Tag Archives: 18th century

Things to do in 18th century Bath

It amazes me that sometimes, in my internet wanderings, when I am trying to find little nuggets of fact amidst the fog of the past that might embroider my novels with authentic detail, Google presents me with nothing exact. I mean, it’s rather obvious that Google and Wikipedia and all other random, non-authoratitive sources, might present one with unexpected ‘facts’. Sometimes they present one with outright lies, and this is often the cause of amusement.

Only today I was amazed to see someone on the internet declaring their casting off of pleasure driven pursuits such as drinking and eating bad food as they had decided to, ‘pursue a more hedonistic lifestyle’…I mean, there really is no answer for that except a pained inward groan. Then one allows oneself a little titter of amusement…until one makes a similar blunder and realises we all make mistakes and one ought to get down off one’s proverbial high horse.

Anyway, I am becoming distracted. What I am meaning to talk about is Bath. You see, I am in the throes of writing another book, which I have been enjoying immensely, and after taking a breaking because of, well, life, I have come back to it. I was getting frustrated because I had forgotten what I had already written, and felt as though I had lost the firm grasp on my characters I had. So I spent this morning re-reading what I had already written, remembering who I had created and where they dwelt, and thinking onwards onto what I wish to write next, and I was considering what activities my character might take up. They’re staying in Bath, you see, the first time one of my books has taken place in this beautiful watering hole of the 18th century, and so I did what any modern-day historical romance writer might do (but not admit to of course), I went to Le Google. I typed in the most pragmatic of phrases, ‘Things to do in 18th Century Bath’ and was greeted with, well, not much – nothing exact, you see.

You’ll be happy to know, those of you considering planning little trips away in 2017 already, that there are a plethora of guides on what to do in modern day Bath. But, believe it or not, in the onslaught of online information, no article matched my expectations. So I’ve written one. I do that with books too, if I can’t find what I want to read in a bookshop, I’ll go home and attempt to write what I am desiring instead. Sometimes it even works.

I did the same with my Things to do in 18th Century London post. I wanted to find activities that took place during the daytime that a man and woman might both attend. After all, despite what many historical romances might teach you (and I love them all), it wasn’t just about balls and gaming hells in London. And neither was Bath confined to taking the waters and the Assembly Rooms. 

It took me some time to piece together things from online articles sourced at reputable sites. You see, I don’t have easy access to my books and must sacrifice my intellectual self on the pire of the collective online brain. So, here is a wee list of things one might do in Bath to entertain oneself in the 18th Century:

1. Afternoon Tea in the Bath Assembly Rooms

That’s right, it wasn’t all about the nighttime Assembly’s in Bath with the dancing and light suppers presided over by Beau Nash, master of ceremonies. Oh, no, during the day one could enjoy an afternoon tea in respectable surroundings with relatives, friends or even potential lovers. Visit Bath is keen to establish that Jane Austen herself enjoyed afternoon tea at the Assembly Room’s, so there really is no arguing with that, is there? And for those hailing from countries where afternoon tea isn’t tradition, it usually consisted of tea, the drink, and light refreshments of both the savoury and sweet kinds.

The Assembly Rooms, Bath - National Trust

The Assembly Rooms, Bath – National Trust

2. Lover’s Lane in Bath

It wasn’t just Vauxhall and Ranelegh in London that could provide lovers with a useful tryst spot, Bath had a few spots of its own. Lover’s Lane, common parlance for the Gravel Walk (some of you might remember from the touching final get-together in Persuasion’s film adaptation), was a handy walk often used by those under cupid’s sway. And of course, Bath wasn’t short of gardens in which two young people, or older for that matter, might become lost. Sydney Gardens, situated behind Jane Austen’s Bath abode (though it must be stated she wasn’t fond of the city unlike myself), was a case in point.

Sydney Gardens, Bath

Sydney Gardens, Bath

Lots of these gardens not only had lovely little winding walks, but also bowling greens and lots of little things they could o.

3. Promenading along the Royal Crescent, Bath

The Hyde Park of Bath, this place was ideal for showing off one’s gladrags, perhaps obtained from Milsom Street, the popular shopping street in Bath, and overlooking the beautiful grey/yellow bath-stone city. For those unfamiliar with Bath, the Royal Crescent is a stunning panoramic crescent of matching Bath stone terraced houses in a palladian style overlooking the city. It’s aesthetics are beautiful for their uniformity, classical lines, and prominent position. 

