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Bath in 1835

BATH, the chief city of Somersetshire, celebrated for its natural hot springs, is about 108 miles from London. The town lies in a valley, divided by the river Avon.

Geologically it is placed upon the great western oolitic range, which attains its greatest elevation on Lansdown, above Bath, where its summit is 813 feet above the level of the sea. This range is intersected in the neighbourhood of the city by deep transverse valleys, but re-appears on the south of the Avon, where its elevation is so broken that its continuity is destroyed. Its section near Lansdown is a bed of upper, or great oolite, varying from 40 to 150 feet in thickness, forming the brow of the hill ; then a gradual slope of fullers-earth-clay; next a terrace of inferior oolite with its underlying sand and sandstone, which falls with a precipitous slope and rests on lias clay, or blue marl, and then on lias rock. The freestone or oolite, worked from quarries situated to the east and south of Bath, has furnished almost entirely the chief building materials for the city. The soil upon the declivities of the hills is generally rich, and the lower grounds afford very fine pasturage. The country about is wooded ; and from the inequality of the ground presents a great variety of agreeable landscape. From the sheltered position of the city, its temperature is mild. The following table is made up from observations continued through fifteen years, the temperature being noted from a thermometer placed in a north aspect, and fifteen feet from the ground, compared with tables given by Dr. Clark in his work on climate.

Near London:
November : 40.93
December : 37.66
January : 34.16
February : 39.78
March : 41.51

November : 43.60
December : 37.00
January : 36.90
February : 37.10
March : 42.10

November : 45.35
December : 42.25
January : 37.75
February : 41.25
March : 44.40

In the summer months, the same observations give the mean temperature of Bath at 61.20 in June, 64.20 in July, and 62.70 in August. The mean annual depth of rain which falls there is 35.30 inches, and the number of days on which rain or snow falls is 162, every day being noted wet on which sufficient rain fell to mark the pavement.

This city was a Roman station, mentioned by Ptolemy, under the name of Aquae Calidae, and by him placed with Venta and Ischalis in the country of the Belgae. It is also placed in the 14th Iter of Antoninus, in connexion with other stations, thus, Ab Isca Venta Silurum, M.P. ix. Abone, M.P. ix. Trajectus, M.P. ix. Aquis Solis, M.P. vi. Verlucione, M.P. xv. Cunctione, M.P. xx. Spinis, M.P. xv. Calleva. M.P. xv. The stations preceding and following that of Bath are much disputed, and their actual position is very doubtful. In the Notitia, Bath is not mentioned. It was intersected by the ancient Roman road leading from London into Wales, and by the road called the Fosse, which ran from Lincolnshire to the south coast of England. These two roads joined near the bridge crossing a small stream in the parish of Bath Easton, about two miles from Bath. They then continued in one course through a great portion or the parish of Walcot, separating again near Walcot church. The Fosse entered the north gate of the city from Walcot-street, passed through the town, up Holloway and on to Ilchester. The other road ran up Guinea Lane, and on to the station of Abone. Close to the spot where these roads separated, and towards the river, numerous coins, vases, and sepulchral remains have from time to time been found. The Roman remains discovered in Bath and in its neighbourhood have been considerable. At Box a tessellated pavement of large dimensions is at this time lying open, proof of the existence of a villa on the spot. Several such remains have been found in the country around Bath, especially at Bath-Ford, Ditheridge, Horsland near Warley, and at Wellow. In the city of Bath itself, the foundations of extensive buildings have often been traced. On the eastern side of the Fosse, near the north end of Stall-street, portions of a large temple were discovered, and are still preserved in the Bath Institution. Its front was towards the west, and consisted of a portico with fluted columns, crowned with Corinthian capitals. Towards the east of this building stood the principal baths, the remains of which were discovered in 1755. In other parts of the city, altars with inscriptions, tessellated pavements, ornamented bricks, urns, vases, lachrymatories, fibulae, coins, &c., have been turned up, but none of the inscriptions throw any light upon the history of the place. No city in England can produce such a collection of local Roman remains as is now deposited in the Bath Literary and Scientific Institution : there is nothing like it in the kingdom, except at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where the collection is from the whole of the northern field. The new town is many feet above its ancient level ; in some places more than twenty. The walls, as they existed until a late period, are presumed to have been built, to a great extent, upon the base of the Roman walls. There are accounts and engravings of Roman inscriptions and sculptures incorporated in the walls, none of which are now existing.

