Historic UK Houses – Best Places to Visit. The historic houses in the United Kingdom are an eclectic mix of houses, abbys, manors, halls and … well lots of other names. But they have one thing in common. They are all gorgeous!Continue reading →
Bristol – Best historical cities to visit in the UK
Bristol city is in the southwest of England only an hour and a half away from London.
The busy city has a unique mix of history, culture and heritage with its Georgian architecture, historic woodlands, and beautiful coastline and is a major hub in the national road and rail networks and the Bristol airport serves dozens of European and transatlantic destinations.
Bristol’s history dates back to Anglo-Saxon times when a settlement known as Brigstowe (a place of settlement by the bridge), grew up between the Rivers Avon and Frome.
The diversion of the River Frome gave extra quayside space and increased Bristol’s capacity as a port, allowing direct trade with Europe as well as the English and welsh coastal towns.
Bristol became England’s second city and one of the most economically and culturally important cities in Europe as well as a major port and manufacturing centre.
During the 17th and 18th centuries Bristol’s maritime industry boomed and the city grew due to railways, engineering, manufacturing, commerce and communications.
Brick warehouse, Bristol, UK
Bristol’s Harbour is one of the most interesting and historic ports in Britain with beautiful views and a fascinating heritage and the city has over 450 parks and green spaces, including Queen Square which is a Georgian square with 2.4-hectares of public open space of level lawns, wide gravel paths, and surrounded by Georgian town houses.
Grand Georgian architecture flourished in Bristol and other port cities (London, Liverpool) that made a huge amount of wealth from the transatlantic slave trade and other parts of the triangular trade.
The slave trade is intertwined with the sugar industry in Bristol.
In a previous post, I looked at Sugar and Slavery out of Bristol and in the next post I’ll look at Bristol’s Sugar places and true stories that grew into local myths.
Pittville Pump Room, Cheltenham, UK – Best Places to Visit
Cheltenham is a famous spa town within easy reach of the Cotswolds, enjoying more than 100 years of fame. The Pittville Pump Room on the outskirts of Cheltenham is an elegant Grade 1 listed Regency building standing in Pittville Park and is perhaps the most famous example of Regency architecture in Cheltenham, despite the town being filled Regency buildings.
1835 Pittville Pump Room in Pittville Park, outside Cheltenham, UK
The waters were first discovered in around 1715 on a site now occupied by Cheltenham Ladies’ College.
In 1788 George III and Queen Charlotte came to take the waters and after their visit the town of Cheltenham grew and prospered and new wells were dug near Bayshill House where the King stayed.
The Pump Room stands at one end of Pittville Park,
about two miles from Cheltenham’s town centre, and is a monument to more than 100 years of fame which Cheltenham enjoyed as a Spa town. The building is set in beautiful parkland and is surrounded on three sides by a grand colonnade of ionic columns opening into the impressive hall with its domed ceiling and original crystal chandeliers.
The park has extensive open lawns surrounded by trees and ornate bridges and pathways lead around the lakes where swans and ducks swim.
The foundation stone was laid on 4 May 1825 and the work completed in 1830. The laying of the foundation was celebrated by the ringing of the bells, firing of cannons, as well as a Masonic Procession which set out from the Masonic Hall in Portland Street. In the evening banquets were held at two of the town’s hotels and grand fireworks display was to be seen at Pittville.
The building took five years to complete. Following disagreements between Forbes and the builder, a second architect, John Clement Mead from London, was employed to finish the interior. He designed the elaborate stoves which heated the building.
The grand building is 92 feet long by 43 feet, surrounded by a colonnade 13 feet wide the roof of which are supported by fluted Ionic columns 22 feet high. Along the facade stand three figures representing Aesculapius, Hygeia and Hippocrates, originally made by Lucius Gahagan of Bath. In its design, the building combines elements of both Greek and Roman architecture. It was modelled on the temple on Illisus in Athens, the engravings of which appeared in Stuart and Revett’s Antiquities of Athens (1762). The inspiration for the dome probably came from the Panthenon in Rome.
1834 Pump Room interior
A large ballroom was situated on the ground floor where even today visitors can attend music concerts, dances and other events. With a capacity of 400 and remarkable acoustics, it is Cheltenham’s finest concert venue. The spa with an oval pump room to the rear of the building are still there for the visitors to enjoy, available from a marbled pump and counter.
A reading room, library and billiard room occupied the first floor, which more recently was given over to a museum of costume and fashion, until financial constraints forced the museum to close.
The original official opening on 6th July, 1830 was postponed until 20th July, 1830 because of the death of George IV. A grand public breakfast and ball marked the occasion.
