Festivals of Bath – Jane Austen Festival 2015

Jane Austen is BIG in Bath. Wherever you go there’s some reference to the writer and if you love the two books she set in the city (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion) then you’ll also be aware of many sights that would have been familiar to Jane, even now.

Free Smartphone App Available for Jane Austen Fans

Jane Austen portrait

Austen has more connections with the city than you may first think. Her mother, Cassandra Leigh was from a well-known Bath family, and when she married the Reverend George Austen, she did so at St Swithun’s Church, Walcot, Bath in 1764 (and where George was later buried).

Though Austen herself had grown up in Hampshire (born 1775 – the same year that the Royal Crescent in Bath was completed), the family visited her mother’s relations in the city, firstly in 1799, when they stayed in Queen’s Square.

Queen Square, Bath

Queen Square, Bath

It is widely recorded that Jane didn’t think much of Bath personally, but this was, in my opinion, because of two important incidents in her life. Firstly, her father’s decision to up and move them away from the familiar surroundings of Steventon into the bustling city was probably quite a wrench for a country girl like Jane. It’s one thing to visit a city, another to live there. Secondly, it was in Bath that her father sadly passed away in 1805 leaving the family in dire straits. No wonder Jane did not view Bath as pleasingly as the many visitors to the city regard it today.

However much Jane herself disliked the city, she evokes late 18th and early 19th Century life here, with much colour and vivacity. It is for this she is remembered in Bath and is the reason for the wonderful Jane Austen Festival that takes place annually.


This year’s festival occurs from Friday 11th September until Sunday 20th September and is ten days packed full of Regency fun and activities.

You can enjoy walking tours, coach trips and workshops to learn to dance, play the harp or even create your own bonnet. Recitals, film shows, plays and a Festival Fayre are all to look forward to as well. From breakfast until dinner there is something on for all you Austen fans.

Grand Regency Promenade

Grand Regency Promenade

The most famous part of the Jane Austen Festival is the spectacular Grand Regency Costumed Promenade, that starts from 11am at the Assembly Rooms on Saturday 12th September, and wends its way through the city. Hear the drummers and pipers play and watch the ladies and gentlemen of fashion promenade through the streets as they once did 200 years ago.

Last year’s Grand Promenade actually broke the Guinness World Record for most Regency costumed participants – 550 in total walking through Bath. What a sight! You too can join in if you want to. Participants must sign up and pay £10 (which goes towards the Festival’s Charity), plus bring their own costume to wear. All entrants must begin assembling at 10.30am outside the Assembly Rooms. The Promenade begins at 11am sharp, and you don’t want to be late!


Of course you can still walk about and enjoy the city Jane Austen knew at any time of year. Immerse yourself in her world at The Jane Austen Museum in Gay Street, a street where she once actually lived. You can also walk around to other locations where she and her family once resided, such as on The Paragon at the home of her aunt and uncle, the Leigh-Perrot’s. You can see the plaque to Jane at the house she lived in for three years at Sydney Place, and step into the ballroom at the stunning Assembly Rooms where she once danced.

Bath Assembly Rooms - Tea Room

Bath Assembly Rooms – Tea Room

If you’re looking for accommodation for this year’s Jane Austen Festival, then hurry and book your room soon. Many of our guests book year upon year to stay at The Bailbrook Lodge, and you can understand why when they can enjoy an historic setting (alas we are a few years out to have been known by Jane but we are still an early 19th Century Grade II listed building), beautiful garden, FREE parking, en-suite rooms and a delicious home cooked breakfast every day, accompanied by champagne!


Prices start from as little as £89.00 per room per night, with free parking and champagne breakfast. You can upgrade your room to one of our Four Poster luxury bedrooms from as little as £20 per night, simply ask at the time of booking.

Call us today on 01225 859090 or book via our website for the best deals online. We look forward to welcoming you to Bath and for the Jane Austen Festival 2015.


Summer Holidays

“School’s out for Summer!” as Alice Cooper once sang, but one thing Cooper hadn’t thought of was how to keep the kids occupied during those long six weeks.


Well, fear not, we’ve come up with a few different ideas for all the family to enjoy on a trip to Bath this summer holidays. Here’s some of our top picks.

* Mamma Mia by Moonlight – in aid of the Forever Friends Appeal at the R.U.H., this annual outdoors film showing is a popular and fun event that everyone can enjoy. With this year’s film being the huge hit – Mamma Mia (PG). This fun filled film about a girl seeking her real father, set on the beautiful Greek islands, uses the soundtrack of the fantastic music of ABBA. There will be plenty of opportunity for you all to dance and sing along while you are watching. Bring a rug, picnic, and of course your friends!  [Sunday August 30th, 8.30pm, FREE , Victoria Park]

MammaMia Movie

* Italian Job Stunt Show – watch the thrill and excitement of that beloved of British cars, the Mini, race around the track at Haynes International Motor Museum. Russ Swift returns with his Mini Stunt Show this summer to wow the crowds with spectacular driving and daring stunts. Swift has travelled the world with his displays, and holds three Guinness World Records for his driving prowess. [Wednesday August 26th, All Day, ADMISSION CHARGE, Yeovil]


* Cock & Bull Festival – With The Correspondents headlining this year’s festival, the Cock & Bull Fest at Jamie’s Farm, near Bath, is now in its fourth rocking year! With tents filled with live music, cookery demonstrations, workshops for everything from costume making to wood carving, lively debates and talks, plus plenty of holistic activities to enjoy, this family fun festival is a hidden secret in the heart of the countryside. [Friday 24th to Sunday 26th July, Weekend, ADMISSION CHARGE – FROM £30, Ditteridge]


* Shakespeare in the Garden – revel in the genius of Shakespeare in an unlikely setting – a pub beer garden! At The Boater pub in the heart of the city, you can watch Permanently Bard perform the classic tragic love story, Romeo & Juliet. Apart from quaffing tankards of ale (soft drinks for the little ones!) during the play, the pub is also bringing back ye olde Elizabethan food baskets for you to tuck into. [Monday 3rd and Tuesday 4th August, 7.30pm, TICKETS FROM £12.50, Argyle Street]


* Medieval Food, Feasting & Fun – for something a little bit different this school holidays, why not head along to Ora Et Labora, set within what would have been the Medieval Abbey’s cloisters. Here children can enjoy fun activities such as pebble painting, candle making, brass rubbing or trying their hand at quill and ink. There are also free medieval city trails that you can pick up here. Follow the clues and claim your prize! For adults, you can enjoy mead tastings, after which the whole family can sit down and enjoy a medieval sample platter. [Children’s Activities, every MONDAY, 20th July to 31st August. Family Lunch Platters, every Wednesday 12-2pm. CHARGE. Booking Recommended. Church Street]


* Falconry Handling and Lunch – Enjoy an afternoon of handling birds of prey in the stunning setting of Ston Easton Park, near Bath. After a delicious lunch at the hotel’s restaurant, you then settle down to learn about the majestic birds of prey that you will soon be handling and watching being flown. You’ll be tasked with setting a hawk to flight, and experience the thrill of it returning to your outstretched glove. Everyone will also be treated to a spectacular flying display by different birds of prey. A day you won’t forget in a hurry. [Thursday August 20th, 12pm, PRICES FROM £29.50 (inc lunch), Ston Easton]


* Children’s Afternoon Tea – don’t leave the children out when you want to have a break and a cuppa! At the stunning Pump Rooms in Bath, children can enjoy their own Afternoon Tea alongside the grown up version. Served on a tiered stand, they can enjoy either a cheese or ham sandwich, chocolate cupcake with sweets, plus a jelly shot. To drink they can have apple juice or hot chocolate.[Throughout July and August, FROM £7.95, BOOKING ESSENTIAL . Next to Bath Abbey]


There are of course the regular Summer Holiday Children’s Activities at the many Museums and Galleries throughout the city, including at The Holburne Museum, The Roman Baths and at The American Museum. Bath will also welcome back the many musicians and singers to the annual Folk Festival (8th to 16th August) which will take place at various venues throughout the city.


After a few weeks keeping the children occupied, don’t forget to give yourself some down time as well! Why not book one of our fantastic Spa Breaks, from only £125pp, and enjoy not only 2 nights of sleep in one of our comfortable en-suite bedrooms but also enjoy a champagne breakfast every day, and a visit to the Thermae Bath Spa where you can relax in those warming spring waters. The Spa has many treatments you can add on to your Spa experience, so you can really truly relax away from the kids! And don’t worry; if you’ve had to bring the little ones with you, remember you can book a Norland Nanny to come look after them at Bailbrook Lodge, while you enjoy your pampering.

For further information about What’s On this Summer Holidays, please take a look here.

