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Georgian Bath


During the Georgian period, Bath burst out of the cramped confines of its medieval walls in a great spurt of new building. Elegant terraces snaked out across the surrounding hills capturing between them stretches of countryside that became the parks and gardens of an outstandingly lovely city. This explosive growth was fuelled by Bath's phenomenal popularity as a spa. The Corporation was slow to perceive the need for development and it was left to enterprising individuals to respond to the obvious demand. John Wood the elder was the architect of vision who set the pattern for others to follow. Leasing tracts of land outside the city walls, he planned Queen Square, the Parades and the Circus as speculative ventures. Wood conceived buildings with the grandeur of palaces but the convenience of a row of private houses. Individual plots were leased to building tradesmen, who could arrange interiors to suit a variety of tenants, provided they conformed to Wood's façades of uniform splendour.

As the spacious streets of the Georgian Upper Town spread out around it, the tightly packed ancient core of the city became congested. In 1789 the Bath Improvement Act gave the City Council powers to purchase, demolish and rebuild. Its target was the heart of the spa: the baths, Pump Room and their approaches. The City Surveyor, Thomas Baldwin, drew up plans for a fitting centre to the Georgian city, though departing from strictly Palladian precepts. His magnificent façades are softened by delicate decoration in the style of Robert Adam. A new, broad, colonnaded Bath Street linked the rebuilt Cross Bath and Grand Pump Room in an impressive ensemble.


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