Building the Pump Room
The total cost of the project was over £40,000, and incredible price for that time. Like many bankers of his time, Pitt ran into financial difficulties, the building went out of favour and was sold in 1890 to the Borough of Cheltenham for £5,400, a fraction of the original cost.
Decoration is based on the Ionic order and the great hail reflects the genius of John Forbes with the spa opening on the north side and the gallery and dome surmounting the hall.
Second World War
The Pump Room housed British and American army personnel, when dry rot was allowed to creep through the structure unchecked, and only after the war was the full extent of the damage revealed. Plaster, brickwork, timber: nearly everything had been affected. The dome was only held in position by a shell of plaster; the timber had been eaten away by the fungus.
The Duke of Wellington
Public subscriptions carne to the rescue, which were accompanied by Public Works grants and Historic Building Council contributions. A total of £43,250 was raised and by 1960 the building was partially restored to its former glory and re-opened in 1960 by the Duke of Wellington. The old card room had been replaced by a new foyer, cloakrooms and second staircase, and heating and new lighting were in stalled.
In 2003, the old Victorian wells were leaking and allowing ground water to dilute the natural mineral water so Pittville Pump Room no longer qualified as a spa and the well was shut down. The spa was then repaired and reopened so visitors can taste the only alkaline spa water in the country.
Pittvills Pump Room’s old maple-strip floor was replaced with a stunning English oak floor, better flooring found for the ball room, and old pipes replaced.
Pittville Pump Room is in use most days of the year for private and public functions and is one of Cheltenham’s most popular wedding venues. It is also a favoured venue among orchestras, choirs and chamber groups for its stunning acoustics.
The effects of Cheltenham Water of Tis necessary to quicken your motions after the second glass by S.W.Forbes.
Royal Crescent, Bath, UK – Best Places to Visit
Crescent, Bath City, viewed from across the green
The Georgian style Royal Crescent was finished in 1771, the same year as the new Assembly Rooms in upper Bath, UK, were completed. It was the first “crescent” built in Great Britain and as Bath was a great social hub for 18th-century society, visitors needed an elegant place to stay.
Found at the end of Brock Street which leads off the Circus, the Crescent was designed by John Wood the Younger, the son of the architect of the Bath Circus and Brock Street, as a stately part of the Upper Town.
The foundation stone of Number 1 Royal Crescent was laid in 1767 and the house first leased to Thomas Brock in 1769. John Wood found investors and developed the land and thirty houses were built around a half -Colosseum shape with large Ionic columns set on high bases.
Purchasers had to accept the exterior design and floor levels designed by Wood but could do whatever they wanted with the interior which meant that all the interiors were different. The main reception room is at the front on the first floor and the basement has the kitchen and servants quarters. Many distinguished people have lived in these homes over the years as the Royal Crescent has beautiful views across the town & valley.
Not far from the Crescent is the the Circus, designed by John Wood the Elder, though he didn’t live to see them completed. The Circus is the same design as the Crescent and contains 3 segments of townhouses, each of equal length forming a circle. John Wood the Younger and his father were interested in the occult and Masonic symbolism so, from the air, the Crescent and the Circus form the Masonic sign of the sun and moon. Above the city is another visible Masonic symbol, the Key, made up of the Circus, Gay Street and Queens Square.
The basic concept of the Royal Crescent is evident all over Bath. Milsom Street, Kensington Place, St.James’ Square and the Circus are some examples. These groups of houses have a low pitched gable over the central house and the two end houses. Both the central house and the two end houses are built just slightly forward of the rest. Places like The Royal Crescent were referred to as Georgian Terraces. The entire street had a sense of unity. The magnificent sweep of the Royal Crescent creates a impression of a grand palace.
Grassy recreation area in front of Royal Crescent, Bath, UK
The green space below the Royal Crescent was designed so the upper classes could sit there, talk, or for other recreational activities. In middle of the green space is a slight shelf which was designed to keep cattle and sheep from invading the grassy sitting area.
Most of the apartments in the Royal Crescent are still private residences, although some have been split into smaller apartments. In the middle of the crescent is a five star hotel, Royal Crescent Hotel, and is one of only two Grade 1 listed hotels in the UK.
At one end of the crescent, The No. 1 Royal Crescent Museum has restored an entire house to the grandeur of Georgian Bath.