(Please note all information and prices were correct as at time of writing. Please check with all businesses for details and to book)

Finding the perfect gift for Father’s Day

Father’s Day is nearly upon us (Sunday, 21st June if you didn’t realise), and we thought we’d help you out and do some of the hard work for you in trying to find a gift for that important man in your life – your dad.

Bath isn’t just about the ladies’ shops, there are also a vast number of shops perfect for men in the city; the majority of which are independently run and have some great goods that could be perfect for dad this June.

For the book lover, may we suggest taking a stroll towards Bath Spa Train Station and popping into the wonder and delight that is George Bayntun’s on Manvers Street. Here in this wonderful bookshop and bindery you’ll find some great reading material that any dad would love to own.

With the new James Bond movie, Spectre, due for release this year, let dad settle down with one of the classic Ian Fleming’ stories. The Man with the Golden Gun (First Edition) is £295, Dr No  is £35, and You Only Live Twice (First Edition) is £175.


If he remembers the boy’s own hero of James “Biggles” Bigglesworth from the 1950s and 1960s then Bayntun’s sell a selection of these novels, priced from only £5. Whereas if his humour is a bit more off the wall, they have a Spike Milligan First Edition set for £450.


Finally, if you want to treat him to his very own leather bound and hand tooled in house copy of William Golding’s , Lord of the Flies, so he can re-read as a “big-un” the adventures of Piggy and Ralph, then you can splash out £1,200 on such a treat.


There are plenty more books, as well as maps and prints, for all price ranges, available at Bayntun’s, and the staff will be happy to show you more if your father has specific tastes or authors works he collects.

For the man who likes something a little quirky and different, head to Ora Et Labora near the Abbey, where you’ll find a plethora of goods made by monastic communities around the world. New in are these fantastic drinking horns, made out of Highland cattle and Deer horn. Some are highly polished, others are in a more natural state, but all are beautiful to behold and come included with horn holder. Prices start from £34.


You can also pick up something to fill the horn while you’re here. The perfect match for a medieval drinking horn is some monastic beer. There is a gift set from Ampleforth Abbey in Yorkshire, containing 2 beers and a glass for £12.50, or maybe some Belgian Trappist beer. The Chimay gift packs cost £15 for 3 bottles.

If drinking tastes are a little different, then Cornish mead gift packs are available at £17.50 or dad can enjoy a Cider pack for £17.50 which includes 2 glasses and a large 75cl bottle of cider.


To ensure he doesn’t go hungry, Ora et Labora currently are running a special cheese and preserve offer, whereby if you purchase 2 of their fantastic cheeses you will also get a fig and orange preserve, all for only £20.00.


If your father is more of an inscriber than an imbiber, then these beautifully handcrafted Italian leather journals and wallets may be more for him. Wallets start from £22 each and from £25 for journals.

Not every chap these days is seen sporting the smoking look, but Frederick Tranter‘s Havana House, opposite Ora et Labora, is the ultimate mecca for those who still like to partake in the occasional puff. They sell a myriad of tobacco types for hand rolling, fine cigars and their accoutrements, plus pipes and snuff too.


For the whisky connoisseur you can’t go too wrong with checking out the fine selection that Independent Spirit have tucked away in their back room. Carefully selected by Chris and Christian, these boys really know their stuff, and recommend a rather tasty limited edition single Malt from Craigellachie distillery as a special Father’s Day treat. Only 725 bottles of this 8 year old Carn Mor whisky has been produced, and at the fantastic price of £38.95 it’s perfect for the whisky lover.


Independent Spirit also recommend Scallywagg and Timorous Beastie as unusual tipples for dad this Father’s Day (£45.95 and £43.95 respectively).

If dad’s not a whisky man, then maybe something different.  Forget about Mother’s Ruin and make it Father’s Fancy with this rather funky bottle of Daffy’s Gin, retailing at £36.95 in the shop. There is also a huge selection of beers, beer gift packs, wines and other delights just waiting for you in their shop of whistle wetting wonders, so stop on by to see what they have.


If you want to sober up the occasion, and dad fancies himself more as a Brian May rather than a James May, then head on over to Queen Street, where you will find Vintage & Rare Guitars. Over two floors of 20 different brands, spanning at least sixty years, you will surely find your dad’s stairway to heaven! Prices start from a few hundred up to many thousands.


If retro knick knacks and accessories are more appealing as a gift, make your way to Bloomsbury on New Bond Street where you will find cufflinks, luggage tags, notebooks, mugs and toiletries, perfect for your pappa.

If you think he’d like to relive his days as a Cub Scout, then perhaps the Victorinox Climber Swiss Army Knife (£37) would be a great idea. However, if he’s more the suited and booted type then Bloomsbury have some wonderful quirky cufflinks in store, such as Paul Smith Rugby ball links (£85).


Send him off to work with his very own Gentlemen’s Hardware Lunch Tin (£15.95), and maybe slip him a cheeky hip flask, like the Ted Baker Stag Hip Flask (£27.95). There are plenty more fun and fancy gifts to be found in the Bloomsbury store, just ask the friendly staff.


If your designer dad enjoys the finer things in life but your budget doesn’t quite stretch as far as “off the peg”, then look no further than the fantastic Grace & Ted. Located in Kingsmead Square, this stunning boutique is not just for the girls. It has a men’s section crammed full of designer shirts, jeans, suits and shoes, all at fantastic prices. Everything is pre-loved, so prices on these designer items are more affordable. Some aren’t even pre-worn so you really can grab a bargain… but “shhh”, don’t tell dad!


Accessories galore can also be found here, from cufflinks to cravats, but the lovely ladies behind Grace&Ted pulled out these two rather dapper summer essentials for preening pops – a Prada holdall (£350) and Prada sunglasses (£60). Now who’s the Daddy?

For your rugby loving father, why not buy him a ticket to the Bath RFC’s 150th Anniversary Festival taking place at Lambridge Training Ground on Saturday 27th June. There’s going to be a Bath Ales beer tent, BBQ and hog roast, games, and a Great British Bake Off style cake competition. Plus a West country celebration wouldn’t be the same without a bit of west country music, and there will be live bands, including The Mangled Wurzels. Early bird tickets are only £7 per adult (Family Ticket of 2 adults and 2 children is £20).


Finally, for those foodie fathers, what better way to treat him this Father’s Day than to a delicious homemade Sunday roast. With three meats to select from, served with vegetables and all the trimmings, and at only £8.95 a head, the roast at the Brasserie Brunel, located in the centre of Bath, is the perfect choice. But be quick and book your table before they get filled up, on (+44) 1225 463134.


If you fancy treating him to a meal out during the week, then Loyalty Card holders (both from here at Bailbrook Lodge, and at The Royal Hotel) can enjoy a fantastic Steak & Wine deal at the Brasserie Brunel, during June, exclusive to card holders. You can pick up your Loyalty Card for free from either hotel, or you can complete the form online. You can start saving money as soon as you use it too, so not only do you save the pennies but you also access some fantastic exclusive offers!

So, if you’ve been rubbing your head wondering what to get dad this year, then maybe try something different than the usual socks and aftershave and treat him to a gift from one of the many splendid independent shops that we have in Bath.

Wishing every dad, a very Happy Father’s Day!



Focus on Bath – Thermae Bath Spa

You can’t avoid water in Bath. Even its name implies the liquid! The name of the “Avon”, the river that flows through the city, actually means “River”, the station is called “Bath Spa”, the Roman Baths have been designated the 29th most popular UK Visitor Attraction 2015 (according to Visit Britain) and the Romans originally named the settlement Aquae Sulis – meaning the waters of Sulis. So, naturally when the council were considering ways to celebrate the Millennium in 2000, a water theme was a natural choice.


Until the late 1970s the public could still swim in the natural spring waters, just as their forebears had done for over 1,000 years. After the baths were closed due to the tragic death of a child from a strain of bacteria found in the waters, the idea of re-opening them was mooted over the decades. Over 1 million litres of water flow from the natural springs every day, and none of it was being utilised until the Bath Spa Project began looking at creating a new bath complex for the year 2000.

In the 1980s the Thermal Research Project had drilled down and found a supply of clean water that could be used, kickstarting interest again. In fact, the Thermae Bath Spa draws water from three springs – the King’s Spring under Stall Street, the Cross Bath, and the Hetling Spring.


As the project took longer than expected and was over budget, it wasn’t until 2006 that the Thermae Bath Spa opened its doors. It was worth the wait and the £40 million cost.

Designed by Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners (architects of The Eden Project in Cornwall, Pulkovo Airport in Russia, and Southern Cross Station in Melbourne, Australia) they have used a mix of natural Bath stone (from local Limpley Stoke quarries) and glass, wrapping around the historic baths already on the site, and incorporating them sympathetically into the structure.


With the 10 year anniversary of its opening only a year away, and having never personally experienced the baths, it was a real treat to go to the Thermae Bath Spa and enjoy what thousands of tourists and locals have for the past nine years.

