Women of Bath

Since it was International Women’s Day (8th March 2015), and Mothering Sunday (15th March 2015) last month, plus the inaugural Women of Bath event at The Guildhall in the city on 9th March, supported by our very own female Mayor, Cherry Beath, we thought we’d write a post about some of the important women who have played a part in putting Bath on the map.

We featured a shorter version of this post on our Facebook site. It got so many hits that we thought we would create an extended version for you to read.

This is our Top 10 Women of Bath. The list is not in any particular order and those included our not necessarily born and bred in the city, but they’ve been included because we think these women have had a significant impact on Bath in some form or other.

  • JANE AUSTEN – Author (1775-1817)

“Bath is still Bath”

Jane Austen

Despite professing to disliking Bath during her stay here, there is no denying the impact that her time spent in the city, and her books, have had on Bath’s tourist industry.

You can visit a Museum dedicated to her, walk in her footsteps visiting locations she would have known, plus there is also a Jane Austen Festival every September which sees a Guinness Record breaking parade of people in Regency costume snake their way through the city.

Jane was born and spent her childhood growing up in Steventon, Hampshire. However, her parents already had a strong connection to Bath. Her mother was from the Leigh family of Bath with connections to the 1st Duke of Chandos, James Brydges (her great-uncle). In fact her parents were married at Walcot Church in Bath in April 1764 and her father, who died in the city, is buried at the same church – St Swinthin’s.

Her father, a Rector, chose to retire to Bath, bringing his family with him and settling in lodgings in the city. Thus, came the author to Bath. The family lived in various places including The Paragon, Gay Street, and Trim Street, between the years 1801 and 1806, including some time spent with her aunt and uncle the Leigh-Perrot’s.

Jane’s time in Bath is said to be the least productive period of her writing, however city life was more of a social whirl than the countryside where she came from and it shows in one of Jane’s letter’s to her sister Cassandra:
“ They want us to drink tea with them tonight, but I do not know whether my Mother will have the nerves for it. We are engaged tomorrow Evening. What request we are in!”
All these social engagements and observations on city life were to be of use to Jane in her writings, and Bath features heavily in two particular books, published after her death, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
Whatever Jane thought of Bath, the city has certainly embraced her.

  •  Amy Williams M.B.E. – Olympic Athlete and Presenter (1982-)

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Born in Cambridge but brought up in Bath, Amy attended school at Beechen Cliff and Hayesfield School Technical College. She then graduated from Bath University.

Originally a 400m runner, Amy didn’t qualify for the national athletics team, so while at University in 2002, she turned her attention to trying out a new push start Skeleton track, and so a new sporting career began!
Her first major sporting event in Skeleton was in the 2009 World Championships where she won a silver medal. Spurred on by this success Amy trained even harder, winning a place in the Team GB Winter Olympics team for Vancouver in 2010.

It was here at these Olympic Games that Amy became a Gold Medal winner. The first British woman to win gold at an individual event in the Winter Olympics in 58 years and Britain’s first winner in an individual event in 30 years!

In 2012 Amy had to retire due to injuries, but she has gone on to become a presenter for the BBC Sport’s commentary team, a co-presenter on Ski Sunday, a Team GB Ambassador and a member of The Gadget Show Team.

Amy continues to make Bath her home, and was made an Honorary Freeman of Bath in 2010, the first ever woman in Bath’s history to be given this award.

  • Alison Goldfrapp – Musician and Record Producer (1966-)

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Alison Goldfrapp was born in Enfield, London, went to school in Alton, Hampshire, and studied Fine Art at Middlesex University.

During her years in Alton, Alison sang with a number of different bands. In her 20’s she performed with a Dance Company in the Netherlands, then continued with her musical involvements while studying at University.

She travelled through Europe in the 1990s picking up musical and film influences along the way. Her interest in Art and her love of different musical and film genres is reflected in her work today – her stage shows and music videos are a whole experience.

In 1999 Alison met record producer and composter Will Gregory. Gregory, from Bristol, had worked with Peter Gabriel and Portishead, and after many talks the two of them chose to form the band Goldfrapp.

Their first album, written in a house in Wiltshire, debuted in 2000. This was then followed in 2003 by the album, Black Cherry. This album, and proceeding ones, was recorded in a Bath studio near Bath Spa Railway station in an old Station Master’s cottage. It was in this darkened and fairly dilapidated studio, peppered with neon lights that Alison used to write down her song ideas for the band’s second album.

