Britannia's Magical History Tour
Stop 4: Bath, Somerset
In Roman times, the city of Bath was known as Aquae Sulis. The spa is
named after Sulis, the local Celtic goddess of the hot springs. The Romans
went there to relax by the hot springs and to take advantage of their reputed
healing powers. The Great Bath, which is still fed today by a Roman lead
conduit, measures 80 ft. long by 40 ft. wide by 5 ft. deep and was decorated
with intricate mosaic pavements. After the Roman withdrawal from England
around 410, the city was sacked by the Saxons and did not revive for many
The medieval town of Bath was built around a Saxon monastery established
here and its economy centered largely around the wool trade. Its great abbey
church, which stands today, next to the old Roman baths, in the middle of
the busy city center was begun in 1499.
Most of the buildings in the present day city of Bath are constructed from
the same material, a luscious, honey-colored stone. It is said to be an
inferior building material, but is extremely beautiful to the eye and has
held up nicely for well over 200 years. The showplace that we now see, with
its squares, crescents and terraced town houses, was constructed largely
during the renaissance that Bath enjoyed in the Georgian era. It was promoted
as the ideal retreat from the rigors of London life, and the perfect place
for fashionable people to go for the season to "take the waters."
Modern Bath is an important center for the arts and culture, with many museums,
exhibitions, concerts and performances scheduled throughout the year. The
highlight of the annual calendar of events is the International
Festival at Bath beginning in May, a month long celebration of music,
the arts and other fringe events.
Arthurian locale lovers should check out Little Solsbury Hill. Situated
on a prominence northeast of town, high above the A4, the earthwork hillfort
is one of the prime contenders for being the site of the Battle of Mt. Badon,
King Arthur's decisive victory over the Saxon invaders, sometime around the year 500 AD.
Next stop: Wells, Somerset
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