Paying our respects to Sulis Minerva at Bath, England
The desire to go to Bath was wholly inspired by my one time fascination for Georgette Heyer’s Regency period romances, where the women often went to Bath to “take the waters” while their younger companions spent lots of time in the Pump Room trying to meet eligible bachelors to get married to!
On the sunny day we drove in to Bath, however, my brain was processing information that our Evan Evans tour company guide Reese was furnishing us regarding the remarkable planning history of the city. The origins of the city of Bath go back to Roman times, though mesolithic activity in the area has also been documented. The Romans were fascinated by the natural spring that Bath is famous for and built an elaborate temple complex dedicated to the Goddess Sulis Minerva. For Nupur and me, visiting the site of this ancient temple was particularly relevant. Many of my friends would know that we co-owned an entrepreneurial venture called Minerva research and Media Services for about 6 years, eventually closing it down in 2011 to move on to other things. The ancient spa is now a beautiful museum that took us right back to the time of the gladiators and Roman priests. It was great fun imagining the fun that Romans probably had as they frolicked nude in those enormous subterranean bathing chambers that they built! An orgy as a prayer? Wouldn’t put it past those guys!
Bath went on to become a prominent English city in the medieval times but degenerated badly through the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1725, however, English architect John Wood drew up an ambitious restoration plan for his home town, aiming to take it back to its former glory. Owing to opposition, he built extensively outside the city walls using the distinctive and beautiful warm golden stone quarried from Combe Down and Bathampton Down mines not far from Bath. Wood also introduced speculative building in the city, leasing the land from landowners and plotting and subdividing it as per his vision. As an architect and urban planer, I found it interesting to see how one man’s vision transformed the city making it the centre piece of Georgian England and helping the city get the UNESCO World Heritage status in 1987 not just for its Roman Bath but also for this unified, planned layout that Wood created. John Wood’s work was carried on by his son.
Bath continues to be exclusive, a sort of playground for the rich and an image of a red Ferrari parked in an impossibly small parking space is stuck in my head! Walking in Bath, we felt like we need a lot more time to take in its beauty. The city is littered with beautiful buildings, impossibly uniform facades and, in the summer, delightful ice cream shops! A friend mentioned its worthwhile checking into a spa at Bath and “taking the waters”. Hmm, not a bad idea if we could get half the fun out of it that the Romans seemed to have done!