Bath Abbey is an Ancient Parish and a market town in the county of Somerset. Bath St James is a chapelry of Bath Abbey.
Other places in the parish include: Kingsmead, Larkhall, Midford, Twerton, and Vineyards.
Alternative names: Bath St Peter and St Paul
Parish church: St. Peter and St. Paul
Parish registers begin:
- Parish registers: 1569
- Bishop’s Transcripts: 1609
Nonconformists include: Christians, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Countess of Huntingdon Methodist, Independent/Congregational, Irvingite/Catholic Apostolic Church, Plymouth Brethren, Presbyterian, Primitive Methodist, Roman Catholic, Wesleyan Methodist, and Wesleyan Methodist Association.
- Bath St James
- Weston St John
- Bathwick with Woolley
- Bath St Michael
- Walcot Holy Trinity
The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870
BATH, a city and a district in Somerset. The city stands on the river Avon, the Fossé way, Akeman-street, and the Great Western railway, 11¾ miles ESE of Bristol, and 106¾ W by S of London. Its site is partly the bottom of a valley, partly the slopes and shoulders of encircling hills. The Avon is navigable to it from the sea; the Kennet and Avon canal goes from it into the navigation of the Thames; and the Great Western rail way, in its main line, its branches, and its connexions, gives it communication with all parts of the kingdom.
History.—The city owes its origin and its name to famous thermal springs. An old tradition says that the springs were discovered, and the city founded, by Bladud, son of Lud, king of Britain, about the year 863 b. c.; and a statue of Bladud, with an inscription embodying the tradition, was erected in the Pump-room so late as 1699. But the first appreciators of the springs, and the real founders of the city, were most probably the Romans. These made the place one of their most important stations; called it Aquæ Solis or Calidæ; surrounded it with walls, nearly on the lines of the streets now called Lower Boroughwalls, Westgate Buildings, Sawclose, and Upper Boroughwalls; built at it a temple to the goddess Minerva, and a manufactory of weapons for the legions; and constructed, around its springs, a magnificent suite of baths, with sudatories, tesselated floors, and ornamental columns. The substruction of the station walls have frequently been laid open; fragments of the temple were found, during excavations, in 1869; and the remains of the baths, in remarkable preservation, at a depth of from 11 to 20 feet below the present surface, were discovered, at the razing of the old abbey-house, in 1755. The Romans dedicated the springs to Apollo Medicus, and erected a statue in honour of him, early in the third century; and they probably maintained the baths in high fame till the end of their times.
After their expulsion, the place remained several years in comparative tranquillity; but during the protracted wars between the Southern Britons and the Saxons, it was the scene of many obstinate contests. Prince Arthur defended it for a time against successive armies; but at length was overcome in its neighbourhood, and compelled to abandon it. The Saxons made it their own; and called it Hat-Bathum or “hot baths,” and Acemannes-cester, or “the sick man’s city,” Christianity was introduced in the sixth century; and led to the erection of religious houses by the Saxon kings. A nunnery, on the site of the temple of Minerva, was founded, in 676, by King Osric; destroyed by the Danes; rebuilt, about 775, by King Offa; and changed into a Benedictine abbey, in 973, by King Edgar. That monarch was crowned, by Archbishop Dunstan, in the church; and a number of the kings, from Athelstane downward, occasionally resided here, and struck coins. The partisans of Robert, Duke of Normandy, fighting against William Rufus, assaulted the city, and burned it to the ground. John de Villula, Bishop of Wells, bought it from Henry I., re-erected the abbey church, and made it the seat of his diocese. The troubles in the time of King Stephen broke heavily upon it; and the whole city is said to have then been destroyed by fire. It passed back, in 1193, to the Crown; and was then ma e a free borough, and began to rise in wealth and importance. The abbey be came very rich; and the monks did good service by introducing woollen manufacture. Leland, who visited Bath in the reign of Henry VIII., says that it then had four gates, and that the walls which surrounded it contained many Roman antiquities, which he supposed to have been collected and set up by Norman architects. Queen Elizabeth visited it in 1591, and granted then a charter to the burgesses, with powers for the improvement of the town. In the early stages of the dissensions under Charles I., the city was fortified for the King, at an expense of £7,000; but on the retreat of the Marquis of Hertford into Wales, it was seized by the parliamentary forces under Sir William Waller. The royalist army returned to the adjacent Lansdown hill, erected breastworks there, and drew the parliamentarians into a battle, which ended in their defeat. The city was now recovered by the royalists; and it remained in their possession two years, till June, 1645; but was then, through treachery, surrendered to the parliamentarians. Charles II., under advice of his physician, and attended by a numerous court, visited the place in 1663; and is thought to have then given rise, by his example, to the drinking of the water. In the reign of James II., the inhabitants closed their gates against the Duke of Monmouth, putting a stop to his career, and obliging him to fall back on his fate at Sedgemoor.
