Monday, 19 January 2015

Pump Room, Bath

Since Roman times Bath's and before hot mineral springs have been attracting  visitors. Under the influence of Ralph Allen, postmaster and mayor; John Wood, architect; and Beau Nash, fashion and social arbiter, Bath became the most fashionable city in England in the Georgian period (1714-1830). Royalty, aristocracy and commoners all bathed in the waters that Queen Anne had made fashionable by her visit.

 The original Pump Room built in 1706 was too small to cope with the increasing number of visitors. The present room 85' long, 46' wide and 34' high was built in 1796 to cope with the demand from the fashionable for a  place to see and be seen. During the excavations  many of the remains of the Roman Temple of Minerva were unearthed.

An orchestra played in the gallery while the throng below drank the obligatory water. (The gallery was reached by a ladder.) at the other end of room, in in the alcove, in a niche above the clock is a sculpture  of Beau Nash, Master of Ceremonies in Bath.So great was his success that it has been said that two things in particular transformed Bath, the hot springs that pumped out a quarter of a million gallons of water every day and Beau Nash. The legendary gambler and socialite used his position to promote his love of gambling to the idle rich who needed to fill their days after taking the waters early every morning.

As Master of Ceremonies Beau Nash organised the balls,dances and other social functions and took responsibility for their smooth running. He awarded himself the title "King of Bath". He dressed for the part and led fashionable society with his elegant style. He advocated greater social integration of the classes. In Bath he established a code of conduct for behavior in public places, which relaxed the social conventions that still prevented integration elsewhere.

Visitors flocked the Pump Room everyday from 8am or 9am until 3pm, parading around the room taking the waters. Queen Charlotte was conveyed to the Pump Room, by sedan chair, everyday that she was in Bath.

But the Pump Room's most famous visitors were fictitious, Catherine Morland who visited the Pump Room with her benefactors, the Allens in Jane Austen's novel 'Northangar Abbey'.

"With more than usual eagerness did Catherine hasten to the Pump-room the next day, secure within herself of seeing Mr Tilney there before the morning were over, and ready to meet him with a smile;- but no smile was demanded- Mr Tilney did not appear. Every creature in Bath, except himself, were to be seen in the room at different periods during the fashionable hours, crowds of people were every moment passing in and out, up the steps and down; people whom nobody cared about, and nobody wanted to see; and only he was absent. "What a delightful place Bath is" said Mrs Allen as they sat down near the great clock, after parading the room till they were tired, "and how pleasant it would be if we had any acquaintance here."