The modern city of Bath is of great beauty. Its streets are very regular, clean, and, at night, well-lighted. Its best buildings, such as the Upper Rooms, the north side of Queen-square, the Crescent, and Circus, were built about the middle of the last century, from designs of the two Woods. The last forty years have hardly produced a building of any architectural value, though the materials for building are cheap, and the stone is worked with great ease. The architecture of the later buildings is generally of a bald character.

The city is governed by a corporation, under charters granted by Queen Elizabeth, Sept. 4, 1590, and by George III, 1794. The first of these charters directs that the corporation shall consist of a mayor, aldermen, not exceeding in number ten, nor fewer than four, and a council of twenty members. There are also a recorder, town-clerk, and two sergeants-at-mace. The local court of record has cognizance of all personal actions whatsoever arising within the city and its suburbs or precincts, without restriction as to the amount of the sum in dispute. The non-residence, however, of the recorder, the legal adviser of the magistrates and one of the presiding judges ; the attorneys of the court being the two sergeants-at-mace and un-professional persons ; and the ease with which a cause may be removed to any of the superior courts, by writ of certiorari or habeas corpus, destroy all its advantages. A court-leet, and court of quarter-sessions are also held by the magistrates, who, though without power to try persons charged with felonies under the charter of the city, are perhaps enabled to try them under the 4 and 5 William IV c.27, sec. 3. By the charter of 1794, eleven instead of two members of the corporation are empowered to act as justices of the peace within the city. The members of the corporation, though self-elected, must be chosen from the freemen ; and as the freemen by purchase were considered to have a claim to be elected before the freemen by servitude, the price of the freedom, shortly before the Reform Act passed, was £250. The property of the body is very extensive, including lands and houses in the best part of the city ; all the hot-springs but one ; nearly all the cold-springs which supply the town with water ; and the tolls of the market ; altogether producing, in 1832 a rental of more than £12,000 per annum. In 1832 the public debt of the corporation amounted to £55,863.

The charter boundaries of the city include part of the parishes of Walcot and Bathwick, and the parishes of St. Peter and St. Paul, St. James, and St. Michael. The parliamentary boundaries of the city, under the Boundary Act, include, in addition, the remaining parts of the parishes of Walcot and Bathwick, and the parish of Lyncombe and Widcombe. The new limits comprised, in 1831, a population of 50,800 persons (21,035 males and 29,765 females) charged with assessed taxes to the amount of £62,000 a-year; 3,310 acres of ground, and above 7,000 houses, more than 5,000 of which were taxed at the annual value of £10. The power of electing the parliamentary representatives of the city was formerly in the corporation only. Under the Reform Act, the number of registered electors, in each of the last three years, has been about 2,800. The inhabitants of Bath are exempt from serving on the juries of the county.

A community of Religious existed here from the earliest ages of Christianity in Britain, who had their house near to the springs and baths. The constitution of the society underwent several changes, and at last the house and all its possessions, which were extensive and valuable, surrendered to the crown by William Holloway, the last prior, June 29, 1539. What is now called the Abbey Church was the church of this community, and was connected, on the south side, with the conventual dwellings. An older church having fallen into decay, the building of the present edifice was begun by Bishop Oliver King, in the reign of Henry VII, at the time of whose death it was unfinished, and continued to be so when the priory was dissolved. After having been in a dilapidated state for many years, its repair was undertaken by Chapman, in 1572, continued by the munificence of Thomas Bellot, steward of the household of Queen Elizabeth, and was nearly completed by Bishop Montague, about the year 1609.