The city as yet was comparatively insignificant; its buildings covered little more than fifty acres of ground; and the accommodations and attractions for visitors to its medicinal waters were few and mean. Some organization was given to it, as a watering-place, in consequence of two visits of Queen Anne, before and after her accession to the throne; and a great and permanent one was effected by Beau Nash, the “King of Bath,” who appeared here about 1703, and died in 1761. The first pump-room was erected in 1706, and an officer appointed in charge of it. Amusements were multiplied and regulated; the roads leading to the city were repaired; the streets were better paved, cleansed, and lighted; pleasure grounds and gardens were laid out; and spacious streets and places, with large, ornate houses, were constructed. An architect, of the name of Wood, even formed the grand design of rebuilding the entire city on a uniform plan; and, though defeated in this, was so encouraged by the proprietors of the soil, as to make magnificent additions. He first planned several streets; then in 1729 began Queen-square, in 1740 the North parade, and in 1754 the Circus; and in 1769 his son designed the Royal crescent. Bath now was the summer rendezvous of persons of all classes, and even the occasional resort of members of the Royal family. Fielding and Smollett linked it with the stories of their heroes; Lord Chesterfield was often at it; the great Chatham took to it for the healing of his gout; and Anstey, in his famous sarcastic “New Bath Guide,” satirised its follies.
Structure.—Bath is strikingly beautiful. Its site, in the hollow and up the sides of a sort of amphitheatre, is grandly conducive to picturesque effect. Its building material, the white oolite, so well known as Bath stone, and found in great abundance in neighbouring quarries, gives fine scope for architectural details. Its street arrangement, compact in the old parts at the centre, outspread at the suburbs, and presenting a mixture of garden and grove, crescent and terrace, up the ascents of the encircling hills, tier above tier, to a commanding height over the valley, is unique and charming. Good views of the city are obtained from Camden and Lansdown crescents, which can be reached by an easy walk from the railway station; and the best is obtained from Beechencliff, a steep eminence of upwards of 360 feet above the Avon, overhanging the railway, and accessible by a walk of ten minutes from the station, up Holloway, the Roman Fossé way, and taking the path to the left. Camden crescent, on the elevated acclivity of Beaconhill, is an elliptical range, of uniform design, with Corinthian columns and central portico. Lansdown crescent, Somerset place, Cavendish crescent, Cavendish place, and St. James’s square, are situated in the northern portion of the city, and form a splendid group. The Royal crescent and Marlborough buildings, a little lower, also command noble views; and the former is a fine semi circle of thirty houses, all uniform, with Ionic columns and surmounting cornice. The Circus, still lower, has fronts, with Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns, double and in successive order, crowned by a decorated battlement. Queen square, further down, but still on high ground, measures 316 feet by 306, and has four facades, all uniform and ornamental, each after a different design. The North and South parades, east of the Abbey church, are elegant ranges of buildings, with terraces nearly 1,800 feet long and 52 feet broad. Pulteney bridge, leading eastward from High street to Bathwick, is a fine structure of three arches, crowned on each side with houses; and Pulteney street, on a line with it, built about 1770 by the Hon. William Pulteney, is in some respects the finest street in the city. Green Park buildings and Norfolk crescent, in the SW, also are elegant. Milsom street contains the finest shops, and may be called the Regent street of Bath.
