The city of Bath is a jewel in Britain’s architectural crown, a glimpse into the rich and fascinating history of a part of our island which has seen dramatic and far reaching events down through the centuries. The natural stone paving of the streets of Bath has been walked by the sandals of Roman soldiers, the flat leather shoes of Anglo Saxon peasants and the boots of industrial era English gentry. If only these streets could talk, what tales they could tell!
The city was made a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site in 1987. This is the only instance in British history of an entire city being granted this status. This was largely due to the continuing efforts to maintain a unified image between the buildings in the city and its surrounding landscape. The first consideration for any development in the area is that it should harmonize with the existing aesthetic of Bath as a city, and that it should be situated and proportioned so as to maintain the character of the area. Every feature of Bath, from the pediments atop their facades to the stone paving of the streets below, must strike the observer as a natural compliment of the scene.
Bath’s most celebrated buildings include the 1499 Bath Abbey, Widcombe Manor, and famous residential landmarks such as The Circus, and The Royal Crescent which overlooks Royal Victoria Park and has featured as a visual symbol of the city in numerous television period dramas and other media. The architecture of many of these areas is from the Georgian period and was heavily influenced by the then popular Palladian revival style which originated in Venice and was making waves throughout Europe, itself derived from the mathematical based simplicity of Greek and Roman temple architecture. The streets in these areas have attractive natural stone paving, which is deemed to be in keeping with the image of Bath. A few sections of the old city walls also still exist.
One of the most unique and instantly recognizable features of the city of Bath is that almost all the significant buildings are made from the same honey coloured local stone, paving the way for a natural connection with the surrounding landscape. ‘Bath stone’ is a calcium carbonate based limestone with a golden hue, and has been in use in the area since Roman times. Stone with similar appearance to bath stone is currently very popular as natural stone paving, as the warm colour of this highly workable material can brighten even the dullest day. Slate, granite, sandstone and other shades of limestone are also popular.
The very earliest buildings in Bath are invisible to the casual observer, concealed as they are beneath the natural stone paving. The foundations of many Roman and Saxon buildings, including the baths that gave the city its name, are the subjects of archaeological digs. This rich continuous history is just another aspect which makes Bath special, and keeps the tourists pouring in.