BATH SOMERSET, a city, municipal, county and parliamentary borough, and health resort of Somersetshire, England, on the Great Western, Midland, and Somerset & Dorset railways, 107 m. W. by S. of London. Pop. (1901) 49,839. Its terraces and crescents, built mostly of grey freestone, cover the slopes and heights of the abrupt hills which rise like an amphitheatre above the winding valley of the river Avon. The climate is pleasant, and the city, standing amidst fine scenery, itself possesses a number of beautiful walks and gardens. Jointly with Wells, it is an episcopal see of the Church of England. The abbey church of St Peter and St Paul occupies the site of earlier Saxon and Norman churches, founded in connexion with a 7th-century convent, which was transferred for a time to a body of secular canons, and from about 970 until the Dissolution, to Benedictine monks. The present cruciform building dates from the 15th century, being a singularly pure and ornate example of late Perpendicular work. From the number of its windows, it has been called "The Lantern of the West," and especially noteworthy is the great west window, with seven lights, and flanking turrets on which are carved figures of the angels ascending and descending on Jacob's Ladder. Within are the tombs of James Quin, the actor, with an epitaph by Garrick; Richard Nash; Thomas Malthus the economist; William Broome the poet, and many others. Some of the monuments are the work of Bacon, Flaxman and Chantrey. Slight traces of the previous Norman building remain. There are many other churches and chapels in Bath, the oldest being that of St Thomas of Canterbury, and one of the most interesting St Swithin's, which contains the tombs of Christopher Anstey and Madame d'Arblay. Among educational institutions may be mentioned the free grammar school, founded by Edward VI., the Wesleyan College, originally established at Bristol by John Wesley, and the Roman Catholic College. The hospital of St John was founded in the 12th century. The public buildings include a guild hall, assembly rooms, Jubilee hall, art gallery and library, museum, literary and scientific institute, and theatres. In the populous suburb of Twerton (pop. 11,098), there are lias quarries, and bricks and woollen cloths are manufactured. The parliamentary borough returns two members. The city is governed by a mayor, 14 aldermen and 42 councillors. Area, 3382 acres.
The mineral springs supply several distinct establishments. The temperature varies in the different springs from 117° to 120° F, and the specific gravity of the hot baths is 1.002. The principal substances in solution are calcium and sodium sulphates, and sodium and magnesium chlorides. Traces of radium have been revealed, and the gases contain argon and helium. The waters are very beneficial in cases of rheumatism, gout, neuralgia, sciatica, diseases of the liver, and cutaneous and scrofulous affections. The highest archaeological interest, moreover, attaches to the baths in view of the magnificent Roman remains testifying to the early recognition of the value of the waters. It may here be noted that two distinct legends ascribe the foundation of Bath to a British king Bladud. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth this monarch gave its healing power to the water by his spells. According to a later version, he was banished as a leper, and made the discovery leading to his cure, and to the origin of Bath, whilst wandering as a swineherd in 863 B.C. This, at least, is the date inscribed on a statue of Bladud placed in the Pump Room in 1699. There is, however, no real evidence of a British settlement. By the Romans Bath was named Aquae Sulis, the name indicating the dedication to a British goddess Sul or Sulis, whom the Romans considered the counterpart of Minerva. There were a temple of the goddess and a few houses for priests, officials and visitors, besides the large baths, and the place was apparently walled; but it did not contain a large resident population. Many relics have been disinterred, such as altars, inscriptions, fragments of stone carvings and figures, Samian ware, and others. The chief buildings were apparently grouped near the later abbey churchyard, and included, besides two temples, a magnificent bath, discovered when the duke of Kingston pulled down the old priory in 1755 to form the Kingston Baths. Successive excavations have rendered accessible a remarkable series of remains, including several baths, a sudarium, and conduits. The main bath still receives its water (now for the purpose of cooling) through the original conduit. The fragmentary colonnade surrounding this magnificent relic still supports the street and buildings beneath which it lies, the Roman foundations having been left untouched. The remains of the bath and of the temple are among the most striking Roman antiquities in western Europe.
Bath (variously known as Achemann, Hat Bathun, Bathonea, Batha) was a place of note in Saxon times, King Edgar being crowned there in 973. It was a royal borough governed by a reeve, with a burg mote in 907. Richard I. granted the first charter in 1189, which allowed the same privileges as Winchester to the members of the merchant gild. This was confirmed by Henry III. in 1236, 1247 and 1256, by charters giving the burgesses of Bath the right to elect coroners, with freedom from arrest for the debts of others, and from the interference of sheriffs or kings' bailiffs. Charters were granted by succeeding kings in 1312, 1322, 1341, 1382, 1399, 1414, 1432, 1447, 1466 and 1545. The existence of a corporation being assumed in the earliest royal charter, and a common seal having been used since 1249, there was no formal incorporation of Bath until the charter of 1590, 1794 and 1835. Parliamentary representation began in 1297. Various fairs were granted to Bath, to be held on the 29th of August, the 9th of August, the 30th of June to the 8th of July (called Cherry Fair), the 1st of February to the 6th of February, in 1275, 1305, 1325 and 1545 respectively. Fairs are now held on the 4th of February and on the Monday after the 9th of December. These fairs were flourishing centres of the cloth trade in the middle ages, but this industry has long departed. Bath "beaver," however, was known throughout England, and Chaucer makes his "Wife of Bath" excel the cloth-weavers "of Ypres and of Gaunt." The golden age of Bath began in the 18th century, and is linked with the work of the two architects Wood (both named John), of Ralph Allen, their patron, and of Richard Nash, master of the ceremonies. Previously the baths had been ill-kept, the lodging poor, the streets beset by footpads. All this was changed by the architectural scheme, including Queen Square, the Royal Crescent and the North and South Parades, which was chiefly designed by the elder Wood, and chiefly executed by his son. Instead of the booth which did duty as a gaming club and chocolate house, Nash provided the assembly rooms which figure largely in the pages of Fielding, Smollett, Burney, Dickens and their contemporaries. Anstey published his New Bath Guide to ridicule the laws of taste which "Beau" Nash dictated; but two royal visits, in 1734 and 1738, established Bath as a centre of English fashion. The weekly markets granted on Wednesday and Saturday in 1305 are still held.
See R. Warner, History and Antiquities of Bath (1801); C.E. Davis, Ancient Landmarks of Bath; The Mineral Baths of Bath (1883); Excavations of Roman Baths (1895), and The Saxon Cross (1898); Sir G. Jackson, Archives of Bath (2 vols., 1873); R.E.M. Peach, Rambles about Bath (1875), Bath Old and New (1888), Collections of Books belonging to the City (1893), etc.; H. Scarth, Aquae Solis, or Notices of Roman Bath (1864); A. Barbeau, Life and Letters at Bath in the 18th Century (from the French Une Ville d'eaux anglaise au XVIIIe siècle) (London, 1904); A.H. King, Charter of Bath Corporation.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)