visit to the Thermae Bath Spa, PLUS a refreshing glass of Tattinger champagne and a cream tea in our contemporary and relaxing 1846 Bar. Fantastic!

If you fancy some pampering at the Hotel then you can also enjoy our exclusive Pamper Packages courtesy of Awen Health & Beauty. Book direct with them for their fabulous offers, plus enquire about further treatments available.

To  book one of our Spa Breaks, or enquire further, including about our All Inclusive Spa Break and upgrades to a Superior or Four Poster bedroom, please contact us on (+44)1225 463134 or email

With many thanks to Charlotte Hanna and Thermae Bath Spa. Images courtesy of and copyright of Thermae Bath Spa, and Catherine Pitt.




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.


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.


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!


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

Focus on Bath – The Norland Nannies

You may have seen some of the pupils of this College walking to and from the main premises along London Road. Wrapped up in their wool and cashmere brown coats, with their hats perched on their heads, gloves on and laced up brown shoes, they are a distinctive sight in Bath.

It’s tempting not to make comparisons with children’s film favourites Nanny McPhee or Mary Poppins. In fact there are distinct similarities in what they wear – with Julie Andrews’ hat and gloves, and Emma Thompson’s sensible shoes. However, there is more than something magical about these people. These are the impeccably trained Norland Nannies, considered the best in the business.


These nannies expect the unexpected and are prepared for all different circumstances when it comes to Early Years childcare. Norland’s motto is “Love Never Faileth” but after you’ve read this article, probably Lord Baden Powell’s motto for the Scout and Guiding movement, “Be Prepared,” is a more fitting phrase for the hard working Norland Nannies.


It may feel as if Norland College has been in Bath for decades. It certainly seems as if the Norland Nannies are part of the fabric of the city. However, it may surprise you to know that Norland College only moved to Bath in 2003 having previously been located at Denford Park, Berkshire, and before that, in and around London.

Their main premises today are located in what was once the home of Prince Frederick, Duke of York, second son to King George III. It is a Grade II listed building, and as with a listed building, the planning restrictions in place mean it retains its quirky nature despite its modern use. Thus, the narrow staircases and basement servant rooms still remain, but every space has been utilised efficiently and to its full potential by the college.


The property is actually larger than it looks, with the arched cellar space used for practical activities such as nappy changing, and creating children’s activities. The College also rent office space across the road for their sewing classes, and use St Mark’s School’s kitchen for Home Economic lessons.

Norland College was the brainchild of a lady called Emily Ward in the 19th Century, who recognised the need for formally qualified nannies. Prior to this, childcare was the responsibility of “untutored” housemaids, or governesses. Ward chose to set up her training school in premises at Norland Place, London, in 1892 and soon the School became known by the moniker “Norland College”.


Emily Ward

The location may have changed over the years, but the principles behind the training of Norland Nannies remain firmly based on the principles of Froeble. Friedrich Froeble (1782-1952) was a German educator who recognised that the first learning experiences of children can influence their own personal development both mentally and physically, as well as impacting on society as a whole.

Froeble was considered a radical, but despite opposition from his own government he set up the first kindergartens in his country which involved play, games and the natural world. His ideas soon spread with the first English kindergarten opening in London in the 1850s. Emily Ward was an advocate of Froeble’s ideas, and thus it became part of the foundation of Norland’s teachings.

Norland College believes every child is unique in its needs and capabilities and thus at the College the nannies are trained to adapt their practice in line with the family they are working for. They learn how to be prepared, to be able to adapt and be flexible, to ever changing and developing situations as their charges develop and grow.

It may interest you to know, that even in the 21st Century, Nannies are not regulated. There are no government requirements for someone to practice as a nanny and no Ofsted as you get in schools.


Norland College is the only training institute for nannies that offers a 3 year Degree in Early Years Childcare (validated by the University of Gloucestershire). The students then complete a fourth year on a paid placement, after which the graduates are awarded with their Degree and the highly sought after Norland Diploma. The College follows the Government and NHS guidelines on Early Years Childcare closely. This is what makes Norland College so unique and outshines other organisations.

The process in becoming a Norland Nanny is certainly an experience, as I was to discover when I visited the College in March.


If you wanted to become a Norland Nanny, you first have to apply via UCAS, and then wait to be invited for interview. There isn’t an upper age limit to becoming a Norland Nanny, and they welcome students from all over Europe. You don’t have to be from a private school or privileged background. There is about a 50/50 split in applicants and those who go on to become students.

