Thursday, 28 August 2008

Regency Bath

( The Royal Crescent - 7.00 am )

Straight after we had finished our tour of the museum we went for afternoon tea at The Pump Room , which is next door . This venue has an illustrious history as the grand "see and be seen", promenading point of the Georgian period . Having envisaged The Pump Room on numerous occasions whilst reading Miss Austen's works (notably Northanger Abbey) I felt excited to queue up for half an hour to get a seat in the genteel and charmingly time-warped restaurant .

From the photo above you can see that even the waiting-vestibule has a treat in store for those who look up !
We gratefully took our seats - good grief my legs ached ! - and studied the menu , noting that a whole-works tea (sandwiches , savoury tarts , scones and cream , sliced cake , petit fours and bottom-less tea pot ) were £17.50 for one ! We didn't turn a hair though ! (wouldn't be very Bath m'dears ) but all came to the conclusion we could never squash that much down anyway !! Whilst we delicately snaffled our fresh cream strawberry gateau slices we listened to the trio of musicians playing in the alcove - to our delight we were slap bang in front of them . Yes, "madam" very much enjoyed her slice of history with her cake !

(Spectacular Pump Room chandelier )

The Georgians would spend the winter season in Bath , ostensibly "taking the waters" ; drinking and bathing in them , and you can still have a glass from the Pumper who stands in the circular window (visible from the baths )

If you click on this picture you should be able to see the fishy water deliverers .

Such a beau-monde of residents required plenty of classy housing and amusements - in fact one architect and his son were responsible for all the major architecture , including The Royal Crescent , The Assembly Rooms , and The Circus ; a giant assemblage of Bath stone terraces which has the shape of a key when viewed from the air . We visited no.1 Royal Crescent , which is an elegantly recreated Regency home of grandeur . I particularly loved seeing the Sedan chair in the back hall - every wealthy person either hired or owned them to get to and from The Baths . Apparently the staircases were all designed with a turning point in them to make the bearers job a little easier !

(The Circus )

(Royal Crescent )

(Pulteney Bridge - weir in front)

Jane Austen was actually a resident of Bath for five years , and you can take a walking tour of all the addresses she lived at , and places directly mentioned in the novels - like Pulteney Street, with its bridge of little shops . From the road side we went in the Antique Map shop to buy collectible stamps for Brett , and it was only when we looked through the tiny window we realised we were on the bridge ! It is said to be the only one , apart from the Ponte Vecchio , which has these inset shops - and what a fantastic view through that window !

I'm not sure that Jane Austen totally approved of the superficiality at the heart of Bath society and its fashionable gatherings , but I was thrilled to enter The Assembly Rooms ; which were known as "The Upper Rooms" and were the place to attend balls . The building has become a Fashion Museum ...... of course I loved it ! Not to mention the strange frisson I got peering in to the main ball-room ; another frequent scene of the narratives .

(The Upper Rooms)

(Upper Room ceiling detail)

I shall save the Fashion Museum details for my next post .... with the exhibition of Marilyn Monroe's dresses !

Ruth x

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The Roman Baths

I am starting "at the beginning" , historically speaking ,with my stay in Bath over the holidays . I really wonder why we've never visited before ; it's a place rich with the multi-facets of historical past civilisation , endlessly fascinating vistas , a delight for history buffs - particularly those with a penchant for Jane Austen !
We decided to begin our 2 day tour at the Roman Baths , which is an outstanding museum right in the heart of the city , crouched in the shadow of the cathedral towering above it . The waters (in these pictures) arrive and leave by the same , efficient Roman conduits which have been doing the job for nearly 2000 years ! Long before Bath became known in Georgian times for the healing mineral waters , the Romans had built a huge complex of treatment rooms together with a magnificent temple dedicated to Aquae Sulis ; the giver of the only naturally occurring hot springs in the UK .

The museum cleverly weaves a route in and around these original rooms ; here can be seen the bathing pool , the caldarium , tepidarium , and great pediment of the original ancient temple ,as first excavated in the late eighteenth century . Such classical history was a great draw to the Georgians and crowds flocked to view them . As you pass around the baths even as a modern visitor you cannot help but marvel at them ! Steam rises from the pools , surrounded by the original Roman pillar bases and steps - the paving stones worn smooth in antiquity .

