Sunday, 24 September 2017

Bath And The Week That Was

Bath is synonymous with history. As a city it’s teaming with fascinating stories from years gone by. These are just a few of the big events that took place this week in yesteryear…

September 25th 1790 – A Temple is Found
While work was being undergone to install the new Pump Room in Stall Street (the one which is there today), workmen who were digging the foundations came across ancient columns measuring 3ft 8in across. It was discovered that these had once been part of a Roman temple dedicated to Minerva the Goddess of Wisdom.

September 26th 1878 – A Day Trip From London to Bath (By Bike)
Walter S. Britters of the Clarence Bicycle Club decided to try riding from London to Bath and back to
London again in under 24 hours. The journey would be one of 212 miles. He began at midnight from Hyde Park, reached Bath at 11:30 a.m. and sent a telegram (to prove he’d been there probably), then made it back to Hyde Park with time to spare. He did it to find out how great a distance could be covered easily in a day. (N.B. - Easily? Depends on your point of view. It’s much easier to do a daytrip to Bath from London by train!)

September 27th 1819 – The Duke of Wellington Draws A Crowd
The Duke of Wellington, or Arthur Wellesley as he was known before his success in the Peninsular War of 1808-14, came to Bath for a visit while he was staying with his friend, Earl Bathurst, near Cirencester. He only stayed for a few hours but in that time he toured Bath with the mayor and remarked that the buildings were beautiful and had great uniformity.

September 29th 1883 – Oscar Wilde Comes to Bath
“Mr Oscar Wilde appeared for the first time before a provincial audience on Saturday at the Bath Theatre Royal, and delivered his lecture on “Personal Impressions on America”.” Some of his conclusions on the U.S. were that the people were all in a hurry, but that the Americans were the most comfortably dressed people in the world. There were other thoughts, but too many to go into – the lecture lasted two hours.

September 30th 1771 – The Assembly Rooms Open
The Upper Assembly Rooms as they were first known opened on this day with a ridotto (a combination of a dance and a musical concert). Bath’s current assembly rooms, dubbed Harrison’s Lower Assembly Rooms, had ceased to be large enough when Bath’s popularity was consistently increasing, so John Wood the Younger designed a new set of assembly rooms that would be bigger and nearer to the upper, more fashionable part of town.

More tales of Bath in by-gone times like those above can be read in The Bath Book of Days by D.G. Amphlett. (The Bath Tourist Information Office and Waterstones are two places in Bath that we know currently have copies). 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Bath and the 2017 Great Bath Feast

Bath’s famous Jane Austen Festival may be over for this year, but never fear, something wicked(ly delicious) this way comes!

Every year for the past five years Bath has hosted its own city-wide food festival called the Great Bath Feast. For a fortnight each year Bath is filled with a plethora of special events to delight the taste buds:  

“The Great Bath Feast is giving locals and visitors the chance to taste new flavours, explore new skills and enjoy new culinary experiences. From independent restaurants, pubs and cafes to local food producers, Bath’s businesses will come together to create a festival of gastronomic delights.”

The whole programme of Feast events looks marvelous, but we’ve done our best to pick out a few of, what we feel, will be the big festival highlights.

The Great Bath Persian Feast
(September 23rd, 10am-2pm (repeated on September 30th and October 7th, 10am-2pm)

This is a combination of a demonstration, a workshop, and a lunch. Simi’s informal cookery courses offer examples of the celebrated cuisine and hospitality of Persia and Azerbaijan. They’re more like having dinner at a friend’s house than being at a formal class. (Vegetarian, vegan, dairy -free and gluten-free diets can all be catered for too!)

Flavours of Bath: Historical Tasting Tour
(September 23rd, 2:30pm (repeated on September 28th, 29th, 30th, and October 5th, 6th, 7th at 2:30pm)   
This was one of the big success events at last year’s Great Bath Feast, so it’s back again this year having been tweaked and made even better. In this tasting tour you’ll get the chance to sample the food and drinks which have put Bath on the historical food map, and will have some of the myths about the foods created here debunked (Sally Lunn and her buns are sure to play a role in this one!).

Fizz and Fish at The Scallop Shell
(October 1st, 12:30pm-4pm)
A one-sitting only event which sees the Guardian’s wine writer Fiona Beckett pairing a seafood feast with some of the very best sparkling wines and champagnes. Never again will you be stuck to know what wine to put with your shrimps, crab or lobster.  

Tea and Chocolate at Comins Tea
(October 1st, 3:30pm-5pm (repeated on October 4th, 6pm-7:30pm))
Tracy Chapman, Certified Chocolate Taster (what a job!), has teamed up with Comins Fine Tea Merchants to create one of our favourite events. Guests will be introduced and guided through five pairings of single origin tea and award-winning UK artisan chocolate. At the end each guest receives their own bag of tea and chocolate to take home with them. 

Around the World in 80 Bites
(October 6th, 5pm-9pm)
This will be a tempting array of internationally themed food stalls and dining experiences, all inside the
atmospheric shelter of Green Park Station. There’ll be lots to try, and great music to listen to – think street party atmosphere.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

One To Watch: Bleak House in Bath

The Jane Austen Festival and a Charles Dickens’ novel on stage makes for a highly literary week in Bath!

If you’ve seen lots of people wandering around the city this week wearing period costume, and
you’ve wondered what’s going on, then be rest assured that Bath is not in the beginning stages of a time warp back to the 1800s, but is hosting the fourteenth annual Jane Austen Festival.

Unsurprisingly, given that this is a special year for the author as it is the bicentenary year of her death and so the whole country has gone a bit Austen-obsessed, there are lots of people in the city taking part and attending some of the events that are taking place throughout the week. That having been said, this week also sees a great event taking place which celebrates the work of another famous author who had strong ties to Bath – Charles Dickens.

Dickens first came to Bath in 1835 when he was working as a newspaper reporter, covering election campaigns across the country for the Morning Chronicle. He stayed at the Saracen’s Head pub in Broad Street (which is still a pub which you can visit and drink in to this day) while he was working, but later on in his career he had made friends in Bath and often visited his friend Walter Savage Landor at his home at 35 St. James Square, and he took to staying at the York House Hotel on George Street (which is now a Travel lodge and bars).

While Dickens was staying in Bath he created the character of Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop, and it’s said that the shop he based his fictional shop on is one which was just through the archway next to number 35 (the shop retains its large shopfront-style window but is now a private home). Dickens also famously satirized Bath’s social life in his 1836-1837 novel, The Pickwick Papers. Mr Pickwick was almost certainly based on Moses Pickwick, the then landlord of the White Hart Inn (now Costa Coffee on the corner of Stall Street and Westgate Street).

However, this week the Dickens work which will be in Bath is that of Bleak House – the story of multiple characters and sub-plots revolving around a long-running legal case, Jarndyce and Jardyce; a case of several conflicting wills. An immersive stage adaptation of Dickens’ famous book is set for a brief four-show run at Bath Spa University Theatre, from September 14th to September 16th, with a matinee at 2:30pm on the Saturday in addition to the evening performance at 7:30pm.   

The evening begins with an immersive experience which recreates the dark world of the lower
orders of Victorian London, with the likes of pick pockets, drunks and con artists, and Victorian street food cooked fresh for the wandering audience. Then comes the full performance of the eleventh most-read book in the English language, with the themes of love, power, flawed legal systems and tough choices as relevant today as ever. When this show premiered in 2015 in Bournemouth it garnered standing ovations every night.

“Visual, physical and provocative”; we have high hopes for it!

If you want to know more details are at and tickets are £15.