Don’t think that becoming a Nanny is only for women, either. Men are welcome to apply, and one has even trained and become a male Norlander (the name for fully qualified Norland Nannies), so you wouldn’t be the first if you chaps out there did decide to go down the Early Years route.

According to the College, it’s good to have previous experience with young children and babies, and get as much as you can from family and friends before you even think of applying. A natural enthusiasm and willingness to work hard is also looked for in a Norland Nanny applicant.


Once the interview has been passed and a place on the course has been offered, then the hard work begins. Unlike many Colleges or Universities, students at Norland College don’t have mornings or days off to laze in bed before lectures. They’ll be expected at College Monday to Thursday every week, 9am to 4.30pm. Friday’s are set aside for independent studies, guest lectures and independent training. When I visited on a Friday there were students arriving for a guest lecture, and others busily writing away in the Student Common Room downstairs.

As a Norland student they are also expected to take up placements for up to 6 weeks at a time regularly during their training and studies to practice what they have learnt. The students get to see many different childcare environments; from the Maternity wards of the RUH, to working in local schools, private homes and special educational needs facilities. However, at no time are they allowed to work unsupervised with children. They are of course still students. Only when they are a fully qualified Norlander can they work on their own with children.


As well as the studies and placements, Norland trainees also learn various ways of how to engage with children through games and fun activities. They must be resourceful too – learning to sew and create things from what is in their surrounding environment. Cooking and Nutrition is another element to the Diploma where weaning, fussy eaters and special diets are discussed and advice given regarding healthy home-cooked meals.

Paediatric First Aid training is of course essential and the nannies even learn to recognise various childhood illnesses. Sign Language is an optional module the nannies can choose to take so that they can communicate with deaf children or those with learning difficulties. In their final year, the students also learn Life Saving skills at Bath Leisure Centre.

As the students can’t be left unsupervised with children, they are given their own “reality baby” to take care of for 2 days and nights, which reacts in the way a new born baby would. It cries, needs changing and feeding, and is responsive to touch; but this baby also downloads useful data that can be analysed after the 2 days have finished so the student can be assessed on his or her skills.

Norland College at Denford Park, Hungerford

Norland College at Denford Park, Hungerford

The students learn to follow the “safer sleep for babies” guidelines of the NHS, and the Lullaby Trust , which was set up for research into Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and who publish best practice guidelines to reduce the risk of SIDS. Please go to the link for more information about their guidelines. It was interesting to hear about the “baby hotel” at Norland’s previous location, Denford Park, with the rows of children left to sleep outside in their prams (supervised of course!).

Surprisingly students are also sent on rail trips, often up to London. This not only helps with orientation skills, but they learn how to travel and entertain children on long journeys.

The students’ training moves with the times and covers all aspects of modern life. For example, online security is covered, as well as self-defence and defensive driving. Everything has a purpose though – to be totally professional whilst safeguarding children. The students will also be instructed in what to expect when they finish their course and go into employment. This includes information about salary, tax, pension and insurance; as well as contract law.


Most of this hard work and training is performed while wearing the most distinctive part of the students’ kit – the Norland Nanny uniform. The colour of the uniform has varied over the last 120 years, but its distinctive colour ensures the nannies stand out from other uniformed staff, whether it was housemaids in the 1890s or Doctors and nurses in the 1990s. Today the colour is brown, and has been for over 70 years. Although it might not be considered to everyone’s taste it is certainly distinctively “Norland College”. Yes, even male students have to wear the brown uniform, though they somehow don’t get to wear the hat, much to the chagrin of the female trainees!

Norland Nannies, 1892

Norland Nannies, 1892

Every element of the Norland College training has been carefully considered. Even the uniform and “look” has been designed with the training and practicalities of dealing with young children and babies in mind.

Gloves are worn when outside to enable the nanny to keep his or her hands clean. When attending to their charge, the gloves would be removed. Shoes are lace-up only to ensure that they do not slip off at any time. The main uniform has ¾ length sleeves only as this prevents bacteria from building up on the sleeves and then transferring to a baby or young child when picking them up.

Norland Nannies, 2015

Norland Nannies, 2015

Students must also wear their hair off their collar, whether cut short or up in a bun and kept tidy underneath the Norland hat; this is to stop children grabbing and pulling at it, plus to prevent hair flopping into babies’ faces. There must also be minimal discreet make up, no perfume (as you don’t want either perfume or make up to be transferred on to the child), and only a pair of stud earrings are allowed (again, studs only to stop children pulling at them).