Public Buildings.—The Railway station stands on the right bank of the Avon, and is a handsome edifice in the Tudor style. An elegant viaduct takes the railway diagonally across Pulteney road; and a stone bridge and an ingeniously constructed skew one take it twice across the Avon, above and below the station. Nine other bridges, two of them stone, two iron, three suspension, and two pedestrian, bestride the Avon. The guildhall, in High street, was built in 1768-75; has a tetrastyle composite portico; includes court-rooms, public offices, and a spacious banqueting room; and contains portraits of Frederick Prince of Wales and his consort George III and Queen Charlotte, the Earl of Chatham and Earl Camden. The markets adjoin the guildhall, were reconstructed in 1863, in a manner of much elegance and convenience, and have a central dome, 40 feet in diameter. The new gaol, at Twerton, was built in 1842, at a cost of about £23,000; and has capacity for 93 male and 24 female prisoners. Beckford’s tower, on the summit of Lansdown hill, was built by William Beckford, the author of “Vathek” who died in 1844; is 130 feet high; and commands an extensive view. A walled gar den was originally around it; and this is now a public cemetery, with Byzantine gateway. Lansdown tower, 2½ miles beyond Beckford’s tower, is on the battlefield of Lansdown, and was erected in 1720 by Lord Lansdown, the poet, to the memory of his grandfather, Sir Bevil Granville, who fell in the battle. A handsome drinking fountain, contiguous to the Abbey and the markets, facing the High street, with sculptural representation of Rebecca at the Well, was constructed in 1861. Other buildings will be noticed in the subsequent paragraphs.
Baths.—The baths are situated near the centre of the city. The pump-room was rebuilt in 1797; bears on its front a Greek motto, signifying “Water the best of elements;” and is a handsome erection, 85 feet long, 48 feet broad, and 34 feet high, adorned with Corinthian portico and colonnade, and lighted by a double range of windows. At the west end is an orchestra gallery; and at the east end, a handsome marble statue of Beau Nash. The King’s or principal bath adjoins the pump-room; measures 66 feet by 41; is open to the sky, except a colonnade on one side; contains about 364 tons of water; and is filled daily, to a height of 4 feet 7 inches, with water rising directly from the spring in its centre, and bearing in temperature throughout the bath from 114o to 100.o The Queen’s bath is attached to the King’s; derives its waters from it, slightly Iessened in temperature; and measures 25 feet by 25. Private baths, in Stall street, draw supplies from a cooling reservoir connected with the King’s bath; and contain excellent arrangements for baths of various kinds, and various temperatures. The Cross hath, so called from an ancient cross which stood in it till 1745, is situated about 150 yards from the King’s bath, yields 12 gallons per minute at 1090, and is used as a swimming bath by the less affluent classes. The tepid swimming bath is in a neat building, from a design by Desimus Burton; measures 65 feet by 25; and is supplied from the King’s at a temperature of 880. The hot bath, 40 yards SW of the King’s, was built at the time of the finest extensions of the city; is an elegant structure; and has a spring of its own, giving constant supply at about 1170. The royal private baths adjoin the hot bath; are remarkable for comfort and convenience; and comprise seven large baths, lined with steps for descending into them. The Kingston baths, in Church street, occupy the site of the Roman baths; have sudatories and various other conveniences; and are the property of Earl Manvers. All the other baths belong to the borough, and are under the management of the town council. The waters contain carbonic acid, sulphate and muriate of soda, sulphate and carbonate of lime, and minute quantities of silica and oxide of iron. They act as a stimulant; and are regarded as beneficial against gout, rheumatism, paralysis, biliary obstructions, and cutaneous disorders; but may be injurious where there are inflammatory symptoms.