The collaboration between Gregory and Goldfrapp works well, with mainly Alison writing the lyrics and Will composing the melodies. Their last album, Tales of Us was released in 2013.

It is believed that Alison still lives on the outskirts of Bath.

  • Caroline “Lina” Herschel – German British Astronomer (1750-1848)

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Born in Hanover, Caroline, or Lina to her family, was a sickly child. Smallpox disfigured her features and Typhus stunted her growth, however it was her intelligence and aptitude at mathematics and astronomy that were to bring her praise and accolades in her lifetime.

Her brother, William (later Sir William) Herschel, brought her over to Bath, from Germany, in 1722. At the time he was living in Bath as a musician and she became an acclaimed singer under his instruction. Her talent was thus that she was soon singing solos in public performances in the city and was even offered an engagement in Birmingham. However, ever loyal to her brother she remained only with him and would only sing if he was conducting her.

When William trained to as an astronomer, so did she and she acted as his assistant in his work, including the calculations of his observations. In 1781 William discovered a new planet – Uranus, and he was given the role of Court Astronomer to King George II.

Caroline wasn’t just William’s assistant though. She made her own observations and discoveries too, usually when William was away. In 1783 Caroline recorded seeing various new Nebulae, and in August 1786 she discovered her first comet, becoming the first woman ever to do so. During her lifetime she was to discover 7 more comets plus publish a number of books including “A Catalogue of Stars” (1798).

Through her own discoveries, Caroline was celebrated in her own right as an astronomer. As assistant to William, the Court Astronomer, the King made an unusual stipend to William’s pay, of £50 a year specifically for her. Thus Caroline became the first woman in England to have a paid government appointment. Caroline was also the first woman to be given The Royal Astronomical Society’s Gold Medal in 1828; and in 1835, along with Mary Somerville, they became the first women to be given honorary membership of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Following her brother’s death in 1822, Caroline returned to Hanover but continued to accept the plaudits for her work. Neither she, nor her brother, are forgotten in Bath as there is the wonderful Herschel Museum to visit.

  • Belinda Kidd – Chief Executive of Bath Festivals

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Belinda is originally from Marlow in Buckinghamshire, and has made her way to Bath via many varied and interesting avenues.

She has long had a love for the arts having studied at the Courtald Institute in London. She has worked for Brighton Festival, securing £15 million lottery funding for Brighton Dome, and also was previously Executive Director of the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, and had strategic roles at West Midlands Arts and Birmingham City Council.

After working as Programme Director for Liverpool Arts Regeneration Consortium, Belinda looked to make her move to the South West.

She now lives with her husband, John, in Combe Down, and has been Chief Executive of Bath Festivals since 2010.

Her job involves her overseeing the programme and running of the popular annual International Music Festival, the Literature Festival and the Children’s Literature Festival in the city.

  • Stephanie Millward – Paralympic Athlete (1981-)

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Stephanie was born in Saudi Arabia and went to school in Corsham, Wiltshire (9 miles from Bath). It was during her school years that Stephanie’s strength as a swimmer was spotted and she began to train in earnest for a place in the National Squad.

At the age of only 15, Stephanie broke the British record for the 100 metre backstroke and she look set to gain a place for the 2000 Olympic Games. However, her dreams were shattered when, aged 17, Stephanie was diagnosed with the debilitating disease, MS (Multiple Sclerosis).

She came back fighting though, and through her struggles began to train again, She qualified for a place in the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, where she competed in four S9 events. Despite not gaining a medal, Stephanie continued to go from strength to strength picking up Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at proceeding World, International and British competitions.

It was at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London that Stephanie won her first Paralympic medal – a silver. She then proceeded to pick up 4 more medals in the games, including 3 more silver and 1 bronze medal.

At the 2014 IPC Swimming European Championships in Eindhoven, Netherlands, Stephanie picked up five gold medals, one silver, and one bronze. She is also a four times World Disability Swimming Champion.

Stephanie has written a book, “Paying the Price”, about her experiences, and has undertaken visits and talks in and around the city. She is also an Ambassador for BANES Carers Association. She lives on the outskirts of Bath and trains both in Bath and in Swansea.

  • Rev. Prudence (Prue) Dufour, M.B.E. – Nurse & Hospice Pioneer (1942 – 2004)

Prue Dufour Dorothy House

Her name may not be familiar, but the majority of people in Bath will know the name of the Hospice that she founded in the city almost 40 years ago – Dorothy House.