Starting my tour, I began at the separate Cross Bath, which can be seen at the end of Bath Street. This Grade I listed building, built in 1789 by Thomas Baldwin, lies on the site of an original medieval bath. In fact, underneath the current pool is the original pool floor. When designing the new Spa the architects were up against strict historic protection orders, but despite these limitations they have been able to blend in modern facilities without one really noticing. Glass panels disappear into cracks that were already in the stone work, and where the original changing area was, doors and a roof have been added.


The Cross Bath is directly fed by its own spring which can be seen naturally bubbling up into a water feature especially created a the edge of the pool. The water is not pumped up and is a constant 46oC, but through filtration the water is cooled to 35oC so that it is more pleasant to bathe in. This bath is hired separately from the main baths and is great if you want to have exclusive use of the spring waters and a private bathing area.


Walking from the Cross Bath to the main entrance of the Thermae Bath Spa you are faced with a wall of glass, but to the side you have the magnificent Hot Bath building and Number eight Bath Street. Number eight can be easily recognised as it’s a small 3 storey town house with 2 statues above the front door. Their heads are missing, but the statues are said to represent King Edgar, the first King of England who was crowned here in Bath in 973AD, and another King, possibly Osric or Bladud. These statues came from the original 17th Century Guildhall.


Entering the Spa you are welcomed by friendly staff and given an electronic wrist band which allows you to enter and exit the complex. It also controls your locker and can be used in the restaurant to add food and drink to your bill. Here you are also handed a towel, a robe and slippers to use inside.

Interestingly the locker rooms are on a completely separate level to the shower rooms and baths, but it does mean that no one is walking dirty shoes through the shower room areas. The complex in fact is kept clean and tidy by a plethora of staff who quietly go about their duties seamlessly.

A tip on using the lockers – although there are instructions on how to use, I did find it helped to hold your locker shut and then press the wristband against the electronic pad for as long as needed until the display flashes that the locker is shut. It’s very easy to remove your wristband too quickly and find the locker has popped open again.

Although the toilets are segregated, be aware that the changing rooms and shower rooms at the Spa are communal, but I found everyone was very discreet. There are private changing booths you can use to get changed in as well.

The varying levels and facilities are accessed by stairs, ramps or lifts, and everything is signposted clearly. I still found myself making a wrong turn here and there, but there were plenty of staff about to ask.

The main thing that surprised me was the lack of noise. Children under 16 years old are not permitted in the Spa, and I soon found myself relaxing into the peace and tranquility of the setting. This certainly contrasts with the streets teeming with tourists and school groups outside!

It is also odd wandering everywhere wearing just a swimming costume and robe, but then you soon realise that everyone else is the same, and you forget about it quickly. In fact it soon becomes strange when you see someone, like a member of staff, fully dressed!

Minerva Bath2-Dave Saunders_reduced

The first bath you come to is the large Minerva pool (named after the Goddess Minerva whose bronze head was discovered in the 18th Century on the site of a Roman Temple dedicated to her in nearby Stall Street). For those of you who may have learnt to swim here many years ago, this is the site of the old 1920s Beau Street swimming baths. Today, the Minerva pool is a wonderful and tranquil mix of wood, stone and glass. Four large white pillars hold up a Bath stone cube, but you don’t feel oppressed by it. In fact the surrounding glass adds a vastness to the pool area, and it feels light and airy.

Stepping into the spring waters for the first time you’re enveloped by the pleasant warmth, and you instantly begin to feel relaxed. The waters here are a few degrees lower than the Cross Bath outside, but remain a constant 33.5oC.


After the initial warmth, I was struck also by the lack of smell. Having tasted the waters in the Pump Room, I know that sulphur is a component of Bath Spa water. However, it appears that this mineral has been filtered out (along with Iron), or certainly the smell had. The filtration process ensures that there are no bacteria build ups, and the waters still contain over 40 naturally occurring minerals, even after filtration.

Remember this is not a swimming pool as such. Relaxation is the aim of these baths, not doing lengths. Most people were using foam rollers to aid their floatation, and there was a delightful current that gently swept bathers along behind the Jacuzzi area. You could also enjoy an invigorating jet stream of water that shot out intermittently, like a giant waterfall. This was great for pummelling away knots in your shoulders and neck if you stood underneath it.


Through a glass wall adjacent to the Minerva bath you can enter the treatment room area and the Hot Bath. The Hot Bath was built around 1777 by John Wood the Younger, and adapted by G P Manners in 1831. It is used for the Spa’s signature treatment – Watsu, or water shiatsu. This treatment is for a maximum of two people at a time, and looked wonderfully relaxing.

The twelve treatment rooms surrounding this bath offer a range of massages, facials, body wraps and other treatments to further add to your pampering experience; but must be booked in advance of your visit.


Moving up a floor I entered the Steam Room and Waterfall area. A wall of steam met me as a I opened the double doors and entered the large room. It looked like the Transporter room from Star Trek, with four separate glass walled pods situated around a central shower area. However, instead of beaming people up, this was where water cascaded down on the public at varying speeds and temperatures after their turn in the steam room pods.

The essences used in the steam rooms vary regularly and seasonally. While I was there I enjoyed cleansing Euco Menthol, Lemongrass and Ginger, Sandalwood, and the fragrant Lotus Flower. The stone benches inside the pods can be hot to sit on, but you don’t have to spend too long in each room to feel the benefits on your skin and in your lungs.

Steam Rooms1_reduced

After the steam rooms you could either wander around on the terrace outside, relaxing on the wicker chairs and loungers, or you can make your way up to the final bath, the spectacular roof top pool! From here you can view Bath from a totally different perspective. Protected by other buildings the Thermae Bath Spa is quite hidden from view, yet from it you can view the rooftops of the city, look into nearby courtyards, stare at the pinnacles of Bath Abbey, and observe the green hills of the surrounding countryside. Stepping once again into the warm waters this pool, like the Minerva pool, contains neck massage jets, air benches to sit on, and a bubbling Jacuzzi area.


The roof top pool was the busiest pool, unsurprisingly. But it didn’t distract from the relaxing experience. However, if you want to avoid the main crowds it is best to get here as soon as the Spa opens, or enjoy the rooftop terrace at twilight. It is not always possible when on holiday to avoid weekends, but Tuesdays and Wednesdays are often quieter too, and would be a better time to head here.

It was surprising how so much relaxing can build up an appetite. After I had changed I chose to sample the delights of the Springs Cafe Restaurant, located on the first floor of the Spa. Many people were still in their robes while dining, so you can choose whether you change beforehand. This room was light and fresh with some great contemporary chandeliers and art work that blended in and matched the overall Spa theme of curves, water and light.


On the menu was a seasonal selection of light bites, sandwiches, as well as main meals and desserts; plus a vast array of drinks. You could choose from cleansing smoothies to decadent champagne, there was something for everyone to enjoy.

To start with I chose some warm foccacia bread with cream cheese, followed by mushroom pasta which was not overly creamy and had big tubes of rigatoni pasta. A refreshing glass of champagne pepped me up, while I also sampled one of the Spa’s fresh fruit smoothies. When you’re bathing you forget that the combined heat and minerals will dehydrate you. There are plenty of water fountains you can drink from on all levels in the Spa, but it was good to top up in the restaurant as well.


Being too full for pudding, even though the homemade cakes looked very tempting, I opted to end the meal with a hot chocolate. This came served to me with a bit size sample of sticky toffee pudding that just rounded the meal off perfectly.

Stumbling back into the bright sunshine after my wonderful relax and lunch, I took a walk over to the Hetling Pump Rooms, directly opposite the main Spa complex and to the left of the Cross Bath. Here, in another historic building, this time dating to 1718, there is a small exhibition about the history of the springs, the history of bathing, details about the original baths, as well as the Thermae Bath Spa project. This exhibition is free, but you can also pay to use a hand set (cost £10) to listen to further information or to listen in another language.


Around the corner from the museum, within the same building, is the main Spa shop. Here you can purchase some of the products used in the treatments at the Spa, along with small souvenirs of Bath. The staff in here were very helpful and great at recommending products for all sorts of requirements – from skin problems to insomnia.


The Thermae Bath Spa is more than just a series of baths, is is an all round experience. Whether you choose to just enjoy the waters, or add a treatment and dining on top, you will certainly come out feeling calmer and more relaxed.

Although the Spa cannot advocate that the minerals will help or heal any medical issues, the general ambiance and warmth of the waters certainly creates an holistic experience, and I certainly found that I slept well that night!

Bath can truly live up to its name again with the Thermae Bath Spa at its heart.

Spa Breaks are available from Bailbrook Lodge from only £125 per person, for 2 nights bed and champagne breakfast, and includes a 2 or 3 hour visit to the Thermae Bath Spa, PLUS a 3 course lunch or early evening dinner at Brasserie Brunel in the heart of Bath.