Ecclesiastical Affairs.—The benefices within the city are the rectory of St. Peter and St. Paul, or the Abbey; the r. of St. Michael; the r. of Walcot, with Margaret c., the c. of St. Thomas, and the c. of St. Stephen; the r. of St. Saviour’s; the r. of Trinity, with the c. of Avon Street chapel; the r. of Bathwick, with the c. of Wooley; the v. of Widcombe, with the c. of St. Matthew’s; the v. of Lyncombe; the v. of St. James, with the c. of Corn street chapel; the c. of St. John Baptist; the c. of St. John’s chapel; the c. of St. Mary Magdalene; the c. of Octagon chapel; the c. of the Penitentiary chapel; the c. of Christ Church; the c. of Portland chapel;; the c. of All Saints; the c. of Queen Square chapel: and the c. of Laura chapel. All are in the diocese of Bath and Wells. The value of St. Peter and St. Paul is £750; of Walcot, £600; of St. Saviour’s, £390; of Trinity, £350; of Bathwick, £209; of Widcombe, £300; of Lyncombe, £235; of St. James, £155; of the Penitentiary chapel, £200; and of the rest, not reported. The patrons of St. Peter and St. Paul, of St. Michael, of Widcombe, of Lyncombe, and of St. James, are Simeon’s Trustees; of Walcot, also now Simeon’s Trustees; of St. Saviour’s, the Rev. Dr. Stamer; of Trinity, the Rev. S. H. Widdrington; of Bathwick, Lord W. Powlett; of St. John’s chapel, Trustees; of St. Mary Magdalene, the Lord Chancellor; of Octagon chapel, the Proprietor; of the Penitentiary chapel, the Committee; of Portland chapel, the Rev. T. L. Hill; and of Christ church and All Saints, the Rector of Walcot.
The places of worship within the borough, in 1851, were 28 of the Church of England, with 20,575 sittings; 2 of Independents, with 1,430 s.; 5 of Particular Baptists, with 2,304 s.; 1 of Quakers, with 300 s.; 1 of Unitarians, with 300 s.; 1 of Moravians, with 300 s.; 5 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 2,436 s.; 1 of Primitive Methodists, with 432 s.; 1 of the Wesleyan Association, with 180 s.; 2 of Wesleyan Reformers, with 891 s.; 3 of Lady Huntingdon’s Connexion, with 1,070 s.; 1 of the New Church, with 300 s.; 1 of Brethren, with 40 s.; 3 of isolated congregations, with 1,2 20 s.; 1 of Latter Day Saints, with 250 s.; 1 of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, with 230 s.; 3 of Roman Catholics, with 270 s.; and 1 of Jews, with 40 s.
The Abbey church was cleared and remodelled in 1834, at a cost of nearly £11,000; and again was much renovated in 1869. It is one of the latest specimens of perpendicular English. It was built on the site, and partly with the materials, of the previous pile; was commenced in 1499, stopped in 1539, and completed in 1616; yet is of uniform character. It is cruciform; has a central tower, 162 feet high; and measures 210 feet in length, 72 in breadth, 78 in height, and 126 along the transepts. Its west front has a splendid window of seven lights, flanked by decorated turrets; its tower is well composed, and has octagonal, panelled, surmounting turrets at the corners; and its interior is remarkably light and elegant, in uniform perpendicular, but much crowded with taste less monuments. Traces of either an old Norman apse or a Roman temple can be observed on the outside of the east end. The most interesting of the monuments are, in the nave, those of Bishop Montague, Beau Nash, the Hon. William Bingham, James Quin, Hermon Katencamp, Col. Champion, John Malthus, and Sarah Fielding; in the south transept, that of Lady Waller; in the north transept, those of Fletcher Partis, Sir R. H. Bickerton, Dr. Sibthorp, James Tamesz Grieve, and Mary Frampton; and in the chancel, those of Lady Miller, Mrs. Frazer, Col. Walsh, and the artist Hoare.-St. James’s church is a neat structure, rebuilt in 1768; and has a new tower in the Italian style, surmounted by an elegant lanthern. St. Michael’s church was preceded, on the same site, by three other churches; and is an elegant edifice, with a pierced spire 182 feet high. St. Saviour’s church was built in 1832; is an elegant edifice, in the decorated English style, with graduated and pinnacled buttresses; and has a tower of three stages, embattled, and 120 feet high. Trinity church was built in 1822; is in florid Gothic; and has a beautiful memorial window to William West Jones, Esq., put up in 1859. St. Mark’s or Lyncombe church was built in 