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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Bath Abbey and its Tower

A historic, richly atmospheric place of worship - there is nowhere else quite like Bath Abbey. Columns of honey-gold stone, magnificent stained-glass windows and some of the finest fan vaulting in the world all sound familiar to locals and visitors alike. However, the Abbey and its Tower both hold lots of secrets.

1. Angels of the Abbey

The first sight most visitors have of Bath Abbey is the West front, with its unique ladders of Angels. The story behind this is that the Bishop of Bath, Oliver King is said to have had a dream of ascending and descending angels which inspired the design which thousands of people gaze up at today.

2. Thousands of Burials

There are estimated to be up to around 8,000 bodies buried under the Abbey floors, the last one laid to rest in 1845. So far, the earliest burial which has been discovered under the floor is from 1569.

3. Beautiful Fan Vaulting

The Abbey’s beautiful ceiling is considered one of the finest example of fan vaulting in the country. The stone vaulting at the East end of the Abbey dates from the early 1500s and was built by Master architects Robert and William Vertue. However, the ceiling wasn’t finished until the Abbey was restored in the 17th century, which is why we can see a slight difference between the vaulting at the East end of the church and at the West end over the Nave.

4. An Ancient History

Three different churches have occupied the site of today’s Abbey since 757 AD. First, an Anglo-Saxon monastery which was pulled down by the Norman conquerors of England; then a massive Norman cathedral which was begun about 1090 but lay in ruins by late 15th century; and finally, the present Abbey Church as we now know it.

5. A Thorough Job 

The present Abbey church is the last great medieval cathedral to have been built in England. Building work on it began around 1499 but was not completed and used as a parish church until 1616 which means it took nearly 120 years from start to finish!

6. The People's Clock

The clock is on the North side of the Abbey, overlooking the Guildhall and has been in this position since 1834.  It is very important the people can see our clock from the street as it is owned by the people of Bath and not by the Abbey.

7. A Very Big Bell

The heaviest bell – called the tenor – weighs about 1.7 tonnes (1,688kg) which is the average weight of a male hippo!

8. A Great Tower

There are 212 steps in total to the top of the tower. We definitely think its worth it for the view!

9. The Cracking of Bath Abbey Bell

In 1869, the Tenor bell unexpectedly cracked during ringing practice one night and had to be recast. The replacement was examined by the Abbey organist, and given the go-ahead. However, when it was hauled up and reinstalled, it proved to be out of tune, so it had to be recast a second time!

10. Thanks, Lady Hopton!

The Tenor bell bears the inscription: 'All you of Bathe that hear me sound Thank Lady Hopton's hundred pound'. What many people don’t know is that Lady Hopton only paid The Abbey £20 for the bell herself and her family were made to pay the remaining sum! But it’s her name that’s on the bell, not theirs, what a clever lady!

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