For further information about our Spa breaks, incuding upgrades to Four Poster bedrooms, please call us on (+44)1225 859090 or email hotel@bailbrooklodge.co.uk

With many thanks to Charlotte Hanna and Thermae Bath Spa. Images courtesy of and copyright of Thermae Bath Spa, and Catherine Pitt.


Musical May – Bath International Music Festival

Established in 1948, Bath International Music Festival is now in its 67th year and stronger than ever. This year it runs from Friday 15th May to Tuesday 26th May.


The popular festival, sees the city come alive with music from nearly 2000 performers over its 12 day run. From classical, jazz, folk and world music, musicians and orchestras congregate on Bath from all around the world.


The Festival kicks off with the well loved Party in the City with an opening procession and free music throughout the evening over 43 venues, plus out and about on the streets of Bath. It’s not to be missed. Enjoy street performers, gospel choirs, and even an 8 metre long Disco dancing Turtle! You can even sample some unusual drinks while the music plays, as Ora Et Labora are inviting you to discover the wonderful honey drink of Mead with their specially created Mead cocktails during Party in the City.

Once again the Party is joined by the fantastic Museums at Night celebrations, when many of the city’s popular Museums are open after hours for exploration and special exhibitions and talks.

Sally Lunns Restaurant Oldest House in Bath at Night in Bath Somerset England

The fun doesn’t just stop after Friday. You don’t have to have tickets to events to enjoy Bath International Music Festival as there will be free music on the Bandstand in the Parade Gardens the weekend of 16th and 17th May. Plus, a free family Music Day on Sunday 24th May.

We can’t wait to see the city buzzing and alive with all that music!


To ensure you have your accommodation sorted during the Bath Music Festival, please call us on 01225 859090. The best deals are obtained direct with the hotel, so please call us, book directly via our website, or email us at hotel@bailbrooklodge.co.uk

Focus on Bath – The Norland Nannies

You may have seen some of the pupils of this College walking to and from the main premises along London Road. Wrapped up in their wool and cashmere brown coats, with their hats perched on their heads, gloves on and laced up brown shoes, they are a distinctive sight in Bath.

It’s tempting not to make comparisons with children’s film favourites Nanny McPhee or Mary Poppins. In fact there are distinct similarities in what they wear – with Julie Andrews’ hat and gloves, and Emma Thompson’s sensible shoes. However, there is more than something magical about these people. These are the impeccably trained Norland Nannies, considered the best in the business.


These nannies expect the unexpected and are prepared for all different circumstances when it comes to Early Years childcare. Norland’s motto is “Love Never Faileth” but after you’ve read this article, probably Lord Baden Powell’s motto for the Scout and Guiding movement, “Be Prepared,” is a more fitting phrase for the hard working Norland Nannies.


It may feel as if Norland College has been in Bath for decades. It certainly seems as if the Norland Nannies are part of the fabric of the city. However, it may surprise you to know that Norland College only moved to Bath in 2003 having previously been located at Denford Park, Berkshire, and before that, in and around London.

Their main premises today are located in what was once the home of Prince Frederick, Duke of York, second son to King George III. It is a Grade II listed building, and as with a listed building, the planning restrictions in place mean it retains its quirky nature despite its modern use. Thus, the narrow staircases and basement servant rooms still remain, but every space has been utilised efficiently and to its full potential by the college.


The property is actually larger than it looks, with the arched cellar space used for practical activities such as nappy changing, and creating children’s activities. The College also rent office space across the road for their sewing classes, and use St Mark’s School’s kitchen for Home Economic lessons.

Norland College was the brainchild of a lady called Emily Ward in the 19th Century, who recognised the need for formally qualified nannies. Prior to this, childcare was the responsibility of “untutored” housemaids, or governesses. Ward chose to set up her training school in premises at Norland Place, London, in 1892 and soon the School became known by the moniker “Norland College”.


Emily Ward

The location may have changed over the years, but the principles behind the training of Norland Nannies remain firmly based on the principles of Froeble. Friedrich Froeble (1782-1952) was a German educator who recognised that the first learning experiences of children can influence their own personal development both mentally and physically, as well as impacting on society as a whole.

Froeble was considered a radical, but despite opposition from his own government he set up the first kindergartens in his country which involved play, games and the natural world. His ideas soon spread with the first English kindergarten opening in London in the 1850s. Emily Ward was an advocate of Froeble’s ideas, and thus it became part of the foundation of Norland’s teachings.

Norland College believes every child is unique in its needs and capabilities and thus at the College the nannies are trained to adapt their practice in line with the family they are working for. They learn how to be prepared, to be able to adapt and be flexible, to ever changing and developing situations as their charges develop and grow.

It may interest you to know, that even in the 21st Century, Nannies are not regulated. There are no government requirements for someone to practice as a nanny and no Ofsted as you get in schools.


Norland College is the only training institute for nannies that offers a 3 year Degree in Early Years Childcare (validated by the University of Gloucestershire). The students then complete a fourth year on a paid placement, after which the graduates are awarded with their Degree and the highly sought after Norland Diploma. The College follows the Government and NHS guidelines on Early Years Childcare closely. This is what makes Norland College so unique and outshines other organisations.

The process in becoming a Norland Nanny is certainly an experience, as I was to discover when I visited the College in March.


If you wanted to become a Norland Nanny, you first have to apply via UCAS, and then wait to be invited for interview. There isn’t an upper age limit to becoming a Norland Nanny, and they welcome students from all over Europe. You don’t have to be from a private school or privileged background. There is about a 50/50 split in applicants and those who go on to become students.

Don’t think that becoming a Nanny is only for women, either. Men are welcome to apply, and one has even trained and become a male Norlander (the name for fully qualified Norland Nannies), so you wouldn’t be the first if you chaps out there did decide to go down the Early Years route.

According to the College, it’s good to have previous experience with young children and babies, and get as much as you can from family and friends before you even think of applying. A natural enthusiasm and willingness to work hard is also looked for in a Norland Nanny applicant.


Once the interview has been passed and a place on the course has been offered, then the hard work begins. Unlike many Colleges or Universities, students at Norland College don’t have mornings or days off to laze in bed before lectures. They’ll be expected at College Monday to Thursday every week, 9am to 4.30pm. Friday’s are set aside for independent studies, guest lectures and independent training. When I visited on a Friday there were students arriving for a guest lecture, and others busily writing away in the Student Common Room downstairs.

As a Norland student they are also expected to take up placements for up to 6 weeks at a time regularly during their training and studies to practice what they have learnt. The students get to see many different childcare environments; from the Maternity wards of the RUH, to working in local schools, private homes and special educational needs facilities. However, at no time are they allowed to work unsupervised with children. They are of course still students. Only when they are a fully qualified Norlander can they work on their own with children.


As well as the studies and placements, Norland trainees also learn various ways of how to engage with children through games and fun activities. They must be resourceful too – learning to sew and create things from what is in their surrounding environment. Cooking and Nutrition is another element to the Diploma where weaning, fussy eaters and special diets are discussed and advice given regarding healthy home-cooked meals.

Paediatric First Aid training is of course essential and the nannies even learn to recognise various childhood illnesses. Sign Language is an optional module the nannies can choose to take so that they can communicate with deaf children or those with learning difficulties. In their final year, the students also learn Life Saving skills at Bath Leisure Centre.

As the students can’t be left unsupervised with children, they are given their own “reality baby” to take care of for 2 days and nights, which reacts in the way a new born baby would. It cries, needs changing and feeding, and is responsive to touch; but this baby also downloads useful data that can be analysed after the 2 days have finished so the student can be assessed on his or her skills.

Norland College at Denford Park, Hungerford

Norland College at Denford Park, Hungerford

The students learn to follow the “safer sleep for babies” guidelines of the NHS, and the Lullaby Trust, which was set up for research into Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and who publish best practice guidelines to reduce the risk of SIDS. Please go to the link for more information about their guidelines. It was interesting to hear about the “baby hotel” at Norland’s previous location, Denford Park, with the rows of children left to sleep outside in their prams (supervised of course!).

Surprisingly students are also sent on rail trips, often up to London. This not only helps with orientation skills, but they learn how to travel and entertain children on long journeys.

The students’ training moves with the times and covers all aspects of modern life. For example, online security is covered, as well as self-defence and defensive driving. Everything has a purpose though – to be totally professional whilst safeguarding children. The students will also be instructed in what to expect when they finish their course and go into employment. This includes information about salary, tax, pension and insurance; as well as contract law.