1832; is in the perpendicular style; and has a tower. Widcombe church is the oldest in the city; has been partially restored; and has an ivy-clad tower. St. Matthew’s church was built in 1847; is a large edifice, in the decorated English style; and has a fine tower 155 feet high. St. Mary Magdalene’s chapel was renovated from a state of ruin about 1820; and preserves the character of ancient early English, with embattled tower. Christ church was built in 1798; is in the later English style; and has a handsome altarpiece. Queen Square chapel was built in 1735; and is externally Doric, internally Ionic. Margaret chapel, in Brock Street, is a commodious structure, in the early English style. All Saints’ chapel, near Lansdown Crescent was erected in 1794; and is a good specimen of the decorated style. St. Stephen s church was built in 1845; and is in the decorated style, with a tower of three stages. St. John Baptist’s church was opened in 1864, and completed in 1868; and has a tower and spire 200 feet high. Several of the dissenting places of worship are very handsome structures. The Argyle Independent chapel is in the Roman style, and was enlarged in 1862; the Percy Independent chapel is in the Byzantine style, and was built in 1854; the New King street Wesleyan chapel, decorated Gothic, 1847; the Moravian chapel, Roman, 1845; the New Jerusalem church, Roman-Ionic, 1844; the South Parade Roman Catholic church, florid Gothic, 1863. The Abbey new cemetery was opened in 1844; the Lansdown new cemetery, in 1848; the Bathwick, in 1856; the Lower Bristol road and the upper Bristol road, in 1862; the Roman Catholic, in 1859.
Schools and Institutions.—The schools within the borough, in 1851, were 46 public day schools, with 5,564 scholars; 113 private day schools, with 1,959 s.; and 34 Sunday schools, with 5,095 s. The free grammar school was founded and endowed with lands by Edward VI.; and it numbers amongst its pupils Prynne, the two Lysonses, Sir S. Smith, and other distinguished men. The Blue coat school, for 60 boys and 60 girls, is a new edifice in Upper Borough Walls. The Walcot parochial school is a building in the Italian style, erected in 1841 at a cost of £1,700. The Art school, at Hetling House, was established in 1854. The Lansdown Proprietory college, on the ascent of Lansdown hill, was changed in the latter part of 1863, into a college for the daughters of military officers; was built in 1858; is in the Gothic style of the geometric period; contains one school of 3,500 square feet, lighted by traceried windows, and another school of 2,100 feet; and has a lofty central tower. The Wesleyan college, on the same ascent higher up, was erected in 1850; is in the Tudor style; and has a tower 90 feet high. Grosvenor college, in Grosvenor place, was established in 1837, for the sons of noblemen and gentlemen. The Bath Proprietory college occupies the building at the end of Pulteney street, formerly the Sydney hotel. The Somersetshire college is in the Circus.
The royal, literary, and scientific institution, a little east of the Abbey, occupies the site of the old assembly rooms; retains their portico; and has a large library, and a rich museum, the last antiquarian and scientific, and free to the public. The Athenæum, in Orange grove, was originally a mechanics’ institution. The Bath and West of England society for the encouragement of agriculture, the arts, manufactures, and commerce, was established in 1777. The Commercial and Literary institution occupies a part of the post office building. The city contains a greater number of booksellers and circulating libraries, in proportion to its population, than any other town in the kingdom. It may be regarded also as the cradle of English geology; and it boasts a remarkable number of eminent literary men as natives or as residents. Among the natives have been Gildas the historian, John Hales the professor of Greek, B. Robins the mathematician, R. L. Edgeworth, Terry the comedian, and Hone the author of the “Every-day Book;” and among the residents have been physicians, chemists, naturalists, historians, divines, artists, and popular writers, too numerous to be named. The house, No. 13, New King street, was the residence of Herschel, at the time of his making the observations which led to the discovery of the planet Uranus.
