Tag Archives: Jane Austen

Focus on Bath – The Old Theatre Royal and Masonic Museum

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

OldTheatreRoyalBathEye

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

OldTheatreRoyalBathDoor

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

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

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

OldTheatreRoyalBathPlaque

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

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

OldTheatreRoyalBathPainting

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.

OldTheatreRoyalWhitedoor

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

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

OldTheatreRoyalBathBeehives

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

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

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

OldTheatreRoyalPanels

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

OldTheatreRoyalBathMainStage

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

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

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

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

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

OldTheatreRoyalHowLooked

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

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

OldTheatreRoyalBoss

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

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

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

Sarah Siddons

Sarah Siddons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the Stage - Georgian theatre box and Scenery Hangings

Behind the Stage – Georgian theatre box and Scenery Hangings

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

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

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

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

OldTheatreRoyalBathmedals

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

OldTheatreRoyalMasonic

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 ]

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.]

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.

PintofScrumpy

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

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

Valentines Candlelight Dinner 2015 Royal Hotel

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

BalloonsoverBath

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

FlowersofBath

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

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

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

ValentineCupcake

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

kwai feh

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

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

 

 

 

Jane Austen’s Connection to Bath

Thousands of people visit the ancient city of Bath every year, some come to enjoy the grand architecture, while others intend to explore the world of Jane Austen.

But what does this world-renowned classic writer have in connection with Bath, and it is really that significant?

The Connection
Between the years 1801 and 1806, Jane Austen called the city of Bath her home. The writer grew so fond of the ancient city that it found its way into two of her published Novels. ‘Persuasion’ and ‘Northanger Abbey’ are both partly set in Bath, and the passion she had for the city is reflected in these novels.

If you are lucky enough to spend a few days in Bath, and you wish to retrace Austen’s steps, you’ll be pleased to know there is plenty opportunity for you to do just that. The city has a lot to offer to any Austen fan, in fact, it has so much to offer you may just wonder where to begin.

Why not book a room in a B and B in Bath so you have somewhere to rest your weary head after a long day exploring, and dream of a living in the city when Austen called it home?

The Jane Austen Centre
The Jane Austen Centre is a delightful museum that is crammed full of exhibits that are sure to please any Austen fan. The permanent exhibition which can be found at 40 Gay Street thoroughly explores the influence this city had on one of the worlds’ most famous writers.

Gay Street in Bath

Gay Street in Bath

Gay Street was in fact home to Jane Austen for a few months, and she had the pleasure of residing at number 25. This house can be found a little higher up the hill and on the same side of the road as the Jane Austen Centre, and looks almost as it did in Austen’s day. Did you know Gay Street is in fact mentioned in ‘Persuasion’?

“The Crofts had placed themselves in lodgings in Gay Street, perfectly to Sir Walter’s satisfaction”.

This passage shows Austen’s love for Bath, and indeed the street where she resided for a short time.

The Regency Tea Room
The Regency Tea Room is a delightful little café that gives you the perfect opportunity to rest awhile and enjoy delicious cakes, sandwiches and tea after your visit to the Jane Austen Centre. Located within the centre itself, this tea room provides the perfect end to your experience, and offers you the opportunity to dine in style as Austen once did.

The Jane Austen Festival
Held in Bath every year, the wonderful Jane Austen festival is a real tribute to their favourite author.
Beginning with a promenade, and featuring hundreds of people adorned in regency costumes, this world famous festival is not to be missed. With dramatic and musical performances taking place throughout the festival, visitors can immerse themselves in the world of Austen, and all that it has to offer.

With the opportunity to enjoy a masked ball, to dine in exquisite cafés and restaurants that offer you a sample of food Austen may have eaten. The festival is the perfect way to celebrate this ladies’ work and achievements.

Why not come along and explore Bath first hand and stay with us?

In the Footsteps of Jane Austen

‘In the Footsteps of Jane Austen’ is a free MP3 walking tour put together by the Bath Tourism board and provides a great way for you to see the sights of Bath from the view point of Jane Austen. The MP3 audio tour will take you on a walk around the beautiful city of Bath and gives information about Jane Austen, her life, works and important place she stayed at in the city.

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The Jane Austen Centre

The Jane Austen Centre is a remarkable museum dedicated to one of England’s finest writers. This museum is full to the brim of delightful exhibits and works from Austen herself. If you’re a fan of her works, then this museum is definitely a must-visit place.

Found at 40 Gay Street, the Jane Austen Centre is located in the heart of Bath and will not disappoint. If you happen to be in the area in September, then you’ll be luck y enough to see the Jane Austen festival take place.
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