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Bath
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Bath

For alternate meanings see Bath (disambiguation)

Bath is a city in south-west England, most famous for its baths fed by three hot springs. The city was first recorded as a Roman spa, though verbal tradition suggests it was known before then. The waters from its spring were considered to be a cure for many afflictions. From Elizabethan to Georgian times it was a resort city for the wealthy. As a result of its popularity during the latter period, the city contains many fine examples of Georgian architecture, particularly The Royal Crescent. The city has a population of over 90,000 and is a World Heritage Site.

Bath is approximately 15 miles southeast of the larger city and port of Bristol, to which it is linked by the A4 road, and is a similar distance south of the M4 motorway. Its railway station, Bath Spa, lies on the Great Western Railway, the main line between Bristol and London.

The Kennet and Avon canal, earlier an important water route to London, has recently been fully restored and leaves the Avon at Bath.

Table of contents
1 Local government
2 History
3 Industry
4 Places of interest
5 External links

Local government

Historically part of the county of Somerset, it became part of Avon when that county was created in 1974. Since the abolition of Avon in 1996, it has formed the main centre of the Unitary Authority of Bath and North East Somerset (BANES). Bath’s city council was abolished in 1996; the ceremonial functions of the city including mayoralty are maintained by the Charter Trustees; all those BANES councillors for wards within the city limits. There have been calls to set up a parish council for Bath—but it would be larger than any established previously and may be impractical.

Don Foster is Bath's Member of Parliament.

History

The site of the main spring was treated as a shrine by the Celts, and dedicated to the goddess Sulis, whom the Romanss identified with Minerva. However the name Sulis continued to be used after the Roman invasion, leading to the town's Roman name of Aquae Sulis (literally, "the waters of Sulis").

During the Roman occupation of Britain increasingly grand temples and bathing complexes were built, including the Great Bath. Rediscovered gradually from the 18th century onward, they have become one of the city's main attractions. Toward the end of the Roman occupation, the settlement around the baths was given defensive walls.

After Britannia left the Roman Empire urban life declined across the country. Though the great Roman baths at Bath fell into disrepair, there is evidence of some continued use of the hot springs. The Anglo-Saxon name for the place was Bašum, Bašan or Bašon, meaning 'at the baths', from which the present name comes.

In 675 Osric, King of the Hwicce, established a monastic house at Bath which probably used the walled area as its precinct. King Offa of Mercia gained this monastery in 781 and rebuilt the church, which was dedicated to St. Peter. Bath had become a royal possession. The old Roman street pattern having been lost, King Alfred laid out the town afresh, leaving its south-eastern quadrant as the abbey precinct.

King William Rufus granted the city to a royal physician, John of Tours, who became Bishop of Wells and Abbot of Bath in 1088, with permission to move the see of Somerset from Wells to Bath. Bishop John therefore became the first Bishop of Bath. He planned and began a much larger church as his cathedral, to which was attached a priory, with the bishop's palace beside it. New baths were built around the three springs.

Later bishops preferred Wells, which regained cathedral status jointly with Bath. By the 15th century Bath Cathedral was badly dilapidated. Oliver King, Bishop of Bath and Wells, decided in 1500 to rebuild it on a smaller scale. The new cathedral was completed just a few years before Bath Priory was dissolved in 1539.

 
Henry VIII considered the cathedral redundant and it was allowed to become derelict, but it was restored as the city's parish church in the Elizabethan period, when the city revived as a spa. The baths were improved and the city began to attract the aristocracy in the bathing seasons. Bath was granted city status in 1590.

There was much rebuilding in the Stuart period, but this was eclipsed by the massive expansion of the city in Georgian times. The old town within the walls was largely rebuilt also. This was a response to the continuing demand for elegant accommodation for the city's fashionable visitors, for whom Bath had become a pleasure resort as well as a spa. The early 18th century saw Bath acquire its first purpose-built theatre, pump room and assembly rooms. As Master of Ceremonies Beau Nash presided over the city's social life from 1705 until his death in 1761. He drew up a code of behaviour for public entertainments. However the city declined as a fashionable resort in the 19th century.

Industry

Bath's principal industry is tourism and it is the most visited city outside of London for tourists travelling to the UK, whose visits mainly fall into the categories of heritage and cultural tourism. However, the city lies on the Kennet and Avon Canal, the navigable River Avon and once lay on three different railways, the Great Western Railway, the Somerset and Dorset Railway and the Midland Railway, which connected the city to the rest of the country. These allowed the city to develop light industry. Today, it has notable software and service-oriented industries in addition to tourism.

The city has two universities, Bath University and Bath Spa University College.

The successful rugby union team Bath Rugby play at the Recreation Ground in the centre of the city.

Places of interest

The new remake of the film Vanity Fair was shot in Great Pulteney Street recently, and in August 2003 the Three Tenors sang at a special concert to mark the opening of the Thermae Bath Spa, a new hot water spring spa, in Bath City Centre; however as of this writing (June 2004) the spa itself is not yet open.

External links