The Royal Hotel ,Bath. (Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1846.)
We have been to Bath on a few occasions and we have seen the main sites before. This time we once again visited Bath Abbey and for the first time visited the Roman Baths complex. There was quite a queue to get into the Pump Room for afternoon tea so we decided to miss that. We have been to the Pump Room twice. We found another coffee shop nearby in the Abbey precinct.
Bath Abbey with The Pump Room on the right.
We had never been inside the Assembly Rooms before. They were spectacular. Jane Austen describes a number of Balls in her novels, Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Northangar Abbey. She also writes, in her letters to Cassandra, about the balls she and other members of her family, and friends attended. I know about the social importance of a ball in the 18th century to the marriage market. However, actually standing in the ballroom and seeing the tea room and the Octagon card room, I became much more aware of the powerful social meaning of a place like this. The ballroom would have been set out like a sports arena with tiers of seating around the side.Mothers, fathers and often grandparents would have sat in these seats. The young participants, dressed for the part and tutored in every flirtation technique and intricate dance move were on display in the middle on the dance floor using their hard won skills to attract a partner. Emma Woodhouse is jealous of Jane Fairfax, in Jane Austen's novel Emma because of her superior accomplishments. And in Pride and Prejudice the Bennett sisters practice their dance moves, honing them to perfection. It was a spectator event, the various members of the families assessing their daughter or son's performance and also assessing the opposition. Being there made me aware of how serious a ,"sport," all this was.
The entrance to The Upper Assembly Rooms. (Designed by John Wood The younger 1769)
"They made their appearance in the Lower Rooms; and here fortune was more favourable to our heroine. The master of the ceremonies introduced to her a very gentleman like young man as a partner; his name was Tilney. "
(Northangar Abbey by Jane Austen)
The Royal Crescent, Bath (Designed by John Wood the elder and John Wood the younger between 1767 and 1775)
“a very good house in Camden Place, a lofty, dignified situation, such as becomes a man of consequence”
(Persuasion by Jane Austen)
Landsdowne Crescent, Bath (designed by John Palmer 1789 -1793)
The elegant Great Pultney Street. ( designed by Thomas Baldwin and completed in 1789)
Number 4 Sydney Place.
Number 1 The Paragon
St Swithun's Church at the end of The Paragon. ( built by John Palmer between 1777 and 1790)
Seeing Bath through the eyes of an Austenite you become acutely aware of how Jane Austen used the city, not just as a setting for large parts of Northangar Abbey and Persuasion but how the social meaning of where characters lived, who they met and what they did in Bath, provided social meaning to the novels.
It sounds very much like our trip to Bath was all about the Romans, Georgian architecture and Jane Austen, but it really was about having a great time together, just the two of us.