Charities.—The Bath general hospital was founded in 1742, for the use of the diseased poor from all parts of the kingdom who may be benefited by the Bath waters; it comprises a suite of new buildings erected in 1861 at a cost of £18,000, together with an older adjoining suite; it contains accommodation for 86 male and 48 female patients; and it is supported partly by endowment and partly by subscription. The patients within it are accommodated with baths upon the premises supplied from the springs. The united hospital was founded in 1826 by the amalgamation of the city infirmary and the casualty hospital; is a spacious building with sick-wards, lecture room, anatomical museum, and library, near the Cross bath; and, besides receiving inpatients, gives relief to vast numbers of outpatients. St. John’s hospital was founded in 1180 by Bishop FitzJocelyne; escaped the dissolution under Henry VII I.; was given by Queen Elizabeth to the mayor and commonalty of the city; rebuilt in 1728 by Wood; and has an income returned at £214, but valued at £8,828. St. Catherine’s hospital, or the Bimberries, was founded in the reign of Edward VI. Bellott’s hospital, for poor persons using the waters, has an income of £76; and St. Mary Magdalene’s hospital for idiots, founded before 1332, has £118. Partis College, on Newbridge hill, for 30 reduced gentlewomen, was founded by Mrs. Partis, and completed in 1827; and is a capacious range of building, forming three sides of a quadrangle. There are also an eye infirmary, a penitentiary, lying in hospitals, almshouses, and other benevolent institutions, either liberally supported or well endowed.
Amusements.—Bath was at one time the gayest place in England; and it continues to possess the means of splendid and numerous amusements. The assembly rooms, in the vicinity of the Circus, were erected in 1791, at a cost of £20,000; and contain a lofty vaulted octagon reception room, and a ball room 105 feet long, 43 feet wide, and 42 feet high. The theatre, in Beaufort square, is an elegant edifice of 1863, on the site of a previous one, built in 1805 and burnt in 1862, reputed one of the best out of London. The racecourse, on Lansdown, is an oval 1½ mile round; and the grand stand on it was improved in 1859. The Victoria Park, immediately west of the Royal crescent and the Circus, is an ornate enclosure of about 22 acres; was thrown open to the public in 1830, at a cost of £4,000 raised by subscription; contains horticultural and botanic gardens; and has at the entrance an obelisk in honour of the Queen, and higher up a colossal bust of Jupiter by the self taught artist Osborne. The Sydney gardens, at the end of Pulteney street, comprise 16 acres, were laid out in 1795, and used to be called the “Vauxhall” of Bath. The walks and drives around the city may be endlessly varied, and abound with interesting objects, charming close views, and brilliant prospects.
Trade.—Bath is a favourite residence of annuitants, and a fashionable resort of wealthy strangers. Hence arises its principal trade. Rents are moderate; coal is abundant; the markets are well supplied; all the wants of taste and society are readily ministered to; and in a full season, from Christmas till the end of May, about 14,000 persons, in addition to the permanent population, are present. A manufacture of coarse woollen cloth, called Bath coating, was at one time carried on, but has long been extinct. Weekly markets are held on Wednesday and Saturday; and fairs on 14 Feb. and 10 July. The city has a telegraph station, a head post office, ‡ five banking offices, a savings’ bank, and nine chief hotels; and it publishes four weekly newspapers. The savings’ bank, originally founded in 1815, now occupies a handsome edifice in the Italian style, built in 1842. Paper and carpet making is carried on in the neighbourhood.
The Borough.—The city formerly consisted of the parish of St. Peter and St. Paul, the parish of St. James, the parish of St. Michael, and the part of the parish of Walcot south of Charlcombe; but it now comprises also the parish of Bathwick, the parish of Lyncombe and Widcombe, and all the rest of the parish of Walcot except Soper’s farn. The extent from N to S is about 3 miles; from E to W, about 2 miles; in area, 3,534 acres. The city is divided into 7 wards; is governed by a mayor, 14 aldermen, and 42 councillors; has a corporate income of about £23,000; is a seat of courts, a polling place, and the headquarters of militia; and has sent two members to parliament since the time of Edward I. Direct taxation in 1857, £45,527. Electors in 1868, 3,236. Pop. in 1841, 50,800; in 1861, 52,528. Houses, 8,017. Real property in the three parishes St. Peter and St. Paul, St. James, and St. Michael, in 1860, £69. 886.
Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].
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Somerset Archives & Family History Groups
- County: Somerset
- Civil Registration District: Bath
- Probate Court: Court of the Bishop of Bath and Wells (Episcopal Consistory)
- Diocese: Bath and Wells
- Rural Deanery: Bath
- Poor Law Union: Bath
- Province: Canterbury