The natural springs flowing up beneath Bath has made it a popular spa town for millennia. The Romans called the place Aquae Sullis, or Waters of Sullis, and they left behind them the ruins of the most complete bath complex in Roman Britain. An abbey grew up around the hot springs and in the 15th Century a massive cathedral was built to service the town. When doctors in Georgian England began to prescribe a bathe in the hot springs as a cure for a whole host of maladies, those who could afford it flocked to Bath. Before long they began to build and the results are nothing short of breathtaking. They have left us a remarkable architectural legacy, most notably the many continuously-inhabited 18th Century apartment blocks made of the cream-coloured bath stone.
Today Bath is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Britain, and the small town hosts some high technology companies as well as the University of Bath. The Then photos in this essay come from the Bath in Time website, the Victoria and Alberta Museum Collection and Wikipedia. I spent two weeks exploring the town in May 2015 recreating the shots and enjoying everything the town had to offer.
Then and Now Photos
Cathedral from the Avon
Looking across the River Avon towards Bath's medieval abbey.
Victoria and Albert Collection E.208:217-1994
Another view of Bath Abbey. Built between 12th and 16th Centuries, it was the last great medieval church built in England.
Victoria and Albert Collection E.5026-2000
The Gothic style west portal of the abbey.
This is the Circus: three identical buildings forming a ring around a roundabout. They were completed in 1768, one of Bath's many examples of fine Georgian architecture. Circus, it should be remembered, means circle in Latin.
The Georgian Guildhall built of Bath stone and completed some little time after the Circus, in 1778. It has since been expanded and now serves as Bath's Council Chamber.
Bath in Time Image Reference 25519
Traffic and pedestrians ply Broad Street.
Bath in Time Image Reference 45996
The magnificent Royal Crescent. Designed by the famous architect John Wood the Younger, these buildings were completed in 1774. The apartments are still widely admired today and the crescent in a Google poll this street was ranked as the beautiful in the United Kingdom.
Bath in Time Image Reference 10552
Carriages whisk the affluent residents of the recently built Crescent off to town.
Bath in Time Image Reference 11548
Sometimes the River Avon floods, and sometimes the waters rise well into the city. Here we see Southgate swamped in water. All the buildings are gone and have since been replaced by shopping complexes built from bath stone.
St. Michael's Church
Bath in Time Image Reference 35977
Saint Michael's Church on Northgate. Today the view is somewhat obstructed by necessary renovations.