Georgian houses in a crescent copied from the Circus to Royal Crescent, Bath, UK
Royal Crescent, Bath, UK
Sally Lunn’s Tea House, Bath, UK – Best Places to visit in England
Sally Lunn drawing of Buns being served
Sally Lunn’s world famous tea and eating house is in the middle of the city of Bath in Lilliput Alley and is one of the oldest houses in Bath. The kitchen was used by the young Huguenot baker Sally Lunn in Georgian Bath to create the first Bath Bun, a rich round brioche bun similar to the historic French festival breadsnow and now copied around the world.
Sally Lunn was a young French refugee who found work at what is now called Sally Lunn’s House after she came to Bath in 1680 via Bristol to escape persecution in France. Sally Lunn’s baked Bun became very popular in the Georgian Era because it was delicate, light, and tasty and could be eaten with sweet or savoury accompaniments. The house itself was built many hundreds of years before the current timber framed construction and under the foundations are excavations from Roman and Medieval times.
Bath UK Map to Sally Lunn’s
Sally’s fame grew as Bath expanded and recipes claiming to be similar to Sally Lunn buns are in publications dating back to early in the eighteenth century, although the original recipe is a secret passed on with the deeds to Sally Lunn’s house and is still made by hand.
The Great Exhibition of 1851 is believed to have started the ‘London’ Bath bun as 943,691 ‘Bath buns’ were consumed over 5½ months of the exhibition but the quality of such a large amount of buns was poor.
Excavations in the cellars of Sally Lunn’s Tea House in the 1930s and then 1985 found many items dating back through Bath’s history to Roman times. Box flue and tiles have been found from a hypocaust (underfloor central heating system) together with tesserae from floor mosaics, painted plaster from the walls, roof tiles and pieces of high quality Samian pottery and the painted rim of a mortarium (mortar) designed for teasing the flavour from aromatic plants.
The building is close to the Roman baths so it could have been a Roman inn providing food and drink for travelers, perhaps nearly 1800 years ago when the hot springs and the temple of the goddess Sulis Minerva attracted visitors from all over north-west Europe.
In 1091, William II granted the city and Saxon abbey of Bath to his former chaplain and doctor, John de Villula, Bishop of Wells but in 1137 buildings were destroyed in a city wide fire. The abbey complex was rebuilt at great expense by Bishop Robert of Lewis (1137 – 66), including the church, chapter house, cloister, dormitory, refectory and infirmary. The southern buildings, now under Sally Lunn’s House, would have contained the refectory and kitchen of the Benedictine monastery.In the north cellar of Sally Lunn’s House can be seen the foundations, floor and stone walling of the medieval complex.
Sally Lunn Buns Bath
Seven separate floor levels have been discovered, with the lowest floor level dated to around 1150 and resting on rubble containing rich pink burnt stone from the fire of 1137. When King John visited Bath in 1207, the clergy and religious were believed to make up 1/3 of the population and the church grounds covered 1/4 of Bath city.
Bread was a staple and vital part of everyone’s diet and the design for bread ovens originated in Rome around 100 B.C. and was still the normal type of construction until the early 17th century.
The Faggot oven was outside the kitchen on the earliest medieval floor level and made of large low stone or brick chambers into which tightly tied bundles of thin branches – faggots – were pushed and then set alight. Once the faggots had burned, hot embers were raked out and the oven floor or sole was swept with a scuffle (a wet sack cloth swinging on the end of a pole) and the heat stored in the stone would be sufficient for baking bread.
In 1539, Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and dispersed their lands and the Bath Abbey area was in the hands of the Colthurst family. In 1612, Henry Colthurst sold this quarter of the city to wealthy John Hall of Bradford on Avon and the carpenter, George Parker, built the present timber framed house on the remains of the south side of the former abbey. The faggot oven and old downhearth were incorporated in the ground floor and food would have been cooked in the open hearth with a wood burning fire.
When Charles II was restored as king in 1660, the somber dress and style of Cromwell were replaced by a lighthearted mood and Bath became a fashionable resort. In 1668, Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist, came to the city and enjoyed the mixed bathing and the merry Monarch Charles II paid a visit. With the influx of wealthy and fashionable people, trades flourished.
Sally Lunn’s House represents pre-Georgian Bath and the walled city with narrow alleys and gabled roofs that Beau Nash would have seen in 1705 before the old Bath was replaced by Georgian squares, terraces and crescents in the Palladian style favoured by John Wood. During the 1700s, the street level was raised, a grand reception room created, the old ground floor became a cellar, and the oven and kitchen fireplaces were modernized to burn coal. Sally Lunn’s Buns became a success because of her rich, soft and delicate dough.
