As a major fan of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, it was inevitable that on a trip to England to visit my sister that I would have to visit Bath, in Somerset. No longer would I have to be the ‘poor relation’ looking on with envy as others posted their scenic shots of places I was meant to be, places I knew so well from such novels as Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Bath Tangle and a more recent Christian novel Prelude to a Lord. Now it was my turn to walk the streets (not run, as Anne Elliot did in the 2007 film of Persuasion!) and soak up the atmosphere of a city founded by the Romans in the first century AD.
Unsurprisingly for a city named Bath there are…Roman Baths. This iconic bathing complex is based on hot springs, and is a must visit for any tourist. According to UNESCO, the Temple of Sulis Minerva and the baths are some of the most important Roman remains north of the Alps, with the associated waters considered to hold health-giving properties, which led to it becoming England’s premier Spa town of the Georgian period.
Today, you can visit the Baths, see the Roman remains, or, if you’re like me with something of an Austen addiction, ‘take the waters’ at the Pump Room, where the famous pump delivers the slightly sour tasting water for your improved health, and where numbers of characters of various books have visited. Of course, I had to take my characters there in my new Regency novel Winning Miss Winthrop, both to experience the waters and the gossip associated with this fashionable venue of the 1800s.
Nearby is the magnificent Bath Abbey, founded in the 7th Century as a Benedictine monastery, which owes a lot of its current splendour to major restoration work in the mid-1800s. This Grade 1 listed building is a wonderful example of Gothic architecture, and is noted for its breath-taking fan vaulting and stained glass. Definitely worth a visit.
Of course, a trip to Bath means a visit to the Jane Austen centre, where one can learn more about this illustrious author, take a tour, try on Regency attire, and even take tea with Mr. Darcy (!). This is a fabulous place to conduct research, such as examining Regency-era concert programs, complete with descriptions of Galas of music and Grand Illuminations (fireworks) of new devices and decorations - in other words, a Regency author's dream.
Walking up Gay Street takes you past a glory of Georgian architecture, before The Circus (a street enclosing a round park) takes us to the Upper Assembly Rooms, where elegant society would assemble and mingle and perhaps engage in matchmaking. These rooms consist of the Ballroom, Octagonal room, tea rooms, and card rooms, and were the site of dances, concerts and lectures, and the site of many dramatic scenes for Austen heroines. I used these elegant 18th Century rooms for a number of pivotal scenes for Miss Winthrop – including a masquerade!
Not far away is another of the iconic scenes of Bath – the Royal Crescent, a row of 30 terraced houses in a semicircle, and one of the most fabulous examples of Georgian architecture in Britain, and a prestige address with its views over the park opposite.
Bath is built in the valley of the River Avon, with many steep streets and rows of terraced houses lining the surrounding hills, all designed for aesthetic appeal by illustrious 18th century builders. A walk along the river takes you across the beautiful Pulteney bridge and up another hill to Sydney Gardens. This is another location mentioned in Austen and Heyer novels, and a place any true Austen aficionado should visit – and Austen-inspired authors should use. So, of course I had to set several scenes here, especially as the many trees and paths make it perfect for secret rendezvous.
Bath is well worth a visit even if you’re not a history buff or a great fan of Austen’s literature. It is one place (of many!) I’d love to return to, and spend longer time, soaking in the atmosphere of this beautiful, evocative city.
Carolyn Miller is giving away an print copy or ebook copy (winner's choice) of Winning Miss Winthrop. To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post and/or ICFW's March New Releases post on March 19. Receive two entries in the drawing by commenting on both posts. I'll draw a winner from the comments on Saturday, March 24.
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