Royal Crescent, Bath

Royal Crescent, Bath

My favourite part of these buildings is the modern-day birds-eye view which shows the higgeldy-piggeldy backs of these houses where successive owners have made their own changes and extensions to the properties without harming the matching fronts.

4. Bathing in Bath

It wasn’t just the Romans who chose to bathe in the warm waters springing from the Somerset earth. Bathing in Bath was considered beneficial for health complaints including rheumatism and gout. It was something generally, though not exclusively, taken advantage of by the elderly in Bath, and took place in any of these three baths on offer: the Cross bath, the Hot bath and the Minerva baths. In fact, if you are a modern day visitor, you can always visit these at the Thermae Bath Spa who describe the city thus,

‘Bath and its waters have a long association with well-being and the word SPA is related to the Latin phrase ‘Salus Per Aquam’ or ‘health through water’.’

Thermae Bath Spa

Thermae Bath Spa give the best history of bathing and the medicinal qualities of the waters at Bath that I could find online on this page of their website. The key piece I found the most helpful/interesting I have quoted below:

‘Princess/Queen Anne visited Bath regularly to take the waters seeking a cure for her gout and dropsy, which prompted the renaming of the New Bath to the Queen’s Bath. These visits and aristocratic patronage set in motion a period of development in which Bath became ‘the premier resort of frivolity and fashion’ and led to the great rebuilding of the city to produce the 18th century layout and architecture of today’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.’

5. Taking those Bath waters like a pro

Funnily enough, 18th century people weren’t all that foolish as we might like to think in our modern state. They really were onto something with the water – containing 43 minerals, it certainly has a tangy taste (I’ve tried it) and some health benefits too. 

Taking the Waters in Bath

Taking the Waters in Bath

The Thermae Bath Spa list the highest proportions of what the water contains below:

Mineral Expressed as Concentration (Hetling Spring):

Sulphate mg/l 1015 

Calcium mg/l 358 

Chloride mg/l 340 

Sodium mg/l 195 

Bicarbonate mg/l 193 

Magnesium mg/l 57 

Silica mg/l 21 

Iron mg/l 0.5

Taken from the Thermae Bath Spa’s website.

6. Sham Castle – the Folly at Bedhampton

For those who have been to Bath, you might have remembered looking up above the city and seeing a medieval castle, a shell of bygone days, looking down on the predominantly Georgian city. Perhaps you even thought, ‘Oh, jolly good, I’ll get my medieval rocks of while I’m here and pop up to those ruins.’ Well, you’d be out of luck. The castle is a sham. Sham by name, sham by nature, this folly was constructed on local gentleman Ralph Allen’s estate to add some glam to the place, in fact, it was pretty common practice in the later eighteenth century to ornament your gardens with extra, more ‘picturesque’ bits and pieces like follys and rotundas (the latter sees a good example at Petworth House in Sussex). Some even went as far as getting in a hermit to live in their grounds and drag them in for a hot meal when conversation at dinner was a little slow…I kid you not.

Sham Castle, Bath

Sham Castle, Bath

So that’s a small list of what genteel people might do to pass the time while staying in Bath. I’m going to keep reading around the subject and I’m sure it’ll be easier to find out more when my books are to hand, in the mean time, my characters will make do with some of these activities. And of course a few of them will be riding out into the Somerset countryside too (I can never resist a good horse ride), in fact, it’s quite amazing just how dramatic and delightful a ride out can be with the right people…

Things to do in 18th Century London

So, I have been editing Fool Me Twice and in my first draft the hero and heroine have a scene where they meet in a public place – quite by chance obviously. The only problem is, that now I’m editing it, I’ve realised that where they meet is not quite appropriate so I’m going to have to change it. This prompted me to think of places that a man and woman of polite society could meet in London – what did they do during the day in 18th Century London that could lead to them bumping into one another?

panoramic_view_of_london_in_1751_by_t-_bowles

A view of London from the East 1751 by T. Bowles

 

Now, when I write a first draft I’m not one for stopping every page or so and checking my historical accuracy or doing a little research, I’m more inclined to speed on ahead because I’m excited and want to get it all down. It’s in the editing stage that I really dig into those more time consuming but ever-so enlightening research moments and this is one of those.

