The history of Bath, United Kingdom

The Circus, Bath, drawn by Robert Woodroffe c.1829 (Victoria Art Gallery, Bath)

The Circus, Bath, drawn by Robert Woodroffe c.1829 (Victoria Art Gallery, Bath)

This World Heritage city is famed for its Roman remains and its Georgian architecture. But what happened in between? Bath Past explains what made the city a thriving spa and Georgian boom-town, but also delves into some less well-trodden byways of Bath's history. The city that began life as a Roman spa built around its hot springs became one of King Alfred's defences against the Vikings. Its admired Saxon abbey became a cathedral in Norman times. Bath lost its cathedral at the Reformation, but its proud citizens ensured city status by an Elizabethan charter. By then Bath had become an aristocratic resort town. The nobility and gentry flocked to Bath in the bathing season until seaside resorts became more popular. Ironically the city's great growth spurt was towards the end of its centuries as a fashionable resort. Its spanking new Georgian architecture was much admired around 1800, but its popularity was already in decline. The city that Jane Austen knew was a genteel place of retirement.

Most of the contents of Bath Past are taken from print publications by Jean Manco, with some contributions from Trevor Fawcett. Jean Manco is a building historian with an interest in Bath's buildings and the development of the city. Trevor Fawcett is a former editor of Bath History, with an interest in Bath's social history from Stuart to Georgian.

Bath Past is divided into sections. Choose a section from the top menu. Then use the side menu to find your way around it.

Further reading: Graham Davis and Penny Bonsall, A History of Bath: Image and reality (2006) provides a scholarly history.