Most of this hard work and training is performed while wearing the most distinctive part of the students’ kit – the Norland Nanny uniform. The colour of the uniform has varied over the last 120 years, but its distinctive colour ensures the nannies stand out from other uniformed staff, whether it was housemaids in the 1890s or Doctors and nurses in the 1990s. Today the colour is brown, and has been for over 70 years. Although it might not be considered to everyone’s taste it is certainly distinctively “Norland College”. Yes, even male students have to wear the brown uniform, though they somehow don’t get to wear the hat, much to the chagrin of the female trainees!

Norland Nannies, 1892

Norland Nannies, 1892

Every element of the Norland College training has been carefully considered. Even the uniform and “look” has been designed with the training and practicalities of dealing with young children and babies in mind.

Gloves are worn when outside to enable the nanny to keep his or her hands clean. When attending to their charge, the gloves would be removed. Shoes are lace-up only to ensure that they do not slip off at any time. The main uniform has ¾ length sleeves only as this prevents bacteria from building up on the sleeves and then transferring to a baby or young child when picking them up.

Norland Nannies, 2015

Norland Nannies, 2015

Students must also wear their hair off their collar, whether cut short or up in a bun and kept tidy underneath the Norland hat; this is to stop children grabbing and pulling at it, plus to prevent hair flopping into babies’ faces. There must also be minimal discreet make up, no perfume (as you don’t want either perfume or make up to be transferred on to the child), and only a pair of stud earrings are allowed (again, studs only to stop children pulling at them).

When you think about it, all these elements to the look and uniform are common sense. The continuation of the uniform is a source of pride to trainees and Norlanders. It’s what makes them stand out from the crowd. Although once qualified a Norlander doesn’t have to wear his or her uniform again, unless requested by their employer, I suspect the majority keep hold of it for “old time’s sake”!

Once qualified, a Norlander becomes part of the Alumni community and can search for employment via the Norland Agency. Norlanders can return to the College for continual professional development (CPD) days, further training, as well as social gatherings. Once a Norlander, always a Norlander, and you can be assured that they get lifelong support. In fact, the oldest Norlander (though no longer working) is Brenda Ashford, now in her 90s. She has written two fantastic books about her experiences as a nanny called “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Tuppance for Paper and String”.

Brenda Ashford

Brenda Ashford

The other thing that sets Norland College apart from their contemporaries is their Code of Professional Conduct. Despite the press finding out about a few of those who use a Norland Nanny – such as Mick Jagger mentioning his use of them for his children in a past interview, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announcing that they have a Norlander employed to care for Prince George.; the college and the nannies themselves remain tightlipped. The privacy of the Norland College’s and Agency’s clients, and nannies, is paramount. The fact that there is so little information out there as to who uses a Norland Nanny is testament to its Code, and the high standard of professionalism and privacy that the College and the Norlanders practice.

Don’t think that you have to be a Prince or Pop star to employ a Norlander though. The Norland Agency welcomes calls from any parent. Plus you don’t have to employ a Norland Nanny on a permanent basis; it can be temporary. Whether you require a nanny to cover you for a few hours or a few days, or for a one off occasional over-night stay when lack of sleep is too much, Norland Agency can assist you more than you might have first realised.

Norlanders also volunteer their time with TAMBA (Twins and Multiple Births Association) and their Helping Hands project. This is a free of charge support for those families with multiples (twins, triplets etc) who are facing crises. This support has been found to really help and relieve those parents who are unable to cope. Please press on the links above for further information about TAMBA and Helping Hands.

Norland College also now offers Early Years Consultancy and Training, so if you require consultation on best practices for young children (aged 0 to 8 years), then these are the professionals to call. Clients already include Mothercare, training product designers, buyers and in-store staff; Etihad Airways training their “Flying Nannies”, and Chartwells Independent on pastoral care for children during lunch service. There are also visits every year from international Colleges that train Early Year Professionals, including from Australia and Japan. Host families are always required for this, so do get in touch with the College if you think you can help.


So there you have it! I hope I’ve given you a real glimpse into the world of Norland College. Behind that cool Bath stone façade is a hive of activity and learning that is turning out the best qualified Early Year Practioners in the country, right here in the heart of Bath.

We are also very pleased to announce that if any guests at The Bailbrook Lodge require a nanny during their stay, whether for a night off so you can go to the Theatre or Spa, or during the day whilst you go shopping or to lunch, then we’re happy to recommend Norland Nannies.

Please contact the Norland Agency to arrange your very own Norland Nanny and experience the best of the best.


With thanks to Abby Searle and all at Norland College.
[Photographs Copyright Norland College Catherine Pitt, Western Daily Press, Parent Dish, Daily Mail, The Guardian]

Focus on Bath: Amy Laws – Fashion Designer

With the fantastically glamorous festival, Bath in Fashion 2015, starting this coming Saturday, March 21st, for a whole week, we thought we’d take a closer look at one of the many Bath based designers within the city.

Bath in Fashion 2015

Bath’s history of being a Spa town, and THE place to go and be seen during the “season”, meant the city developed a reputation over the centuries as being a city of Fashion and Fashionistas. Today, Bath still has a hub of creative individuals who all produce wonderful things for the fashion lovers of the city who want something not just of quality but individualistic.

The city is also host to a number of Fashion design courses. One can study at both Bath Spa University and Bath College for a Fashion Design degree or B.A. in Fashion and Textiles. Many of these students will then move on to the bigger cities such as Bristol, London and Manchester to explore their potential further, and to gain invaluable placements in nationally renowned design and fashion agencies. However, in Bath itself you can also find designers beavering away creating their own collections.


You can pick up items made by local Bath based fashion designers within the city itself or online. For luxurious leather handbags with a difference buy from Liz Cox (17 Margarets Buildings) or Peony & Moore (concession within Sisi & May, Bartlett Street). Beautiful hand-printed 100% silk scarves by Eleanor J Shore can be obtained through her online shop. While if you want to add some fun jewellery and accessories to an outfit for either men or women, pop into Charlie Boots on Broad Street.


If you look up dressmakers in Bath you will come across many skilled seamstresses who choose to go into the very lucrative market of occasion and wedding wear. However, what about day to day clothing? This is a side-line somewhat overlooked; however not by one Bath based designer and dressmaker, Amy Laws, who runs There’s Only One Amy Laws.

Amy, well deservedly blowing her own trumpet!

Amy, well deservedly blowing her own trumpet!

Situated behind The Circus in an un-assuming flat on Rivers’ Street, lies the workshop and home of Amy and her partner Chris. Amy had moved to Bath in 2012, having originally grown up in Stoke-on-Trent and studying a BSc in Product Design Engineering at Brunel University. Not quite the path to becoming a dressmaker you may think; however Amy had been taught to sew from a very early age by her grandmother.

The days of living on a small student budget, but the desire to wear a new dress when going out with friends, forced Amy to put her skills to use, and she began to rustle up new outfits for herself. It was a hobby that she didn’t think much about expanding until friends and strangers began to comment on her outfits. She tried Brick Lane market in London, only producing one size of her dresses, and was surprised when she actually sold items, and people were interested in more. Inspired by this, Amy decided to continue selling her designs on e-bay, and while working took an evening B.T.E.C in Pattern Cutting.

By the time she had moved to Bath, by way of Edinburgh and a screen printing course there, Amy had made up her mind to set up her business; but she only became full-time since April last year. She produces not just women’s dresses, skirts and blouses; but children’s skirts, dresses and tops.


The first thing you are struck by is the quality of her clothes and the materials used. Amy said it took her a long time to source exactly what she wanted, and to her credit she has also kept to using British based companies. Her fabric, mainly cottons and stretch cotton, she orders from a textile company in Manchester, and the water based inks she uses come from Handprinted, a small business based in Sussex. The inks are environmentally friendly, and she thoroughly tests each new dress and design herself to ensure that it can withstand continuous washing at 30C without fading or loss of the print.

The second thing you are struck by is the unusual name for her business – There’s Only One Amy Laws. She’s even had other Amy Laws contacting her to tell her she’s not alone! Amy says that the name though has always been there, even before she was sewing or considered taking it up as a business. A chant at her school it seems has been the inspiration for a whole brand.


Since starting her business back in 2012 Amy guesses she’s had around 10-15 designs. She’s created many more, but as she confesses, some have been hit and miss, and those have never seen the light of day on a dress or shirt. Some of these ideas may be resurrected at another time and reworked into a design that will eventually be used in her work.

Her work has ended up in America, New Zealand and around Europe and she says her most popular print has been her Flamingos. There’s an easy on the eye simplicity to Amy’s fun and bold designs that reflect familiar images and childhood memories – from ice cream cones to umbrellas, from daffodils to bees, and balloons.

Her winter collection saw squirrels and robins nestling in the folds of fabric and proved very popular. One lady even bought every female member of her family an item of Amy’s Robin collection and posted her a picture of them all wearing her designs on Christmas Day!