Now, although I do have a few books knocking around which I could have flicked through, being the lazy 21st century sort of person I am I just whacked the query ‘what to do in 18th century London‘ into Google. It brought up a bunch of results, the only problem was, the results were focused on either things that were primarily domains of one or other sex, or they were looking at activities to do at night, such as visiting Vauxhall gardens which opened around 5/6pm or popping to Almack’s, or enjoying a ball. But I wanted something that my characters could do during the day.

More than that, I wanted something different to shopping or strolling in Hyde park, there must have been more to do in a bustling metropolis right? With that in mind, I did some digging and came up with 4 things to do in 18th century London, during the day-time, for both sexes. It was quite interesting actually, I’ve learnt rather a bit, added to my research folders and popped it down here for anyone who’s interested as I couldn’t find a list myself:

  1. The Pot and Pineapple (later Gunter’s Tea Shop) at no.7-8 Berkley Square. 

Originally owned by the Italian Domenico Negri from c.1757 and taken over by James Gunter completely by 1789 (it would become known as the famous Gunter’s Tea Shop), the Pot and Pineapple was a confectioners. They had all sorts of sweet-meats (meaning candied or crystallised fruits), cakes, biscuits and ices to try (not to mention their catering business for soirees and so on) and one could enjoy it all with a good pot of tea.

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Domenico Negri’s Trade Card

Jane Austen’s World has a great post on The Pot and the Pineapple and Gunter’s which goes into far more detail.

2. Twinings Tea Shop at 216 Strand

twinings-tea-shop-and

Twinings has inhabited the same building since  was established in 1706.

Britain Express gives a good run-down on the growth of Britain’s tea-craze and its ironic emergence first from coffee houses! But aside from that history, popping into Thomas Twining’s Tea Shop would have been just the thing and one might bump into a person of the opposite sex in there with far more propriety than in a male-dominated coffee house.

Interestingly, the characteristic touch of Bergamot (oil extracted from the rind of a Bergamot orange) in Earl Grey tea prior to that tea’s formation in the early 19th Century, was used to flavour ices at The Pot and Pineapple.

3. The British Museum at Montagu House in Bloomsbury

Let’s face it, I can’t put it any better than The British Museum’s website itself:

‘The British Museum was founded in 1753, the first national public museum in the world. From the beginning it granted free admission to all ‘studious and curious persons’. Visitor numbers have grown from around 5,000 per year to today’s 6 million.’

montagu-house-by-james-simon

The original location of The British Museum was Montagu House

Made up of Sir Hans Sloane’s (1660-1753) collection of books, manuscripts and natural specimens with some antiquities such as coins, medals, prints and drawings, The British Museum was not quite what it is today, but did I mention that Sloane had collected a total of 71,000 objects?!

On 7th June 1753, an Act of Parliament established the museum and opened its doors on 15th January 1759 for free to all of the public. This was a landmark moment for us today and it would have been a great place to visit in the 1770s.

4. Royal Academy’s Annual Exhibition at the print warehouse on Pall Mall

Generally open from 1st May until July, the Royal Academy’s (founded 1768) exhibition could certainly draw a crowd and in the 1770s, artists such as Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds were showing their glorious works.

If one wanted to check out their rivals, one could always pop over to the Society of Artists from which the Royal Academy stemmed. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find where their exhibitions were based so if anyone can shed light on that it would be great.

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The Portraits of the Academicians of the Royal Academy (1771-72) by Johann Zoffany

And I’m afraid that’s all I have time to research and share with you, I must get back to editing!

Now that I have chosen one of these for the setting of a scene in Fool Me Twice, and you won’t know which one until you read it ;-), it’s back to editing for me.

Thank goodness my great neighbour just gave me the rest of a chocolate orange torte she made and couldn’t finish – this’ll keep me going…

References:

Books:

Cunningham, Peter , Handbook of London: Past and Present (London: John Murray 1850)

Kloester, Jennifer , Georgette Heyer’s Regency World (London: Arrow Books, 2008)

Postal, Martin, ‘Visual Arts’ in Samuel Johnson in Context, ed.Jack Lynch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp.385-392.

White, Jerry, London in the 18th Century: A Great and Monstrous Thing (London: Random House, 2012)A History of 18th Century London by Jerry White

Websites/Blogs:

Jane Austen’s World

Britain Express

The British Museum