Wednesday, June 11, 2014

18th Century Vacation Destination...taking to the waters of Bath, England

Bath, England (per: Wikimeida Commons, public domain)
Now that the summer season has arrived, it’s vacation time here in America and in other places around the globe. I believe it’s called “on holiday” across the Pond in Great Britain. With a variety of activities and guests I, myself, am expecting over the next couple weeks, I will be taking a short (one week) vacation from my blogging once this week's post has published. 

So where did our 18th century ancestors spend their free time for rest and recreation? Of course many never had the luxury of taking time off from their daily toil but for those who did, especially those living in or near England, one of the first such destination spots was that of Bath (England, this time, not little Bath, North Carolina of which I wrote on May 7, 2014.)
Roman Bath in Bath, England (per: Wikimedia Commons public domain)

The town of Bath, England was blessed with natural hot springs and utilized as a place of healing all the way back to the times of the Roman occupation. Although known even earlier for its restorative qualities, the Romans built the first bath houses, as well as a temple, around AD60 and named the spa town, Aquae Sulis (“the waters of Sulis.”) Sulis was a Celtic goddess, referred to by the Romans as Sulis Minerva. This goddess was often asked to punish individuals who had stolen from others while at the baths. Stone tablets have been found with inscriptions imploring her help in such matters. One reads, "Docimedis has lost
Goddess Sulis Minerva at Bath ( per: Wikimedia Commons)
two gloves and asks that the thief responsible should lose their minds and eyes in the goddess' temple."

Over the years, many additional bath houses were constructed for the sick, lame, or just plain tired to “take the waters” for healing of mind and body. Once Anne, Queen of England, visited Bath in 1702, it became THE place to go on holiday. As might be expected, other recreational activities flourished along with the waters, especially those involving gambling, music, wining, dining, and dancing. 

A fairly epic poem, “A Description of Bath” was written in 1733 by Mary Chandler, a resident
             Princess Amelia of Great Britain, 1738, by Jean-Baptiste van Loo
of the town, expounding the attributes of Bath and dedicating the writing to Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II, after her time spent there. She was sickly as a child but was quite healthy as an adult, living to the age of seventy-five. (Not to be confused with Princess Amelia, daughter of King George III who, after years of various illnesses died at the age of twenty-seven.) In order that you may get a taste of how Bath was viewed by the people of the time, I have printed, below, several verses from Miss Chandler’s poem. At the end of this excerpt, the poet refers to a “wonderful machine” which was a new-fangled method of pulling rocks down from the mountains in order to use them in the making of more buildings for the town.

From “A Description of Bath” by Mary Chandler, 1733

…To sing the Town, where balmy Waters flow, 
To which AMELIA'S Health the Nations owe…
 Prior Park (Bath), 1750, Engraving by Anthony Walker

…Safe from the Ruin of a thousand Years
These salutary Streams alone can boast 
Their Virtues not in thrice five Ages lost. 
The floating Waters, from their hidden Source, 
Thro’ the same Strata keep unerring Course; 
The flowing Sulphur meets dissolving Steel,
And heat in Combat, till the Waters boil: 
United then, enrich the healing Stream, 
HEALTH to the Sick they give, and to the Waters, FAME…

…THE Min’ral Streams which from the BATHS arise, 
From noxious Vapours clear the neighb’ring Skies: 
When FEVERS bore an epidemic Sway,                                             
Bath inside Queen's Bath, 1806 Aquatint by J.C. Nattes
Unpeopled Towns, swept Villages away; 
While Death abroad dealt Terror, and Despair, 
The Plague but gently touch’d within their Sphere…

…BLEST Source of Health, seated on rising Ground, 
With friendly Hills by Nature guarded round;    

From Eastern Blasts, and sultry South secure; 
The Air’s balsamic, and the Soil is pure

…THE BATHS adjoining form two ample Squares, 
Around the Walls the Roman Art appears; 
Niches and Arches there the Bathers find,                                                  

Roman Bath, Bath, England (per: Wikimedia Commons)
A Shelter from the Rain, and blust’ring Wind. 
BLADUD himself sits Guardian of the Streams, 
Whose noble Virtues give them Royal Names…

…NOT far from hence, a Bath of gentler Heat, 
The tender Virgin finds a safe Retreat  
From Sights indecent, and from Speeches  lewd, 
Which dare not there, with Satyr-Face, intrude. 
Just in the midst a Marble Cross there stands, 
Which Popish Minds with pious Awe commands, 
Devoid itself of Powe’r to heal our Woes,

Yet, deck’d with monumental Crutches, shows 
What mighty Cures this wond’rous Pool has done, 
And these the Trophies from Diseases won… 

…The lovely Landscape, and the silent Stream, 
Inspire the Poet, and present the Theme.                                                  
Round the green Walk the River glides away,         
Where ‘midst Espaliers balmy  Zephyrs play,             
And fan the Leaves, and cool the scorching Ray:        
View the brown Shadows of yon pathless Wood; 
And craggy Hills, irregular and rude
 NATURE sports romantick:  Hence is seen
The new-made Road, and wonderful Machine,
Self-moving downward from the Mountain's Height,
A Rock its Burden of a Mountain's Weight...

Have a good (2) week(s), dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! 


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