Prue was born in Rudgwick Sussex and grew up in a family of faith, her father being a Chaplain of Guy’s Hospital in London. Her mother was a nurse and educated her children at home until they were of secondary school age, when Prue was sent to Switzerland. After a year in Bangladesh, Prue returned to England to study nursing at Middlesex Hospital.

Prue moved to Bath to become a staff nurse on the radiotherapy ward at the Royal United Hospital. In 1975 she was sent on secondment to St Christopher’s Hospital in London and it was on her return that Prue decided that a similar facility was needed locally for those who were “living with cancer”.

Despite meeting with some opposition, Prue went on to leave the NHS and set up Dorothy House in 1976. She chose the name Dorothy because it meant “gift of God”. It was initially a domiciliary service, but in 1979 the charity opened their first in-patient unit in Bloomfield Road, Bath. By 1995 the organisation had expanded so much that it had to move out to its current premises at Winsley on the outskirts of the city.

Today her legacy continues with free, high quality care and support to people and the family of people with life limiting illnesses. The team at Dorothy House or “Dotty House” run many events in and around Bath, including the Bath Midnight Walk (September) to raise money for the hospice. You can also find their charity shops throughout the city and surrounding areas.

  •  Kirsten Elliott Swift – Author, Historian & Journalist

Kirsten Elliott

The title we have given Kirsten doesn’t do justice to her many talents. She has an unsurpassed wealth of knowledge on the city, and is a strong campaigner for the protection of Bath’s buildings and heritage.

Born in Portsmouth, but having travelled the world growing up as her father was in the Navy, Kirsten has made Bath her home now for many decades. She shares her home with her husband, fellow author, Dr Andrew Swift and their dog, Islay.

She went to London University to study Maths and later became an I.T. systems analyst. Her interests include Architecture and Industrial Archaeology (particularly canals) plus social life in the Georgian period, and the history of local public houses. These interests stem from her family who were previously both builders and pub owners.

Her mum also imparted in Kirsten an important principle, that when one is travelling always try to learn about a place. Of course this is the first thing that Kirsten did when she moved to Bath…and she hasn’t stopped since!

Kirsten became a tour guide in the city in 1985, and later co-founded with her husband the company, Bath Walks. She and Andrew also continue to run extremely popular walks in the city for Bath International Music Festival, and Bath Literature Festival.

They also co-founded their own publishing business, Akeman Press in 2003, and have co-written books together, as well as both being published independently.

Kirsten also runs Historic Home Research where she works as an architectural consultant and historian.

When Kirsten isn’t so busy (!!) with work or writing her blog posts, she is also a member of the History of Bath Research Group and the Bath Minuet Company.

  • Lizzy Yarnold, M.B.E. – Olympic Athlete (1988-)

Lizzy-Yarnold

Born in Kent, Lizzy was a sporty child who specialised in the Heptathalon when at school. She went on to study Geography and Sports Science at the University of Gloucestershire.

In 2008 Lizzy entered a talent identification programme called Girls for Gold, which was looking to spot and train talented young hopefuls to become the next Olympic stars. It was at this scheme that she was identified as having an aptitude for skeleton bobsleigh.

Within only five years she has risen to the top of her game. She currently holds the Olympic, World and European titles in Skeleton, the second woman ever to hold all three titles at the same time and the first British slider to do so.

Her Olympic Gold was won at the Sochi Winter Games in 2014 after joining the national squad in 2010, and then this year she added the European (February) and World (March) titles.

She lives and trains in Bath, where the British Skeleton Team are based during the summer months.

  • Mary Berry, C.B.E. Food Writer and T.V. Presenter (1935-)

Mary Berry

Born and raised in Bath, Mary’s father was to become a Mayor of Bath during her childhood in the city.

Mary attended Bath High School where it was her Domestic Science teacher, Miss Date, who encouraged her cooking skills and interest in food. She went on from Bath High to study catering and institutional management at the Bath School of Home Economics.

Her first job was at a Bath Electricity Board showroom, demonstrating how new electric ovens worked by baking Victoria sponges in them. From here she made the move to the Dutch Dairy Board where she managed to convince them to pay for her to train at The Cordon Bleu cookery school in Paris.

She began to write cookbooks throughout the 1970s and 1980s and was especially associated with Aga cooking, running her own workshops in the 1990s. Mary was also for a while the cookery editor of the Housewife Magazine, then the Ideal Home Magazine. Since 1994, she has also had her own range of salad dressings, a business she set up with her daughter.