This edifice is of the shape of a cross, with a very handsome tower rising from the centre. Its length from east to west is 210 feet and from north to south 126. The west front is decorated with numerous figures, now much impaired by time, intended to represent Jacob's dream. The east window is remarkable for being square, and was until very lately appropriately supported by two square towers, which have been converted into ill-designed octagonal pinnacles. The building itself is an example of the pointed style at the latest period in which it prevailed, and was completed with great simplicity and taste. In 1834 its whole design and character were materially changed, and its most peculiar features destroyed. The interior is entirely disfigured by the multitude of monuments with which it is covered. It is the parish church of the parish of St. Peter and St. Paul.

The ecclesiastical division of Bath is into the parishes already named, each of which has its parochial church. There are also the following chapels connected with the Established Church:- Queen Square, Margaret’s, All Saints, Kensington, Octagon, Laura, St. Mark, Trinity, St. Saviour, Christ Church, Magdalen’s, St. John’s Hospital. Records also exist of eleven chapels which have been destroyed. The Independents, Quakers, Moravians, Methodists, Unitarians, Roman Catholics, Jews, and Baptists, have all places of worship in the city, the majority of which are large and handsome buildings.

There are charitable institutions in this city of ancient and modern date of every kind. The oldest is the hospital of St. John, founded in 1180 by Reginald Fitzjocelyne, as it is said, for the benefit of the sick poor resorting to Bath. The beneficiaries now are a master, six brethren, and six sisters. The patronage of the mastership was granted by Queen Elizabeth to the corporation of Bath. Its endowments are large, and the annual value of its property in 1818, chiefly leased on lives, in consideration of fines, was £11,395. The master receives two-thirds of the fines and income, and the brethren and sisters the remainder. The chief establishment, however, for the sick poor is called the General Hospital. It was opened in 1748, and is regulated by act of parliament. No patient can be admitted unless his case has been certified as proper for the trial of the hot waters, previous to his coming to Bath, and no inhabitant of Bath is admitted into it. This last regulation, though wisely framed, is to some extent evaded by the admission of persons dwelling in the suburbs, but beyond the charter limits of the city. The charity is well endowed, and its records have had the character of having been kept with great care, fidelity, and exactness. There is also another large hospital called the United General Hospital, or Casualty and Dispensary, which affords to the sick poor of the city the advantages of the use of the hot waters, and gives assistance in cases of ordinary illness and casualty. It is well governed, and the whole of its arrangements are good.

There is a small collection of books in the vestry of the abbey church and some ancient manuscripts. In the year 1826 a literary and scientific institution was founded, comprising, partly by purchase and partly by benefactions, an extensive and well-selected library of reference both in science and literature. The institution also contains a small museum and laboratory, with rooms for the delivery of lectures. There is also a Mechanics' Institute, which has a tolerable collection of books, and which has been almost entirely supported for some years by the class for whose use it was designed.

The chief institution for instruction is the free grammar-school, founded by Edward VI, and endowed with part of the lands of the dissolved priory of Bath. It was designed for the gratuitous instruction of the children of the inhabitants of the town without distinction. The school-house is a large and handsome building with spacious premises. The schoolmaster may be a layman ; but if in holy orders, must be presented to the rectory of Charlecombe, the value of which was, in 1834, about £300 a-year. His salary, as master, is £84 a-year ; but as the school is well attended, and only ten free scholars are admitted, the value of the office is much increased by the payments of day-scholars and boarders. The lands of the school are very badly let, producing, in 1834, a rent of only £376 a-year, though their annual value, in 1822, was about £1,238. There are several other schools which afford the elements of education, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic, supported chiefly by voluntary subscriptions.

