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Celia Fiennes' journey to Bath, circa 1687

This is quite a long read - the full text of Celia's description of her time in Bath. But reading the words of a woman traveller from the seventeenth century - you get a real feel for her (not always favourable) impressions. I've broken it into paeragraphs to make it easier to read:

The Kings Bath circa 1690

ANOTHER JOURNEY to the Bath, from Newtontony to Warminster, a good road town, and good way; thence to Breackly [Berkley] a deep clay way; we passed over one Common of some miles length on a narrow Causy [Causeway] that a Coach can scarce pass, all pitched with slatts and stones, our Coach was once wedged in the wheele in the stories that severall men were forced to lift us out; its made only for Packhorses, which is the way of carriage in those parts; the Common is so moorish [marshy] their feete and wheeles would sinke in, so no going there.

Thence to Philip Norton [Norton St Philip], a very neate stone built village; thence you pass a good way between 2 stone walls to the Bath, down a very steep hill and stony a mile from the town scarce any passing and there descends a little current of water continually from the rocks; the wayes to the Bath are all difficult, the town lyes low in a bottom and its steep ascents all ways out of the town; the houses are indifferent, the streetes of a good size well pitched; there are severall good houses built for Lodgings that are new and adorned and good furniture, the baths in my opinion makes the town unpleasant, the aire thicke and hot by their steem, and by its own situtation so low, encompassed with high hills and woods. Top

The baths at Bath

The Kings Bath April 2000

There is 5 baths: the Hot bath the most hot springs, its but small and built all round, which makes it the hotter: out of it runns the water into a bath called the Lepours: the third bath is called the Cross bath which is something bigger then the former and not so hot; the Cross in the middle has scares round it for the Gentlemen to sitt and round the walls are arches with seates for the Ladyes-all stone, and the seate is stone and if you thinke the seat is too low they raise it with a coushon as they call it, another Stone, but indeed the water bears you up that the seate seemes as easy as a down coushon; before the Arch the Ladyes use to have a laced toilet hung up on if they please; you the top of the Arch, and so to shelter their heads even to the water 1 generally set up to the neck in water; this Cross bath is much the coolest and is used mostly in the heate of summer; there arc Gallery's round the top that the Company that does not bathe that day walkes in and lookes over into the bath on their acquaintance and company.



The old Pump Room

There are such a number of Guides to each bath, of women to waite on the ladyes and of men to waite on the gentlemen, and they keepe their due distance; there is a Serjeant belonging to the baths that all the bathing tyme walkes in galleryes and takes notice order is observed, and punishes the rude, and most people of fashion sends to him when they begin to bathe, then he takes particular care of them and complements you every morning, which deserves its reward at the end of the Season. When you would walk about the bath I use to have a woman guide or two to lead me, for the water is so strong it will quickly tumble you down; and then you have 2 of the men guides goes in at a distance about the bath to cleare the way; at the sides of the Arches are rings that you may hold by and so walke a little way, but the springs bubbles up so fast and so strong and are so hot up against the bottoms of ones feete, especially in that they call the Kitching in the K bath, which is a great Cross with seates in the middle and many hot springs riseth there.

The Kings bath is very large, as large as the rest put together, in it is the hot pumpe that persons are pumpt at for lameness or on their heads for palsyes; I saw one pumpt, they put on a broad brim'd hatt with the crown cut out, so as the brims cast off the water from the face; they are pumpt in the bath; one of the men Guides pumps, they have two pence I thinke for 100 pumps, the water is scallding hot out of the pump, the armes or legs are more easyly pumped; Top

Attire in the baths

Prior Park - Ralph Allen's house

...the Ladyes goes into the bath with garments made of a fine yellow canvas, which is stiff and made large with great sleeves like a parsons gown, the water fills it up so that its borne off that your shape is not seen, it does not cling close as other Tinning which lookes sadly in the poorer sort that go in their own linning,3 the Gentlemen have drawers and wastcoates of the same sort of canvas, this is the best linning, for the bath water will change any other yellow; when you go out of the bath you go within a doore that leads to steps which you ascend by degrees, that are in the water, then the door is shut which shutts down into the water a good way, so you are in a where you still ascend severall more steps, and let your canvass drop of by degrees into the water, which your women guides takes off and the meanetyme your maides flings a garment of flannell made like a nightgown with great sleeves over your head, and the guides take the taile and so pulls it on you just as you rise the steps, and your other garment drops off so you are wrapped up in the flannell and your nightgown on the top, your slippers,

and so you are set in Chaire which is brought into the roome which are called slips and there are chimney's in them, you may have fires; these are in severall parts of the sides of the bath for the conveniency of persons goeing in and out of the bath decently, and at the top of the staires stands a woman that layes a woollen cloth for you to set your bare foot, and also to give you attendance; the Chaires you go in are a low seate and with frames round and over your head, and all cover'd inside and out with red bayes and a curtaine drawn before of the same which makes it close and warme; then a couple of men with staves takes and carryes you to your lodging and sets you at your bedside where you go to bed and lay and sweate sometyme as you please; your own maides and the maides of the house gets your fire and waites on you till you rise to get out of your sweat. Top

Taking the water

Queen Square, laid out around 1730

All the baths has the same attendance, the Queens bath is bigger than the other three but not a neare so big as the Kings, which do run into each other and is only parted by a wall and at one place a great arch where they run into each other; the Queens bath is a degree hotter than the Cross bath, and the Kings bath much hotter; these have all gallery's round and the pump is in one of these galleryes at the Kings bath which the Company drinks of; its very hot and tastes like the water that boyles eggs, has such a smell, but the nearer the pumpe you drinke it the hotter and less offencive and more spiriteous; Top


The orangery-style old pump room

...the baths are all emptyed as soone as the company goes out, which is about 10 or 11 of the clock in the morning, then by sluces they empty at once the bath, so it fills againe, I have seen all the springs bubble up as thicke out of the ground when the baths have been empty, the bottom is gravell; so they will be full for the evening if Company would go in againe, if so they empty them againe at night, and they are filled against the morning; and there will be such a white scum on the bath which the guides goes and scimms off cleane before any Company goes in, if they go in while this scum is on it gives them the bath mantle, as they call it, makes them breake out into heate and pimples; the like will be on them if they go into the bath before they have purged, especially in the hotter bath. Top


...The places for divertion about the Bath is either the walkes in that they call the Kings Mead, which is a pleasant green meaddow, where are walkes round and cross it, no place for coaches, and indeed there is little use of a coach only to bring and Carry the Company from the Bath for the wayes are not proper for coaches, the town and all its accomodations is adapted to the batheing and drinking of the waters, and to nothing else, the streetes are well pitched and cleane kept and there are Chaires as in London to carry the better sort of people in visits, or if sick or - infirmc, and is only in the town, for its so encompassed with high hills few care to take the aire on them; there is also pleasant walkes in the Cathedrall in the Cloysters The Cross Bath, April 2000

Out of the Cathedrall you walk in to the Priory which has good walkes of rows of trees which is pleasant; there are the deans, prebends and doctors houses which stand in that green, which is pleasant, by the Church called the Abby which is lofty and spacious, and much Company walke there especially in wet weather; the Quire is neat but nothing extraordinary; in that Kings Mead there are severall little Cake-houses where you have fruit Sulibubs and suffier liqueurs to entertains the Company that walke there.

The markets are very good here of all sorts of provision flesh and fish, especially when the season for the Company batheing and drinking lasts, great plenty and pretty reasonable; the chargeableness of the Bath is the lodgings and firing, the faggotts being very small but they give you very good attendance there.

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