Child's Robin Print Dress

When asked what inspires her collection and designs, Amy said it’s really what interests her, what catches her eye in magazines and when walking around the city; plus she loves looking back at the designs of the 1950’s. Since her clothes have that straightforward classic 1950’s shape, she likes to keep the style and design simple too.


We’re hoping she may come up with a Bath design too. We have dropped a few hints, so you never know. Amy agreed with us that a design of the Circus around the bottom of a skirt or dress would look exceptional, so we’re keeping fingers crossed it becomes a reality!

All of Amy’s work is currently produced in her flat. We asked to see what goes into making one of her designs, so here’s a run-down of how Amy makes her wonderful clothes.

1) She drafts and grades her own patterns by hand, and each new design and item has to be hand drafted in the range of sizes she produces as well (Sizes 8 to 16 in womens wear).

Creating the Robin Design

2) Amy also makes her own screens using lengths of wood and plain mesh. Each new design requires a new screen. Plus if there are different colours or elements to a design then a screen has to be made for each part.

Creating the Screen Frames

3) She draws her design by hand then downloads it onto Illustrator on her laptop so she can create a smoother image which she then prints onto acetone. In the meantime her mesh screen has been painted with a light sensitive emulsion and left in the dark for 8 hours (this she does in her bathroom. Pity anyone getting up in the night for the loo as you have to scrabble in the dark. Strictly no lights allowed!).
4) Once the screen is dry and the design is ready, the acetone is placed on the screen, and Amy uses a 500w lamp to expose the image to the mesh for 30 minutes. The emulsion hardens around the image, but any of the mesh that’s under the design, will still have soft emulsion that can then be washed off.

Setting the Emulsion
5) Amy then selects the fabric and colour of fabric she’s going to use and begins to cut out the panels
6) She will then print her design on the fabric before she sews the item together. To do this, she gets her prepared screen and pours ink onto the mesh, and uses a sponge to push the ink through.

Selection of Screens
7) Once the ink has dried after a few hours she will then heat set the design using an iron. This she says is helped by lots of TV and Radio 1; plus her boyfriend is put to good use with the iron when there are lots of orders to do.
8) If it’s a new design, then the item will be washed and tested to ensure the print quality is fine.
9) Eventually we come to the sewing part! Once all the pieces of the item are assembled, then there are the last few things to do. By law Amy has to ensure that every item is marked with labels telling you how to wash the item (30oC), where it’s been made (In England) and what fabric it is (100% cotton). She also adds a size label and her own label.

10) Then viola, she has the finished item! Amy either hangs it up ready for taking to sell at markets; or when postal orders come in, she carefully packages the piece up with labels, tissue paper and a sticker showing the print of the item on the front of the wrapped package.

Phew, then it’s time for a cup of tea! These dresses really are a labour of love.


It’s the attention to detail and the extra touches that really makes one of Amy’s dresses such a beautiful masterpiece. It’s simple and practical yet individual at the same time. In the winter time the dresses are lined and cap sleeves are added; though Amy said that she is happy anytime, when people order, if they want her to lengthen the dress, add pockets or sleeves, for a small extra cost.

It’s such a surprise that everything is produced in her flat, and we have to say she has a wonderfully supportive and tolerant boyfriend – who’s also handy with an iron and getting to the loo and back in the dark it seems!

Amy is currently looking for local studio space, but in the meantime, to get herself out the flat, she will soon be found for a few days a week in The Makery in the centre of the city, where she can sit and sew her dresses together.

Apart from selling on her website and Folksy, Amy can also be found with a stall every month at Green Park Station’s Artisan Market, every second Sunday of the month; as well as other local markets such as in Frome and over in Bristol.

Amy hopes for the future that eventually she will have her own studio and take more people on so that she can expand her ideas and designs, but she doesn’t want to stray from what is her key ethos for her business – the uniqueness of getting a handmade and hand printed item of clothing.

Hear hear to a British, and more specifically a Bath based fashion business! There is indeed only one Amy Laws!

Amy's Market Stall

Amy’s clothing ranges start from just £25.00.

You can purchase her collections online or at local markets.

Amy can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter

Easter Fun – Hop over to Bath!

It doesn’t feel that long ago that we were gearing up for the February Half Term, but then Easter Sunday does fall early this year, on 4th April. We know you’ll all be looking for fun activities and things to enjoy in Bath over the Half Term period, so we’ve rounded up a good selection of what’s on to keep the children occupied over the Easter break. For those activities that are free we’ve put this in brackets at the end of the sentence. For those where you have to pay we’ve put a “£” sign. Some activities will require booking. Please double check all links and websites for full details, prices and times.


Of course the importance of Easter within the Christian Calendar shouldn’t be over looked. It’s a time of celebration for those of Christian faith, regarding Jesus Christ’s resurrection after his crucifixion. There are plenty of services in the city over the Easter weekend that you can go to as a family, including at Bath Abbey on Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.

The idea of new life and new beginnings is also expressed in nature. Spring has sprung and as you make your way into Bath you will start seeing the new born lambs and calves in the fields, the buds on the trees, and the flowers including the beautiful yellow daffodils in bloom. It’s a great time to be outdoors and get some fresh air, so our first few activities reflect just that!

Fresh Air!


* Hidden Woods near Bath is a great place to take kids to if they want to channel their inner Ray Mears or Bear Grylls. Over the Easter Half Term they are running their Easter Holiday Club which involves woodland craft and games, Bushcraft and Environmental Art. Minimum Age is 5 years old. (£)

* Bath City Farm – you can join in with their Easter Fun Day on March 31st (FREE) where children can take part in various fun craft activities and games, including an Easter Egg Hunt!

– On Saturday 11th April the Farm is also running a Family Fun day where your young ones can try being a Farmer for a day. They will get to groom, clean out and feed some of the animals. Booking is required (£).

* Prior Park – If you love birds and birdwatching then on Sunday 29th March you can join the RSPB on their special walks at 10.30am or 3pm around the gardens where you’ll learn about the birds that are in the Park and maybe spot a few nesting too. (Free event but Entry Fee to Gardens)

– You can also enjoy a spot of Easter Egg Rolling in the Park on Easter Saturday morning (3rd April). One for all the family. Bring your own decorated eggs to roll and see who the winner will be! (Free event but Entry Fee to Gardens)

* The Egg Hunt (21st March to 11th April). To celebrate The Egg Theatre’s 10 Year Anniversary the team at The Egg have hidden 25 decorated eggs across the city. If you can find them all and deduce where the Golden Egg may be you can win not only the Golden Egg itself, but also tickets to for The Egg’s Christmas Show and The Theatre Royal’s Pantomime. The first 100 completed forms handed in will also win a treat from the San Francisco Fudge Factory. So grab a map and get cracking! (FREE)

Making Stuff Up!

Many of the Museums and Galleries in Bath are running Family Fun Days or Children’s Games and Craft days.


* Museum of East Asian Art – On  Monday 30th March come along to the Museum to make your very own Chinese Opera Mask! Your kids can also enjoy dressing up and even putting on make up as they learn more about Chinese Opera as part of the Music in China Exhibition. They will even get a chance to play on some traditional instruments. (FREE)

* If an Opera Mask doesn’t appeal, then you can design and make your very own hat at The Fashion Museum on Tuesday 31st March. (FREE with Museum Entry)

* Once again the fantastic shop Ora Et Labora are running their Children’s Activity days over the Easter holidays. Here in their small museum children can be transported back in time to learn how to make candles and the art of Apothecary. (£)

* On Sunday 29th March The Holburne Museum are running an Easter Eggstravaganza whereby you can explore their miniature collection with crafts and entertainment for all the family. There is even a fun mini Easter egg roll to look forward to. (FREE)

– The Holburne Museum will also be running Easter Art Camps during the two week break for children aged 5 to 13 years old. Under the supervision of their team of experienced artists your kids will enjoy days of various arts, crafts and activities. (£)

* If your children love sports and fancy the opportunity of being trained by some of the best coaches in the country, then why not send them to Team Bath Tribe. Their Easter Camps involve athletics, hockey and trampolining, and some activities are even suitable for children as young as 2 years old. (£)

* Take a closer look at The Roman Bath’s coin collection and some of the fantastic animal designs stamped on them, plus make your own Imperial Eagle at this Family Fun Day on Monday 30th March. (FREE with admission)

American Museum Yarn Bombing Trail

* See if your little ones can find Goosey Gander as she’s on the run at the Victoria Art Gallery this Easter. Join in the fun trail to find all the Geese in this great gallery in the heart of the city. (FREE)

* The American Museum in Bath has lots of family fun this Half Term. From a Yarn Bombing trail and festive bunting making to creating your very own personalised commemorative spoon there’s plenty to keep everyone happy. You can even step back in time with the Museum’s Time Walk where a magical adventure tells the story of the Earth. (£)

* This month’s Sunday Artisan Market at Green Park Station falls on 12th April and has plenty to delight people of all ages. There’s lovely crafts, antiques and food to buy, but also there are plenty of children’s activities throughout the day to keep little hands busy too. (FREE)

* As part of this year’s Fashion Festival, both yourself and your children can step back in time at No.1 Royal Crescent and become Georgians for the day. On Saturday 28th March, you will not only select your costume, but will have a full makeover with make up and wig applied, plus there will even be a photograph to commemorate the day. (£)

– No.1 Royal Crescent will also be helping children to decorate their very own wooden Easter eggs on Wednesday 1st April. They can write their very own motto and add mini chocolate eggs to complete their very own Georgian present. (FREE with admission)

Watch with Mother

Keep the children away from the T.V. and immerse them in some fun at some of the city’s finest shows.