The 'ever memorable' John Hales, of Eton, was born in St. James’s parish, and Benjamin Robins, said to have been the actual writer of ‘Anson’s Voyage round the World’ was a native of this city, which also claims Adelardus de Bathonia, who passed some time it the east during the reign of Henry I, and brought to England, among some Arabic manuscripts, a translation of Euclid, being the first copy of the work known in this country.

The gaieties of Bath are celebrated, but have much declined during the last twenty years. The Assembly Rooms are a handsome suite, the ball-room being nearly 106 by nearly 43 feet, and 42 feet 6 inches high, and the tea-room 70 by 27 feet : they were erected by Wood. The theatre is probably one of the best of its size in England ; for it Mr. Palmer obtained the first act of parliament passed in this country for the security of theatrical property. It is justly remarked by Seneca, 'Ubicunque seatebunt aquarum ca-lentium venae, ibi nova diversoria luxuriae excitabuntur' : 'wherever warm springs abound, new places of amusement are sure to arise up.'

There is no manufacture of importance in this city. It was formerly celebrated for its cloth, and at the Restoration, no less than sixty broad looms were employed in the parish of St. Michael's. The paper-mills in the neighbourhood are of some note, and paid, in 1832, to the excise £10,575. The city is well-supplied with coal from extensive beds lying a few miles distant. The river Avon was made navigable to Bristol under an act of the 10th year of the reign of Anne, and there is a water communication with London by the Kennet and Avon canal, which joins the Thames at Reading.

The remarkable peculiarity of Bath is its natural hot springs. They are four in number, and rise near the centre of the city ; and, with the exception of a spring belonging to Lord Manvers, are vested in the corporation. The temperature of three of the springs is as follows :- Hot Bath 117 degrees, King’s Bath 114 degrees, and Cross Bath 109 degrees of Fahrenheit, yielding respectively 128, 20, and 12 gallons a minute. The specific gravity of the water is 1.002. As it flows from the earth it is transparent, but in a short time yields a slight precipitate and loses its transparency. When fresh drawn it has a slight chalybeate taste. The King's Bath is 60 feet 11 inches in length, and 40 feet in breadth, and the Queen’s Bath, a square of 25 feet, is supplied from it. The daily quantity of water discharged into these basins is 184,320 gallons. There are private baths attached to the Hot and the King's Bath, admirably arranged and constructed, and capable of having their temperature regulated. Bathing is far from being a practice among the inhabitants. The public baths are not much frequented, and the private baths, though they occasion few charges for their support, but that of linen and attendance, are expensive. The encouragement of their general use, and the effect of low prices, as connected with the advancement of local interests, are not yet understood. The baths yielded to the corporation, in 1831, a rent of £1,442, and the pump-room a rent of £416 a-year.

Taken internally the water acts as a stimulant. Its use is most successful in cases of palsy, rheumatism, gout, leprosy, cutaneous disease, and especially in cases of scrofula affecting the joints, such as the knee, elbow, hip. It cannot be used without danger in cases accompanied with fever, cough, or pain in the chest, open sores or ulcers, or in cases where there is reason to suspect internal suppuration, haemorrhage, rupture, mania, or plethora. From its improper internal use mischievous results are frequently produced.

The earliest work on the hot springs is by W. Turner, dated 1562. The writer, a divine and doctor of medicine, and the first English writer on natural history, was born at Morpeth, and was imprisoned for preaching the doctrines of the Reformation. Obtaining his liberty, he went abroad where he continued during the greater part of the reign of Henry VIII. On his return he was preferred, and received from Edward VI the deanery of Wells. Other treatises have been written by Venner, 1617 ; Guidott, 1691, 1708 ; Pierce, 1697 ; Oliver, 1716 ; Cheyne, 1725 ; Wynter, 1728 ; Quinton, 1734 ; Kinnier, 1737 ; Randolph, 1752 ; Charleton, 1754 ; Lucas, 1756 ; Steven, 1758 ; Suther-land, 1763 ; Falconer, 1770, 1789 ; Gibbes, 1800 ; Wilkinson ; Phillips, 1806 ; Daubeny, 1834.