|850BC||Bladuds mythical Birth||1086||890|
|60||Romans arrive in Bath||1379||1025|
|577||Saxons capture Bath at Battle of Dyrham||1699||3000|
|676||Osric founds Monastry at Bath||1750||9000|
|818||Arthur defeats Saxons at Battle of Badon||1799||34160|
|973||King Edgar crowned in Bath Abbey||1851||43023|
|1066||Normans invade England||1901||49839|
|1086||Domesday book reveals Bath as largest town in Somerset||1911||69173|
|1088||Bath is laid to waste||1931||68815|
|1643||John De Villula buys City||1951||79294|
|1702||"Beau" Richard Nash arrives in Bath||1971||84670|
|1727||Minervas Head is found||1981||80771|
|1754||Circus is complete||2000||approx 85000|
|1791||Site of Roman temple discovered|
|1881||Great Bath and sacred spring unearthed|
|1942||Bath is bombed during World War 2|
|1964||Major excavation of Roman complex starts|
Bath was founded by Bladud, the eldest son of the legendary King Lud.
As a boy, Bladud contracted leprosy and was banished to Swainswick to become a pig farmer.
One day as he was watching his pigs, Bladud noticed that some of the pigs were rolling around in the thick mud and he went to take a closer look. The mud was hot, and he found that the marsh was fed by a bountiful hot spring. Noticing that the pigs scurvy had been cleared up by the mud, Bladud himself started to roll in it, smothering his whole body from head to foot. His leprosy soon disappeared. When he was clear he ran back in delight to his fathers court and in time was made King. In gratitude he built a temple by the hot spring and founded the city of Bath.
Although still mostly buried under magnificent Georgian streets, the Roman ruins in Bath are unsurpassed in Britain. About 2m below the present level of the city, the Romans started building their great baths and temple at the sacred spring soon after the Conquest, in the middle of the 1st Century AD. They named their city Aquae Sulis and soon transformed the Celtic druids grove into one of the major therapeutic centres of the West. The Romans revered the Spring just as the Celts had done; by the 3rd century its stunning temple and luxurious baths attracted pilgrims from throughout the Roman world.
Flooding finally ruined Bath wondrous temple and the Great Bath complex. Built in the slight hollow around the hot spring, the Baths and temple were particularly vulnerable to the rising water level of the 4th century AD. The baths drained into the River Avon, as they do today, and as the Avon’s level rose so river water increasingly backed up the drains until they were eventually blocked with mud and silt. When the Romans withdrew from Britain, the baths were simply not repaired and soon fell to ruin. Saxon Christians dismantled the sacrificial altar to use as paving stones for their new monastery. Before long the hot spring returned to marsh. The site of Minerva’s great temple became a dumping place for town refuse and, in later times, a Saxon graveyard.
Bath is well known for being the site of the legendary battle of Badon, which the Welsh annals say was the twelfth and greatest battle fought by Arthur against the invading Saxons. Known as the ‘Siege of Badon Hill’, the exact site of the battle was probably the refortified Celtic hillfort at Bannerdown, where farmers are reported to have apparently ‘dug up cupfuls of teeth’. The battle was at turning point for Arthur and Britain. By not only defeating but also reversing the initial aggressive thrust of the Saxons, Arthur may well have saved the Celtic population to the West. According to the great Dark Age historian Nennius ’960 men were killed by one attack of Arthur and no-one save himself laid them low’.
Bath’s population multiplied itself by well over ten times during the course of the 18th century. From a still small classic medieval city of just 2000 people, with its market place and many mangers and defensive walls, Bath was transformed into a fashionable metropolis of nearly 30,000 citizens in just 100 years.
Into the ‘decayed’ country town that was Bath at the start of the 18th century, walked the wigged adventurer and dandy ‘Beau’ Richard Nash. A drop-out from Oxford University, the army and the law, Beau Nash earned his money as a gambler and immaculate socialite. With Queen Anne’s visit to Bath in 1802 Beau Nash saw his chance to make fortune and influential friends. Immediately, Nash set about transporting Bath into the kind of fashionable resort in which his gambling skills would thrive. Within just three years he had raised a considerable sum of money for the repair of Bath’s woeful roads. Beau Nash and his great new city of pleasure and social elegance grew side by side. As Nash’s influence increased, Bath with its splendid new public buildings, orchestras and balls, began to rival London
as the place to be seen.
At Bath the River Avon crossed the Fosse Way and the major road from London to Wales. The Roman roads themselves followed great prehistoric routes that converged on the vital river-crossing at Bath. As well as connecting Bath with the great places of Roman Britain the Fosse Way provided the Romans with lead mined in the Mendip Hills to line their remarkable hot baths. The Avon was to prove vital to Bath’s great 18th century building boom. By improving its course to Bath, Ralph Allen was able to transport his huge blocks of quarried stone to the city. As the Industrial Revolution dawned, Allen’s Avon Navigation became the birthplace of the Kennet and Avon Canal. The 12m wide and 100 km long canal was an amazing engineering feat; its 79 locks took Bath’s cloth to London and the world. The canal was in turn replaced by Brunel’s Great Western Railway.
Like many of Somerset’s fast-changing cities and towns, Bath’s population was deeply divided in the years leading up the Civil War. It was a division based on social, economic and religious grounds. The local gentry joined with Bath’s merchants and cloth-makers in their revolt against the tax-raising whims and religious edicts of an aloof and Catholic king. The Royalists were determined to prevent the Puritans from dismantling the Church and State and to stop what they saw as extreme Puritan religious reforms. By the summer of 1643, two great rival armies occupied Somerset’s two Episcopal cities only twenty miles apart – the Royalist army had marched to Wells and the Puritans held Bath.
Although some of Bath’s manufacturers were engaged on wartime production, producing gun mountings, torpedo parts, aircraft propellers and other products for military use, German Intelligence had not identified Bath as a strategic target. Similarly, although the Admiralty had moved its entire warship design operation from London to Bath, the intelligence at the time thought that just a few high ranking staff officers had decamped to Bath and were staying in hotels. Thus Bath was officially “a lesser town without specific aiming points” and to maintain that fiction Bath was deliberately undefended, having neither a balloon barrage nor anti-aircraft guns. Hostile aircraft did fly over Bath, but usually on their way to other targets such as Bristol.