* From the 24th to 29th March the magical musical that is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat hits The Theatre Royal in Bath. This story of the “coat of many colours” from the Book of Genesis is a Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber classic that can be enjoyed by all the family. (£)

* Come on a Wild West adventure at The Egg Theatre from 26th March to 3rd April with Little Sure Shot, otherwise known as Annie Oakley; a little girl who grew up fast in the heart of the American Wild West. (£)

* Kids’ Comedy Fest – for the first time during the annual Bath Comedy Festival, there’s some side-tickling fun for children too. With magic, balloons, clowns, puppets and lots more silly entertainment, head along to Bath Cricket Club to enjoy. (£)

Food Glorious Food!

Finally, we come to some scrumptious cake making classes and fun afternoon teas for Half Term. If the kids haven’t eaten what they’ve made before they get home, you’ll get to try a plethora of delights.


* Bath Cake Company is running on Wednesday 8th April a Kids’ Cupcake Decorating Class for those children aged between 7 and 11 year’s old. Call 01225 446094 to book. (£)

* There’s lots of messy fun to be had again at Coffee@Camden with their popular Easter classes for Children. This Half Term your children can enjoy decorating cookies, cupcakes and Easter eggs; as well as enjoy tasty treats and drinks available at the café. (£)

* You may not have realised, but the luxurious Royal Crescent Hotel welcome children to join their parents in taking part in the quintessentially English Afternoon Tea experience. Your kids can feel suitably grown up while sampling sandwiches, cakes and Tuck shop sweets. (£)

* During the Easter Half Term holidays, your children can also enjoy an Afternoon Tea in the surroundings of the historic Pump Rooms, overlooking the Roman Baths. Supping on apple juice or hot chocolate with their treats will probably be more preferable to the sulphuric waters on offer from the fountain! (£)

After all those fun activities and games you and your kids are going to need a good night’s rest! To book your room for the Easter break, simply call us on 01225 859090 or book online.






Focus On: George Bayntun’s

As part of our new series of “Focus On Bath” Blog Posts, we have decided to start things off with a Bath institution that many people will have perhaps passed but not necessarily heard of or visited. This we want to change, because “boy” are you missing out!

Just yards from Bath Spa Station, right next door to The Royal Hotel, is a rather imposing Victorian fronted building, once the Postal Sorting Office of Bath. To enter you must ring a doorbell and wait for the hum and click of the door being released, as if by magic, by those inside. Here within this wooden enclave of glass, books and prints, occasionally disturbed by the tuneful strike of the mechanical clock, quietly lies an industry that once thrived in this city and across many cities in the country.


Beavering away behind the oak doors and towering bookcases, hidden from public view, is a workshop flooded with light. Here books are carefully plucked apart, hand stitched, glued, gilded and tooled by a handful of craftsmen and women under the watchful eye from the upstairs office by the overseer and fourth generation owner of the business, Edward Bayntun-Coward. You can see much of the finished work in the glass-fronted cases in the shop, and admire the intricacies of the handiwork; each book is a miniature work of art in itself.

What is this place? This is George Bayntun or more correctly George Bayntun’s Booksellers and the Bayntun-Riviere Bookbindery.


The full history of Bayntun’s is detailed on their in-depth website, but here is a basic summary of this amazing business. George Bayntun (1873-1940) opened his bindery in Bath in 1894 in Northumberland Place, after having been apprenticed at Taylor’s of Bath. He then moved to Walcot Street where in 1920 he bought the book collection of George Gregory, and finally moved the business to Manvers Street in 1939, where it has remained ever since. He acquired the bindery of Robert Riviere (begun in Bath in 1829) at the time of the Manvers Street move. The success and the renown of the business was such that in 1950 Bayntun’s received patronage from Queen Mary, whose coat of arms you can still see over an inner door that leads to the main staircase; plus in time they also acquired over 6000 books from Woburn Abbey.

Bayntun’s is now famous all over the world. In the Visitors’ Book there are signatures from Japan, Alaska, all over Europe, Africa and the Americas, the Antipodes, Russia, Indonesia and the Middle East. Peeking into the Visitors’ Book I noticed amongst the University professors and bookbinders from around the world, familiar names such as the comedians Barry Humphries and Eric Idle, the actors Timothy West and Simon Callow; the politicians Douglas Hurd and John Major, and the artists Sir Peter Blake and Marc Chagall.

Hannah with Queen Mary's crest over the doorway.

Hannah with Queen Mary’s crest over the doorway

So what brings people to travel hundreds if not thousands of miles to George Bayntun’s? It is simply the quality and craftsmanship of the work. It is now one of the last great Victorian trade binderies still in family ownership and every single process of the binding is by hand. Even the marbled paper inside the covers of the books has been created by hand, by Melksham based artist Jemma Lewis. To bind a book can be a painstaking but rewarding process. Nothing quite beats a hand bound book. A carefully, properly hand-bound book can last over 100 years!

“There are over a hundred stages in binding a book by hand and none of them can be rushed.” – George Bayntun.

It was a fantastic privilege to be allowed to see behind the scenes. In what was the sorting office mail room in 1904, there now is the gentle hum of concentration. Nola who works on the first part of the process, unpicking stitching and carefully scraping off glue told me that this process alone can take up to a week depending on the size of the tome. Once the book is re-stitched and ready, it goes to Andrew, a cheerful chap who was taken on as an apprentice 13 years ago and is now a finisher and edge gilder.

The start of the gilding process

The start of the gilding process

I find Andrew next to a book clamped into a vice. He is gently smoothing the sides of the book using an Agate stone attached to a piece of wood – this is called a Burnisher and the technique is called “polishing”. This technique ensures that the book is smooth as glass ready to take the 23 ½ carat gold leaf that Andrew was about to carefully apply. First a layer of glue, then a mixture of egg whites and water is added; after this, using a squirrel hair brush that is as soft as velvet, Andrew applies the gold leaf. It’s amazing the traditional ways still used in bookbinding here. Andrew showed me how, by stroking the hair brush on his face, he could create static to use to attract the tissue thin gold leaf onto it. Then he said he blows gently on the gold once it’s been applied to the book and if the condensation from his breath disappears it has set and is ready for the next stage.

Next in line in the process was Don; surrounded by completed and ready to work on books. He has worked in the business for over 30 years and is Bayntun’s chief restorer. His “Holy Grail” he told me when I questioned him about the work he has done, was to actually handle a first folio of Shakespeare. He said he had bound a second edition dating to 1613, but a first edition would be the pinnacle.

Don with the specially bound Alan Titchmarsh book

Don with the specially bound Alan Titchmarsh book

At his workstation Don showed me a piece he had just finished for the presenter and garden expert, Alan Titchmarsh, a specially designed commission for Titchmarsh’s 2014 release The Queen’s Houses. It was gilded in palladium, gold and red gold, with a blue and silver silk headband and specially made designs on the inside and outside of the book. This was one stunning edition.

At Don’s workplace he was busy gluing front and back pieces to books, doing the headbands and adding the leather. Nearby were shelves stacked with rolls of goat skin – the leather that is used by Bayntun’s. They are supplied by two tanneries who obtain their skins from Africa. One of them, J.Hewit & Sons Ltd of West Lothian, has a Royal Warrant to the Queen. The skins come to Bayntun’s dyed, but they also have the capacity to hand dye the skins in house as well, especially if a customer requires a book to match others within his or her collection. Vellum, or calf skin, is used occasionally here if the occasion warrants it, but is apparently harder and less pliable than the goat skin. Unusual requests have also seen the team working with Kangaroo, Ostrich, and even Kudu skins.


I asked if anyone had ever found anything unusual when re-binding a book. The answer was a plethora of things, from pressed flowers and insects trapped within the leaves of the books, to cigarette cards and even sailors’ songs hidden inside the leather linings. Often the spine of older books had been padded with torn up pieces of Bibles, engravings, tickets to shows. In one book they even found tickets to Suffragette events in the early 20th Century.