When you think about it, all these elements to the look and uniform are common sense. The continuation of the uniform is a source of pride to trainees and Norlanders. It’s what makes them stand out from the crowd. Although once qualified a Norlander doesn’t have to wear his or her uniform again, unless requested by their employer, I suspect the majority keep hold of it for “old time’s sake”!

Once qualified, a Norlander becomes part of the Alumni community and can search for employment via the Norland Agency. Norlanders can return to the College for continual professional development (CPD) days, further training, as well as social gatherings. Once a Norlander, always a Norlander, and you can be assured that they get lifelong support. In fact, the oldest Norlander (though no longer working) is Brenda Ashford, now in her 90s. She has written two fantastic books about her experiences as a nanny called “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Tuppance for Paper and String”.

Brenda Ashford

Brenda Ashford

The other thing that sets Norland College apart from their contemporaries is their Code of Professional Conduct. Despite the press finding out about a few of those who use a Norland Nanny – such as Mick Jagger mentioning his use of them for his children in a past interview, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announcing that they have a Norlander employed to care for Prince George.; the college and the nannies themselves remain tightlipped. The privacy of the Norland College’s and Agency’s clients, and nannies, is paramount. The fact that there is so little information out there as to who uses a Norland Nanny is testament to its Code, and the high standard of professionalism and privacy that the College and the Norlanders practice.

Don’t think that you have to be a Prince or Pop star to employ a Norlander though. The Norland Agency welcomes calls from any parent. Plus you don’t have to employ a Norland Nanny on a permanent basis; it can be temporary. Whether you require a nanny to cover you for a few hours or a few days, or for a one off occasional over-night stay when lack of sleep is too much, Norland Agency can assist you more than you might have first realised.

Norlanders also volunteer their time with TAMBA (Twins and Multiple Births Association) and their Helping Hands project. This is a free of charge support for those families with multiples (twins, triplets etc) who are facing crises. This support has been found to really help and relieve those parents who are unable to cope. Please press on the links above for further information about TAMBA and Helping Hands.

Norland College also now offers Early Years Consultancy and Training, so if you require consultation on best practices for young children (aged 0 to 8 years), then these are the professionals to call. Clients already include Mothercare, training product designers, buyers and in-store staff; Etihad Airways training their “Flying Nannies”, and Chartwells Independent on pastoral care for children during lunch service. There are also visits every year from international Colleges that train Early Year Professionals, including from Australia and Japan. Host families are always required for this, so do get in touch with the College if you think you can help.


So there you have it! I hope I’ve given you a real glimpse into the world of Norland College. Behind that cool Bath stone façade is a hive of activity and learning that is turning out the best qualified Early Year Practioners in the country, right here in the heart of Bath.

We are also very pleased to announce that if any guests at The Royal Hotel require a nanny during their stay, whether for a night off so you can go to the Theatre or Spa, or during the day whilst you go shopping or to lunch, then we’re happy to recommend Norland Nannies.

Please contact the Norland Agency to arrange your very own Norland Nanny and experience the best of the best.



 With thanks to Abby Searle and all at Norland College.
[Photographs copyright Norland College, Catherine Pitt, Western Daily Press, Parent Dish, Daily Mail, The Guardian]

Pamper Packages at The Royal Hotel

We’re very pleased to announce that we are now able to enhance your experience at The Royal Hotel and offer you in-house Pamper Packages when you come to enjoy your relaxing stay with us.


We’ve joined with the locally based Awen Health & Beauty, who have put together 4 exclusive packages just for our guests – Bliss, Indulge, Top2Toe and Time to Together. These involve nail treatments, Massages and/or Facials.


These packages are perfect if you’re on a girly getaway, enjoying one of our Spa Breaks, having time with that special person in your life, or simply you just want to treat yourself.

Awen Health & Beauty is owned and run by Kelly Porter, who has over 12 years working in the Health and Beauty industry. She only uses the best products in her treatments. Jessica nail polishes are used in her manicures and pedicures, and the wonderful organic Neal’s Yard Remedies oils and creams for her massages.


All of the treatments on offer must be booked and paid for directly with Awen Health & Beauty and will take place in the comfort of your hotel room. For further information, and to book one of The Royal Hotel’s Exclusive Pamper Package deals, please call 07816 876431.