(View of the Regency Bath House ; circular window is the adjoining Pump Room)

The water level was actually much higher during the Regency period ; as the water is unusually rich in iron it has left an orange mineral mark behind . My husband and son both dipped their hands in the narrow inset Roman channel filling the main bath , and it really is very warm ! Bubbles actually rise up to the surface in the room pictured above .

(Roman spring entry)

What I found enthralling was the palpable sense of such similar people to ourselves ; separated only by a time-line. There are lots of artefacts to see ; some in situ , such as the beautiful mosaic floor fragments , pillars and stonework , and also cases of precious coins (apparently it wasn't unusual for a soldier to throw a month's salary in to the water as an offering !) , combs and jewellery . This is still somehow a spiritual place with a tranquility that reaches through time .

Above , is the only surviving piece of a huge bronze statue of Minerva , which you can walk around in its glass case . At the back of her head are tiny little holes in the rim , indicating that she must have originally worn a tall centurion helmet - as she would normally have been depicted - I'm certain she was an awe-inspiring sight !

(Mosaic depicting sea creatures)

(Roman deity from the Great Pediment at the temple entrance , with snake hair - Minerva was traditionally associated with Gorgons)

Some of the adjoining "treatment rooms" have quite low levels of light ; a fact which has been exploited to best advantage by the introduction of projected images on the walls in the Tepidarium (a cold plunge pool) The bottom of this pool twinkles from all the coins which have been thrown in ; something my son wanted to do too - he threw his coin in a glittering arc before it sunk right in the middle with a satisfying ploomp !

Tantalisingly there is probably the same area again (at least) hiding its Roman wonders under the buildings surrounding the Bath House , undiscovered , patiently waiting .
My son summed up our tour when he whispered as we walked round " Everybody should come here at least once in their life ."
Indeed they should .



Sunday, 17 August 2008

Back from holiday ....

I've been away for 2 weeks and so many things have happened in that time .... also we seem to have been all over the place ; from Norfolk to Bath !! It will take a while to sort out photos to share but I'll get it done soon :0)
I found out that Pollyanna didn't get the final Golden Teddy award , but I really wasn't too disappointed - I was just so honoured to have been "up there" as a nominee , and that feeling will stay with me a long time ! Also , I've been completely elated (and very grateful ) to find that some lovely people have been bidding on Coral ; she should raise a wonderful amount for China Bear Rescue - I was stunned to see the bids rise from £100 to £250 !!!! Although the auctions are all ongoing to the end of the month may I thank everyone , on behalf of the Moon Bears , who have visited the site .

The above picture is a teeny weeny little commission piece - a 2.5" hobby horse , in grey smokey Sassy Long Pile , who will be posted off to his new owner in the next few days .

Back again soon ,
Ruth x

Friday, 1 August 2008

Auction for China Bear Rescue

I just thought I would mention that Abracadabra Teddy Bears shop in Saffron Walden , Essex is running an online auction starting today to raise money for the China Bear Rescue charity . The aim of the charity is to release Asian Moon bears from situations of great suffering - they are kept in terrible conditions to harvest their bile for medicines - and to re-home them in sanctuaries where they can finally have safe and dignified lives of caring treatment .

This little 3" bear "Coral" was made to accompany my artist profile in Teddy Bear Scene ; originally the plan was for her to be a prize in a reader's write-in competition , which of course never took place ! I was left undecided about what to do with her - although she went with me to Stratford I wasn't even sure I wanted to sell her . I happened to find a link for the shop recently and when I read more about their sterling efforts in supporting the Moon bears I knew exactly what I should do ; they were calling for donations for the next auction .

There are 4 gallery pages of donated bears and other furries to browse and make bids on at the shop's website ; the auction will run throughout August - tiny little Coral appears on page 4.

If you are passionate about bears as I am (well , how can a bear artist not be ?? ) maybe you'll consider popping over to check out the auction , and details of this wonderful charity - just click the links I've included . As Marsha , the proprietor says ; even the smallest bid can make a difference !

T.T.F.N Ruth x