It’s no secret that Bath is a city built on history, but how much do you know about the remarkable locations and architecture which make up its heritage? Telling all, including some lesser-known facts about Bath’s buildings, is Gemma Reynolds from Bath’s Historic Venues – the team behind the running of some of the city’s most beautiful places. Read on to learn something new…
The Roman Baths
The Roman Baths have been a centre for hospitality and entertainment for over 2,000 years. Visitors once bathed in the Great Bath, whilst a variety of stalls were set up in the alcoves surrounding it for refreshments – one alcove in particular has exceptionally worn paving, and many think this is where the wine would have been sold!
Today, you can be a part of the history of this unique venue, and during summer can enjoy drinks beside the steaming and torchlit waters as the Romans did. It’s also possible to privately hire the venue for drinks receptions or weddings.
The Assembly Rooms
Completed in 1771 and described as “the most noble and elegant of any in the kingdom”, the Assembly Rooms were built for a particular purpose: assembling. Guests would gather in the rooms in the evening for balls (dancing was very popular and balls attracted 800 to 1,200 guests), concerts and other social functions, or simply to play cards and socialise. Commissioned for the building were also a set of Whitefriars crystal chandeliers, both stacked with candles.
Nowadays, we limit the number of guests in the Ball Room to 280 for a dinner dance. Although not candlelit, the Whitefriars chandeliers have been adapted for lightbulbs. They are dimmable though, so you can enjoy a party in this elegant venue as Jane Austen did.
Victoria Art Gallery
Surprisingly, the Victoria Art Gallery on Bridge Street was originally a public library. It was opened in 1900 to commemorate Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee, but from then onwards it has only housed works of art. Today, visitors come to view the inspiring artworks on display – the Upper and Lower Galleries are also available for drinks receptions or wedding ceremonies.
At the Guildhall, the Brunswick Room and the Alkmaar Room were once courtrooms. A tunnel from the former police station, which is now Browns Restaurant, was used to bring prisoners to the dock. These rooms are still used for meetings, debates, and several period dramas have been filmed here.
The Pump Room
On the Pump Room site once stood a boarding house, 5 Abbey Church Yard, where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Whilst residing in the city, Shelley attended the scientific lectures of a Dr Wilkinson, who suggested that one day electricity, then in its infancy, might be used to bring inanimate objects to life.
The Terrace and Reception Hall are part of a nineteenth-century expansion of the building, and now serve as the main entrance to the Roman Baths museum, and may be hired for parties and dinners. By a strange coincidence, in the lower museum under the venue, an electricity sub-station now sits directly beneath where Shelley’s Frankenstein was written!
Gemma Reynolds is a Marketing Executive at Bath’s Historic Venues, and part of the team who look after the stunning buildings that make up Bath’s history and heritage. If you have a special occasion coming up and want it to be memorable, check them out – all their venues are available to hire for events.