We are looking upon the Roman Baths building complex in the english city of Bath in Somerset. Where there was once a celtish centre of worship, then a roman thermae complex and later the King’s and Queen’s Baths, now we find the museum complex of the redeveloped Roman Baths.
From left to right we see the Bath Abbey, then the Entrance (a former concert hall) to the Roman Baths, the Grand Pump Room and finally to the right the colonnade separating the churchyard from the Stall Street behind. The street level buildings of the Roman Baths date back to the 18th and 19th century, while foundations, the Sacred Spring and parts of the Roman Temple and the Roman Bath House still date back to Roman times. In the 18th century architects John Wood, the Elder and John Wood, the Younger housed the spring in new neo-classical buildings.
The Concert Hall building now serving as an entrance to the Roman Baths was built in 1897 by J. M. Brydon. The Grand Pump Room dates back to 1789-1799 and was planned by Thomas Baldwin and John Palmer. Both buildings follow the neo-classic tradition established by Woods. The Facade of the Grand Pump Room is shaped by a centre piece of four engaged Corinthian columns with entablatures and pediment. The central gable also bears the Greek inscription “Ariston Men Hydor” or “Water is best”. The building houses an elegant 18th-century meeting room, where you can taste the hot spring’s healing waters from a gargoyle and dine in the restaurant. The fact that the hot water from the spring is pumped into this room explains the historical name Grand Pump Room – the water is also still used to heat the baths in winter. For hygienic reasons, it is no longer possible to bathe in the Roman baths; instead, the modern Thermae Bath Spa has been used since 2005.
On the left edge of the picture we see the front of Bath Abbey Church, which dates from a rebuilding in the 16th century and gives the square its name Churchyard.
Home to the only natural hot spring in england, the site of Bath was already a centre of worship to the celts, who dedicated the springs to the goddess Sulis. The romans later named the town Aquae Sulis, built a temple here in 60-70 AD and constructed the bathing complex over the next 300 years. After the Romans left Britain, the Baths fell into disrepair and were eventually lost due to flooding and silting up. In the 8th century the abandoned place supposedly became subject of the famous Anglo-Saxon poem “The Ruin”. Over the centuries the Baths have been redevolped several times and the King’s Bath and the Queen’s bath were the most notable structures errected atop the hot spring. The current structures were errected during the 18th and 19th century – during these developments the old Roman Baths were rediscovered and preserved to eventually develop into the museum complex that is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in the UK today.
Since 2021 the Roman Baths in Bath are part of the joint UNESCO world heritage site “Great Spa Towns of Europe”.