Friday, 30 December 2016

Visit Bath and Discover the Story Behind the Statues

Bath is by no means lacking in the monuments department, but rather than just enjoying the view (and who wouldn’t), have you ever wondered what the story behind each of them is?

One statue which you’ll definitely see if you go and visit Bath Abbey is the statue known as the Rebecca Fountain. This white marble fountain shows a young girl in a loose eastern-style dress pouring water from a tall urn into a bowl which is held up by pillars. On the base of the statue is carved “take the water of life freely” and “water is best”. The statue was erected in 1861 by the Bath Temperance Association and was installed to promote and make provision for the option of choosing to drink water rather than alcohol. In the 1860s

In the nearby Parade Gardens is a more unusual statue. Unusual at least in the fact that the figure which the bronze statue depicts – that of a young Amadeus Mozart playing a violin, is not a famous resident of Bath. The reason that Mozart can be found in Bath is that the statue was commissioned by the City of Bath under the terms of the Purnell Trust which was fulfilling the death-bed wish of Mrs Purnell. Mrs Purnell’s son Mark was a great lover of music and of the city of Bath. Bath’s annual Mozartfest was also established in Mark’s memory. The statue of Mozart was unveiled in 1991.   

A highly popular theme worth mentioning when talking about Bath sculptures and statues is that of lions. Bath has over 500 lions displayed in various forms around the city and this is to reflect the royal heritage of the city. In fact, Bath’s Coat of Arms also features a lion, and this represents the crowning of King Edgar, the first king of all England, which took place in Bath in 973 AD. If you’re going lion spotting, then the two bronze lions guarding the Queens Gate entrance to Victoria Park are well worth a look.

Not quite statues, but nevertheless iconic members of Bath’s monuments, are Bath’s obelisks.

The obelisk which is next to the entrance of the Parade Gardens was erected in 1734 to celebrate the fact that William VI, Prince of Orange, came to Bath to have his illness cured. This is also why the area it’s located in is known as Orange Grove.

Another obelisk to honour a prince; four years later the obelisk in Queen Square was erected and paid for by Beau Nash to record a visit to the city by Frederick Prince of Wales. Then, still royalty but not a prince, the obelisk in Victoria Park was dedicated to Queen Victoria, who opened Victoria Park in 1830 as an 11-year-old princess. The foundation stone of this obelisk was laid in 1837. Sadly she never saw it as she never returned to Bath after she opened Victoria Park. 

Saturday, 24 December 2016

What to do in Bath – Christmas to New Year

The time in between Christmas and New Year can be a bit awkward if you’re looking for things to do. A lot of places are shut for the festive period (especially museums) but you want to get out and explore and make the most of your break. Well, if you happen to be spending that break, or some of it, in Bath, then these are four of our top recommendations for what to do in Bath from Christmas until New Year (with opening times!).

Go skating
(Open daily 10-9 until January 3rd and only closed on Christmas Day)
Visit the outdoor ice rink in Victoria Park. As well as the ice rink itself there’s also a fully licensed bar serving milled wine, hot cider, a range of beers and spirits and champagne. There are also hot chocolates, soft drinks and freshly ground coffees to keep you feeling toasty. Fresh pizza straight from the wood-fired oven is on hand for food and the homemade cakes are delicious. All tickets include skate hire and one hour on the ice and can be paid for at the time or in advance.  

Go to the pantomime
(Tickets still available for all performances which are twice daily. No performances on New Year’s Day or Christmas Day)
This year the Bath Theatre Royal is putting on Aladdin as its annual pantomime, with energetic celebrities (admittedly not the likes of George Clooney and Angelina Jolie but still well-known faces) cast in all the big roles. It is a Christmas tradition and a great way to let off some steam and be silly for a little while. “Party season magic; it’s just all good even (and especially) that bad guy.”- The Bath Magazine.

Visit the Roman Baths
(Open daily over the festive period, 9:30 am - 5 pm (last entry 4pm), but closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day)  
A visit to Bath isn’t complete without a trip here. Even if you’ve been before then it’s worth another visit as they’re always adding to the exhibits (the Bill Bryson audio tour is great fun). This might be a good New Year’s Day activity when most other things are shut. 

Chill out in the spa
(Open 9am-9:30pm with last full entry at 7pm, except on New Year’s Eve when the Spa closes at 8pm with last full entry at 5:30pm. Closed on New Year’s Day.)
Bath’s Thermae Spa is one gem of a relaxation experience. It uses Bath’s naturally warm, mineral-rich waters to relax and refresh its visitors in the open-air rooftop pool and the atmospheric Minerva Bath. Afterwards there are the series of aromatic steam rooms to enjoy and spa treatments which you can book. In the first half of 2017 the Baths will be undergoing some upgrades and not all of the spa will be open to guests, so now is a good time to go!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Visit Bath and Visit…Lions and Pigs?!

If you visit Bath, you might be surprised to come across some large colourful statues of lions and pigs while exploring the city. In case you were wondering what it’s all about, here’s where they’ve come from….

In the summer of 2008 an event called King Bladud’s Pigs was run to raise money for Bath’s Two Tunnels Project. This was a project to create a shared walking and cycle route which gives those using it a view of Bath’s Georgian crescents, and then leaves the city behind via the longest walking tunnel in the UK to emerge into a beautiful deep wooded valley. (It opened in 2013 and is in the top five of all outdoor activities for Bath listed by Tripadvisor).  

King Bladud’s Pigs saw 106 life-size pig models decorated by artists in all forms (painters, ceramicists, textile designers, photographers…) go on display around the city – much like the Gromits and Shauns did around Bristol in recent years. When the display ended 70 of the pigs were sold in a great gala auction at the Bath Assembly Rooms, another 35 via online auction, and 1 was raffled. The project raised over £200,000 for the Two Tunnels Project and now some of the pigs are still on display around the city thanks to the kind benefactors who bought them. 

Following on from this success, in 2010 a new collection of statues were created. This time 104 life-size lion sculptures were displayed around the city in the same way that the pigs had been. The artists who decorated the lions included Sir Peter Blake, Cath Kidston and Olympic gold medallist Amy Williams. This time over £65,000 was raised for local charities following the auctioning of the statues.   

Some of the statues of the lions and pigs can still be found around Bath. There are a couple to be seen around the outside of the Abbey, and another in Bath’s Guildhall Market to name only a few.

But why lions and pigs?

Pigs were chosen because they are part of the story of how Bath was founded. King Bladud had been cast out of court to be a swineherd as he had leprosy. He and his pigs while looking for acorns in muddy ground discovered the healing properties of Bath’s waters. The waters cured the leprosy in himself and his pigs and allowed him to regain the throne and so he decided to found the city of Bath. Ever since Bath has honoured this link within its history and architecture. The acorns lining the top of the houses in the Circus is another reference to the story of Bladud.

The lions were chosen next because lions also appear often in Bath’s heritage. A lion features on Bath’s coat of arms, and over five hundred images of lions can be seen in and around Bath – reflecting the royal heritage of the city.