Despite having a full career having written over 70 cookbooks, Mary’s popularity went stellar in 2010 when she became a judge on the BBC’s programme The Great British Bake Off (GBBO). She even became a fashion icon, with a floral bomber jacket from a High Street store that she wore in one episode selling out all over the country.

Since her move to GBBO, Mary has written further recipe books and has been involved on the Junior Bake Off, Comic Relief and Sport’s Relief Bake Off programmes.

In 2014 Mary was awarded the Freedom of the City of Bath, and has continued to return to her home city, whether to do talks at local bookshops or to switch on Bath’s Christmas lights.

PHOTO BY PAUL GILLIS/paulgillisphoto.com

So, what do you think of our list? It’s difficult to pick just ten people.

There are many other women of the city who have made an impact or influence on Bath.

Here are a few more names of women of or from Bath who have had an impact in the city – Viv Groskop, Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, Jacqueline Wilson, Elizabeth Montagu, Hannah More, Elizabeth Landon, Catherine Macaulay, Mary Shelley, Georgette Heyer, Helen Augusta Hope, Elizabeth Linley and Sarah Siddon. Who would you choose for your list?

[Note – We have endeavoured to ensure that all information is correct and up to date. However, we welcome amendments.]

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.

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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.

EleanorJShorescarves

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sewing
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.

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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.

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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!

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* 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.

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* 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.

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* 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.

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* 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!”

GeorgeBayntunFront

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

Love is all around…in Bath.

There are plenty of reasons to believe Bath is the city of Love – not only is the famous Pultney Bridge built by Robert Adam in 1774 based upon the Ponte Vecchio and Ponte di Rialto in those most romantic of cities Florence and Venice respectively; but Bath was chosen as the setting for most of the action in both romantic novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen. John Betjeman even wrote a love poem about a couple lost in each others company entitled “In a Bath Teashop”. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote of the multi-betrothed “Wife of Bath” in his Canterbury Tales (14th Century), whose tale to the pilgrims about what women desire is a much studied text even in the 21st Century. Plus in the 18th Century the developing relationship and eventual elopement between the famous playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Bath born resident, singer and actress, the beautiful Elizabeth Linley captivated society at the time, even leading to a duel just outside the city to defend Elizabeth’s honour! This love story also inspired a ballet called “The Great Elopement” and an arrangement entitled “Love in Bath” which was written by Sir Thomas Beecham in 1945 compiled from a suite of music by the famous composer George Frederick Handel.

Sheridan and Linley

Today, couples can stroll hand in hand in the very steps of Richard and Elizabeth, Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey) or Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliott (Persuasion). There are plenty of wonderful places to discover together and museums, art galleries, markets and gardens to visit in the city; but we want to highlight a few special events and suggest romantic ideas for this year’s Valentine’s Weekend.

Brief Encounter

For the true romantics, on Saturday 14th February, The Forum, will be putting on one of the most romantic movies of all time – Brief Encounter. The showing of this 1945 classic film will be even more special as there will be a performance by the Bath Philharmonic Orchestra beforehand of some of the music that inspired the film’s soundtrack, including that of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto with international soloist Alexandra Darieuscu. There will also be roses and champagne available to purchase in the foyer if you wish to treat your loved one even more.

If you fancy something a bit more up to date in the cinema then on Friday 13th February sees the general release of the hotly anticipated Fifty Shades of Grey, which can be seen in both the Bath Odeon and Little Theatre. Back seats will be filling up fast we’re sure! If some S&M isn’t really your scene then another romantic film released soon is The Last Five Years. This is an adaption of a 2002 off Broadway musical that chronicles the love affair and marriage of a couple over five years told almost entirely through song.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Eve may have been tempted by an apple in the Garden of Eden, and you can too in Bath this Valentine’s weekend at the 9th Bath Cider Festival, taking place at The Pavilion. Opening on Friday 13th until Saturday 14th February, you can enjoy over 100 ciders and perries along with a hog roast and cheese platters. The Wurzel’s tribute band, The Mangledwurzels will be playing at all sessions as well, to add some Scrumpy and Western flavour to the event.

