Ancient, awesome, Jane Austen’s Bath

Featured image: Tulips welcomed the rain more than I did on Tuesday during our visit to Bath, in County Somerset, UK.

Cornwall Cogitation 15/193 Saturday 13 April 2019 Past voices echo plaintively over Bath, UK.

Bath is a place to soak or soak up. We did the latter.

Bath’s most famous resident, Jane Austen (1775-1817), lived here for only five years (1801-1806), yet the city significantly influenced her life and writing. Her social commentary often pricked the foibles and pretensions of gentrified life.

I like Austen’s style in the first book she wrote, at age 15. It’s a 16-page pocketbook: The History of England by  a partial, prejudiced & ignorant Historian (1791). She begins the booklet with Henry the 4th who “ascended the throne of England much to his own satisfaction in the year 1399, having prevailed on his cousin & predecessor Richard the 2d, to resign it to him, & to retire to Pomfret Castle, where he happened to be murdered.”

The Jane Austen Centre duly celebrates her life and work.

Portrait sketch of Jane Austen.

Textile artist Linda Straw donated two wall hangings to the Jane Austen Centre, with characters from Pride and Prejudice. Straw combines applique, quilting and embroidery in her celebrated work.
Posing in the authentic Georgian/Regency period atmosphere at the Jane Austen Centre. “Georgian” refers to the time of any of the four kings of England called George, especially 1714-1830, with the Regency period, 1811-1820, a sub-period of the Georgian era. King George III became ill and incapable of ruling. The Regency Act allowed his son George Prince Regent to rule in the king’s stead, a plan that lasted until King George III died in 1820, whereupon the son became King George IV. All six of Jane Austen’s novels, Regency romances, were published during this period.
Jane Austen.

 

Roman Baths

Bath Abbey looms over the Roman Baths. The ancient Baths are the city’s main attraction, dating from the first century C.E. They are remarkably well-preserved, but no longer used. Mineral-rich water maintains a constant temperature of 46 degrees C. At the restored Thermae Bath Spa, and other locations, you can swim in natural thermal water, do steam rooms, and get massages and other treatments. We did not have room in our schedule to indulge in a swim.
In addition to the Baths, the Romans built the Temple of Sulis Minerva. Worth looking up online.

 

Bath Abbey

“In the 8th century after Christ, Bath Abbey was founded as a Benedictine monastery. Its community was committed to worshipping God, justice for the poor and hospitality to all people. the Abbey is now a parish church, still guided by the same values.” Welcome flyer

Bath Abbey is the city’s parish church, the present building completed in 1611. The Great East Window tells the story of Jesus in 56 scenes.
The West Window tells stories from the first five books of the Bible, including in the bottom panels God’s creation of Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark.

 

Sally Bunn’s Eating House 1680

A one-half Bunn of salt beef, pickle, salad and Sally Bunn blend tea made for a most satisfying savory lunch. Marty had a delicious cinnamon butter-topped half Bunn. Light, chewy, tasty, winners both sweet or savory.

 

Pulteney Bridge across River Avon

Pulteney Bridge across the River Avon, completed in 1773, is lined with shops. We crossed it to visit the Holburne Museum, called one of Britain’s great small museums with works by Gainsborough, Guardi, Stubbs and Turner. We saw a current exhibition by contemporary artist George Shaw. With a half-hour left after that visit we had just enough time to see the tiny Bath Postal Museum, located close to the spot where the world’s first stamped letter–bearing a Penny Black–was sent. The museum also tells the story of Ralph Allen who reformed Britain’s postal service and was a key figure in re-building Bath.

King George V (1911-1936) collected nearly all the stamps issued during his reign. He wanted to amass the best stamp collection in the world, not just one of the best. He passed the collection on to his son, King George VI, who subsequently issued it to the present Queen.

 

The Royal Crescent

The Royal Crescent overlooks an expansive green. Thirty terraced houses make up the complex. We visited No 1 Royal Crescent, home to Henry Sandford from 1776-1796. The treasures in the display cabinets “typify the 18th century’s obsession with recording knowledge through collecting,” according to the visitor booklet.

 

“Dessert was the high point of an elaborate Georgian dinner with expensive confectionery, displayed here on a fine Chamberlain Worcester dessert service.”
Intensive, stratified, dedicated labour supported the posh living standards of Georgian times.

What’s this? Two personal poses from Bath in the same blog? It’s our “We were there” stamp.

 

Photos from an outing a week ago (noted in last week’s blog)

Steve and Marilyn Bowden took us on a day trip to Trerice
Imagine preparing dinner and setting this table for company.
The Barn Restaurant at Trerice is famed for its lemon meringue pie. I can vouch for it.

Carnevas, site of the Bedruthan Steps

The large rock to the right of the photo is called Samaritan Island. Notice the size of the people on the beach to that of the rocks. The tide is coming in. The smaller rock farther to the right is Queen Bess Rock.
A big one over the fence in a field by the carpark at Carnewas.

 

Wrap

These days and weeks have been awesome. On Friday we finally did the walk from Penzance to Mousehole (Mouzel), tallying up 9.5 miles.

Today we get to visit Tregothnan, a private estate near Truro that opens its gates for two days a year in support of a charity. The charity is iSightcornwall, offering resources for people with visual impairments. Tregothnan grows a vast range of plants, including tea, flowers and trees. It manages the largest historic botanic garden in Cornwall, tracing back centuries to 1334.

Now I know: The reverse side of the Bank of England 10 Pounds note features the image of Jane Austen, with her quote, “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!”

-John

 

9 thoughts on “Ancient, awesome, Jane Austen’s Bath

  1. Friday morning Ginger and I flew over Cornwall on our way to Frankfurt and Prague. We saw Penzance and Truro on the Flight Info video screen! Soon we will leave Prague and take a week long cruise down the Danube River to Budapest. We enjoyed the photos you posted of Bath.

    Monty & Ginger

    Sent from a device smarter than myself!

    >

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    1. Wow, you two are on the go. Thanks for waving as you flew over. We’ll plan a travel gabfest come summer. Complete with a walk. Enjoy Prague.

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  2. It looks like you could have your own stamp with your very nice picture. Looks like a king and queen to me. I really enjoy seeing the pictures. Such beauty in our world.
    Kaye

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  3. It is always a delight to read your blog, and all the more while having a cup of tea and a cookie, on a wet Sunday afternoon in Elkhart! Blessings to you both John and Marty, Jim

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    1. Ah, Jim, I’ve put the kettle on a few times of late. So satisfying. Blessings to you and Sally as you prepare for next exciting steps.

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    1. Good going! Many paths to cross here–historic and current. You both can appreciate the quote from T.S.Elliot: “Only by accepting of the past, can you alter it.”

      Like

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