Tag Archives: Bath

Focus on Bath – The Old Theatre Royal and Masonic Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Sarah Siddons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the Stage - Georgian theatre box and Scenery Hangings

Behind the Stage – Georgian theatre box and Scenery Hangings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[ 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 info@royalhotelbath.co.uk

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

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Musical May – Bath International Music Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

NorlandStudyingClassroom

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.

NorlandNannyandchild

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.

NorlandNannySelfDefence2

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.

NorlandPrinceGeorge
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.

NorlandNannysolo

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.

NorlandNanniesonSpaRoofTop

 

 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]

Women of Bath

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

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

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

  • JANE AUSTEN – Author (1775-1817)

“Bath is still Bath”

Jane Austen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AmyWilliams

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alison_Goldfrapp_2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CarolineHerschel

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

  • Belinda Kidd – Chief Executive of Bath Festivals

BelindaKiddBathFestivals

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

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

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

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

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

 

  • Stephanie Millward – Paralympic Athlete (1981-)

StephanieMillward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prue Dufour Dorothy House

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kirsten Elliott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lizzy-Yarnold

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Berry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTO BY PAUL GILLIS/paulgillisphoto.com

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

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

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

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

Focus on Bath: Amy Laws – Fashion Designer

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

Bath in Fashion 2015

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

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

peonyandmoorebag

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

EleanorJShorescarves

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

Amy, well deservedly blowing her own trumpet!

Amy, well deservedly blowing her own trumpet!

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

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

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

Theres Only One Amy Laws

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

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

There's Only One Amy Laws

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

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

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

Child's Red Robin Dress

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

AmyLawsPineapple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy's Market Stall

Amy’s clothing ranges start from just £25.00.

You can purchase her collections online or at local markets.

Amy can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter.

Easter Fun – Hop over to Bath!

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

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

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

Fresh Air!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Stuff Up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

American Museum Yarn Bombing Trail

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

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

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

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

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

Watch with Mother

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

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

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

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

Food Glorious Food!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Half Term Happenings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Love is all around…in Bath

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

Sheridan and Linley

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

Brief Encounter

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

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

Fifty Shades of Grey

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

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

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

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

Valentines Candlelight Dinner 2015 Royal Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

kwai feh

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

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

 

 

 

Happy Healthy New Year!

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

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

Thermae Bath Spa

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

Bath Skyline Walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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