In the latter half of the 1700s, the famous Spring Gardens drew the fashionable throng across the river to the public and private breakfasts that were one of the delights of Bath and the hot, buttered Sally Lunn’s were advertised in the Bath Chronicle.
Sally Lunn’s Tea House, Bath UK
When Spring Gardens closed down in August 1798, exclusive rights to Sally Lunns recipe were bought by the baker William Dalmer and he began to send them warm every morning in a portable oven and with instructions to cut them with a sharp knife and spread them with melted butter.
In the Victorian period, Sally Lunn Buns were in the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Sorcerer and Charles Dickens wrote ‘Sally Lunn the illustrious author of the tea cake’ in Chimes. James Wicksteed used the building for seal engraving but later baking became the main commercial use of the property and remained so for over a hundred years as it went through the hands of a number of families until the building became run down.
After she took over in 1937, Marie Byng-Johnson carried out extensive restoration during which Sally Lunn’s recipes were discovered in a secret cupboard in the old paneling. Marie was an artist who used the bow window to exhibit her delightful cards of old Bath.
The Assembly Rooms in Bath, UK, are one of my favorite places to visit.
Signs outside Assembly Rooms Bath, UK
The Assembly Rooms are owned by the National Trust but are managed on their behalf by Bath & North East Somerset Council and are one of England’s Best Places to Visit.
The Rooms are part of a listed building dating back to 1771 and still have original Whitefriars crystal chandeliers.
There are three main rooms – The Ball Room, The Tea Room and The Octagon, plus a Card Room. The Fashion Museum is also situated within the building and is home to one of the world’s finest collection of fashionable dress, creating an inspiring venue for any occasion.
Bath had two assembly rooms in the lower part of the town but they weren’t large enough for the rapidly increasing population so on the 30th September, 1771, New Rooms were opened on the north east of the Circus, between Bennett and Alfred Streets. These Upper Rooms were designed by the architect, John Wood, and were in a better part of town so they became much more fashionable. The Upper Rooms held two balls a week, a dress ball on Monday evenings and a fancy ball on Thursdays during the Bath season which was from October to early June.
John Wood raised the money for the New Rooms by a “tontine” subscription, which was like a lottery. By April 1769, £14,000 was raised among 53 people. When a subscriber died, their shares were added to the holdings of the other subscribers, which meant that the last surviving subscriber inherited everything.
The Assembly Rooms
The exterior of the Upper Assembly Room looks typically Georgian, but the interior is so grand that it’s easy to picture elegantly-dressed dancers from many eras twirling up and down the rooms. Two long rectangular rooms flank the entrance hall and are linked by an octagonal room at the far end to form a U-shape. The ball room is over 100 feet long and nearly 45 feet wide and on the other side, the tea room is 70 feet long and 27 feet wide and all the rooms had huge chandeliers to give light.
Many famous people visited the Assembly Rooms in the 18th and 19th centuries. Jane Austen and Charles Dickens both mention the Assembly Rooms in their novels and the diarist, Francis Kilvert, described a reception there in 1873. Subscription concerts were popular and many well-known musicians also visited, the most distinguished being Joseph Haydn, Johann Strauss the Elder, and Franz Liszt.
The Ball Room is 30m long – the largest Georgian interior in Bath – and has five original crystal chandeliers which reflect light on to the powder-blue walls. Balls for a thousand people or more were once held here.
Chandelier in Assembly Rooms
The tea room was used for refreshments, with tea generally served weak and black or perhaps with arrack and lemon, and on Wednesday nights during the Season concerts were held there. Fashionable visitors to Bath could also hold breakfasts for their friends in the pillared rooms. On a sunny day, the tea room is warm and inviting as it has south-facing windows and three Georgian chandeliers light it up.
Beyond the Great Octagon lies the Card Room, a long thin room added to the Assembly Rooms in 1777 to give card players a more private venue in which to meet. Before the Card Room was added, the Octagon Room was famous for card playing, the favorite leisure activity from the Georgian Era through to the Regency, as the Upper Rooms were open for card games every day except Sunday.
Beautiful original chandeliers in Assembly Rooms
Since 1963, the Upper Assembly Rooms have also housed the amazing Fashion Museum with displays of fabrics, clothing by years, and wonderful movies and voice over describing fashion history.
The Octagon Room, the Tea Room, and the Cloak room Landings all showcase beautiful paintings and prints as the Upper Rooms were given to the National Trust in 1931. You can see paintings by Gainsborough, Ramsey, Hoare, and Simmons as well as an Original ticket to the Thirteenth Dress Ball at the Assembly Rooms, 24 January 1803.
Regency wall in smaller room