Bookbinders of the past would often carefully and secretly add their own mark, and sometimes these were found when rebinding. Don said he has his own secret moniker that he adds to every book he binds; so that if it comes back in again, he can identify it. Now, what job these days can you think of where you can do that?!

Once a book is bound, it needs to be “finished” and this is where it is tooled with a design. Luckily at Bayntun’s they are spoilt for choice for designs as with 15,000, they hold the largest collection of hand tools and blocks in the world! With new designs created for clients on request, they are forever adding to this important archive. A steady hand and full concentration is needed at all stages, but especially at this point, and I didn’t want to disturb Tony who, when I visited, was head down working on a stunning cover of Ulysses. The precision required to add the gold in to some of the tiniest tool marks is unbelievable.


You can see how much the staff love their work here at Bayntun’s and their commitment and pleasure in each new binding is infectious. Their love for Bayntun’s and working in Bath can be reflected not just in their words to me, but in their longevity of service. Penny and Julie who work out on the main shop floor have both worked for 50 years each; while in the bindery, Tony and Don at 20 and 30 years respectively have some way to go to beat Derek’s longevity. At 83 years’ old he has been a bookbinder since 1947, and continues to work here, albeit 2 days a week now.

Do Bookshops and especially bookbinderies still have a place in the 21st Century, so overrun now with the internet, E-readers and technology? Speaking to the staff, both old and new, they all agree that even in this ever increasing digital age, the art and skill of bookbinding is still appreciated and required; perhaps even growing as more and more people begin to appreciate such handiwork.

The Savoy Cocktail Book

The Savoy Cocktail Book

Books are tactile objects and as I’ve seen from the work that is undertaken and commissioned here at Bayntun’s the books themselves can be considered pieces of art in their own right. A first edition copy of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach was plucked from one of the shop shelves for me to admire and running my fingers over the gilded birds and the carved orange leather peach sent a shiver up my spine. Later on, flicking through one of their catalogues, the crisp white leather cover and deco carved design for The Savoy Cocktail Book caught my eye. It is now something I aspire to own, simply for its stunning design, if not just for the cocktail recipes!

Bayntun’s isn’t for me, I hear you cry; isn’t it full of books that are worth hundreds, if not thousands of pounds? It may surprise you, but Bayntun’s has something for every budget, whether large or small. You can come in and rifle through old 19th Century prints and maps with some only £3.00 in price. Coloured works line the walls in the print gallery with starting prices at a reasonable £8.00. On the book front you can head downstairs to the second hand department and buy books from £2.00. They have everything from topography to children’s books down in the basement; plus drawers crammed with papers, sheet music and other books.


Bayntun’s is a gem of a find and where you’ll find gems!

Only recently, my guide, Hannah told me, a book was discovered here, defaced throughout with the word “bacon” spelt out. It turns out this book was owned by Mrs Constance Pott the founder of the Francis Bacon Society (who perpetuates the theory that Sir Francis was in fact Shakespeare). A rare find indeed!

On the second floor of Bayntun’s are the Antiquarian books and here you can relax in their squishy armchairs, looking at books that date from the last century to the sixteenth century. Here you can find books from a more modest £20-£30 price range upwards. It’s lovely to spend some time admiring the titles and carefully exploring the shelves.

The Ground floor is where you can find the first editions and specially bound books by Bayntun’s. Don’t think for a minute that a first edition is out of your price range – the copies here start from a few hundred pounds, depending of course on the title and the workmanship involved. What a great present to give a loved one, or to treat yourself to!


Amongst the freestanding bookshelves on this ground floor there are small items for sale, some even crafted by those in the bindery. You can purchase off cuts of the leather, buy binding glue and some of the tools that they use. There is also some fantastic polish to rub into your leather bound books – who knew? There are also beautiful cards, bookmarks, plus leather earrings and bangles.

It’s not just books that are bound. People have commissioned Bayntun’s to make dust jackets, Wedding Albums, visitors’ books, backgammon sets, inlaid chess boards, gilded tables, and stationery boxes. Basically if it needs leather binding, then anything is a welcome challenge for Bayntun’s!

Bayntun’s will also sell books on behalf of customers. They welcome people to make appointments for valuations. Details of how to contact the shop are at the end of this post.

Before my visit ended I asked Hannah and Don their top tips for taking care of your books, Number one on the list was that Sellotape is definitely the enemy!

1) Never, ever, use Sellotape on a book repair. If you have to, always use glue.
2) Don’t remove a book from a shelf by pulling its top as this is where most tears occur
3) Polish your leather bound books using a conservation polish to protect and strengthen the leather.
4) Dust wrappers are great, even plastic ones, to protect your volumes.
5) Don’t get a book wet. If you do, put tissue in between each of the wet leaves and press it as it dries. This technique will minimise that “crinkled” effect water has on paper when it dries.

I urge you all to visit George Bayntun’s. It really is fantastic, and there’s more to it than meets the eye. You feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you enter the shop, and you’d be right – nothing has changed much here since George Bayntun himself moved in to the premises in 1939, but there is something here for everyone, young or old.

I whole heartedly reflect Eric Idle’s sentiments, as written in Bayntun’s Visitors’ Book:

“What a wonderful treat to find you. Thank you!”


George Bayntun, Manvers Street, BATH, BA1 1JW

Opening Times: Mon – Fri: 9am to 1pm/2pm to 5.30pm; Sat: 9.30am to 1pm. Closed Sundays and Bank Holidays.

Telephone: +44 (0) 1225 466000

Email: enquiries@georgebayntun.com

Half Term Happenings!


If you’re aiming to visit Bath over the upcoming Half Term holidays, and are looking for some fun things to do with your children, not just the usual museums, then we’ve got a few suggestions for you.

Go Medieval mad this February with the unique Ora Et Labora. Not only do they sell products exclusively made my monastic communities around the world, have sampling suppers and now Lunchtime platters for everyone to enjoy; but from Monday 16th to Friday 20th February your kids can step back in time and enjoy a range of craft activities from candle making and brass rubbing to quill and ink writing and learning apothecary skills. Cost: £2.50 per child. No booking required.


If they haven’t had enough of medieval life then Bath Abbey is running a “Day in the Life of a Monk” on Tuesday 17th February, where from 10.45am to 2.30pm children will have a chance to enjoy a range of activities, dress up as a monk and even meet a real-life Benedictine Monk from Downside Abbey in Somerset! Bring a packed lunch to enjoy in the surroundings of the Abbey. Booking is essential and costs £5 per child.

If you want your little ones to get green fingered and enjoy the fresh air then grab the wellies and head on over to some of the National Trust owned parks in and nearby Bath this holiday. At Dyrham Park you can join in with the Spring bulb planting, from 2-3pm from Monday 16th to Friday 20th February. What a wonderful sense of satisfaction for all to return later on in the year to see your hard work blooming. If you don’t want to get so “hands on” then on Tuesday 17th and Thursday 19th February you can join a guided discovery tour around the more wilder parts of the parkland, with pond dipping and bug hunting to enjoy. There is also the chance to feed the Deer until March too.


The Bath Skyline walk is always a popular option when the weather is lovely, and a great way to tire the kids out with plenty of fresh air and hills! Prior Park has free activities for children (normal admission fee applies for entry to Park) based on traditional English customs, and working with local artists. Your children can enjoy Greenman workshops, tree dressing and magical trails through the Park.

Talking of traditional English customs, on Tuesday 17th February it’s Pancake Day! Otherwise known as Shrove Tuesday, in the Christian calendar it signifies the last day before the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter. Traditionally a time to use up all your excess food before the time of self-restraint; in England, Pancake Day now sees perfectly sane people run up and down streets, gardens and roads with a frying pan frantically flipping a batter mix! Bath is no exception and it’s that time again for Bath’s Flipping Pancake Race, organised by Fringe Arts Bath. Taking place in the Abbey Courtyard on Tuesday 17th, both children and adults can join in the fun or simply cheer on the competitors. All money raised is going to Food Cycle, a charity that aims to reduce food waste and food poverty in the U.K.


During Half Term another important celebration takes place – that of the Chinese New Year. Thursday 19th February sees the Year of the Horse ride off into the sunset and the Year of the Sheep make its way to the forefront. The Museum of East Asian Art will be holding its Annual “Lunar New Year Extravaganza” on Sunday 22nd February, at the Assembly Rooms in Bath. This free event is a fantastic family attraction, and everyone can enjoy a day of entertainment, arts and crafts, and dance spectaculars. It’s certainly not an event to be missed!

For further ideas of what to do and where to take your kids this Half Term, take a look at Visit Bath. There’s plenty on at the Museums and Art Galleries, plus other great suggestions to keep everyone happy and having fun. If you’re celebrating the Lunar New Year, we wish you a very “Gong Hey Fat Choy/Gong Xi Fa Cai”, plus we hope that everyone enjoys Half Term!