There are plenty of other musical events over the Valentine’s weekend that everyone (not just couples) can enjoy. Komedia will be running its regular Saturday Comedy Night followed by the fantastic Motocity where you can dance the night away to some soul and funk classics. On Friday night at Komedia there’s also a DJ set entitled “Valentine’s Payback Special”; while over at The Chapel Arts Centre you can enjoy a night of 60’s and 70’s classics by The Mods Band. The Chapel Arts Centre will also have the Zen Hussies playing on Valentine’s evening, bringing you a night of swing, jive, boogie and surf from this fantastic six piece band.

PintofScrumpy

If the theatre is more your thing, then at TheTheatre Royal, you can enjoy Tom Stoppard’s Olivier award winning comedy about science, sex and landscape gardening, Arcadia. Over at the Ustinov Studio you can take your loved one to see Stella, about Jessica Bell and Caroline Herschel and their two loves – men and astronomy. A rather apt play as Caroline lived and worked with her astronomer brother William (who discovered the planet Uranus) in the 18th Century at 19, New King Street, Bath, where there is now the Herschel Museum. The Rondo Theatre will have on Saturday 14th February the celebrated chanteuse Fiona-Jane Watson who will be recreating the changing times for women in the 20th Century in a one woman show, Wartime Women – the Khaki Cabaret.

Of course, we mustn’t forget food. After all, it is said that the way to a person’s heart is often through their stomach! There will be many menus about to tempt you, but we’d like to suggest taking a look at our sister hotel’s offer. At The Royal Hotel they are organising their candlelit romantic dinner once again. Arrive at their Parisian style Brasserie Brunel to be seated and surrounded by warm wood, candlelight and crystal chandeliers. A complimentary glass of pink bubbly will be offered to you as you contemplate the specially created Valentine’s menu. You will then be served six courses of sumptuous delights to dazzle and delight the sense. This romantic menu is only £28.50 per person. If you’re thinking of making it even more special with a proposal, simply talk to their staff on booking and they will see what they can do to make the night even more memorable for you both.

Valentines Candlelight Dinner 2015 Royal Hotel

Other romantic things to do over the Valentine’s weekend that we can suggest include –
• A Hot Air Balloon ride over the city
• A pampering time at the Thermae Spa
• A walk around National Trust owned Prior Park – a popular place to drop to one knee and propose!
• High Tea at The Pump Rooms
• A stay in one of our Four Poster rooms at Bailbrook Lodge where you can snuggle up in front of our real fire, or enjoy watching a romantic DVD from your comfortable bed; plus you will enjoy complimentary toiletries, robe and slippers, and our award winning champagne breakfast in the morning. If you’re looking to make it extra special you can arrange with us for flowers, chocolates and champagne on arrival.

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If you’re be looking for presents for your loved one then you’re spoilt for choice with so many shops in Bath – perhaps consider a box of handmade chocolates from Charlotte Brunswick, they have a Captured Heart Cube for £8.50 or their Heart Boxes start from £14.95. Nearby San Francisco Fudge Factory can tempt with cookies and cream, vanilla and caramel or raspberry and white chocolate Pavlova fudge pieces that you can buy by the piece or box. Say it with flowers, and you can’t go much wrong with the beautiful bunches from Flowers of Bath. They offer a stunning selection, plus bespoke orders are taken too. During the Victorian period the meaning of flowers was incredibly popular and you can’t go wrong with a red rose which is said to represent “passionate love”. If you want to be someone’s secret Valentine then yellow chrysanthemums are for you, Yellow tulips represent “hopelessly in love” and Lilacs mean “first love”.

FlowersofBath

If wine is more your other half’s passion then why not try a tutored wine tasting with Raisin Wine; tickets start from £17.00. On Sunday 15th February there is Bath Market (9.30am to 4pm) at Green Park Station where you and your partner can go explore and perhaps buy something special for one another. There is everything from food and jewellery, vinyl, book and art, as well as gifts, crafts and much more. If your other half is a label and fashion lover, designer goods need not be out of your reach – simply call into Grace & Ted and take your pick of their second hand designer accessories, shoes and clothes. Finally, for that special piece of jewellery, you can’t go wrong with the family run Mallory’s of Bath. Based in the city for over 100 years, they sell the finest in watches, jewellery, handbags and much more. A fantastic place to go and hint at the engagement ring of your dreams.

We’ve also asked a few of the local independent retailers about Valentine inspired gifts this year:

For the beguiling bibliophile in your life head to the experts, George Bayntun’s on Manvers Street. They recommend for the budding foodies in your life The Foods of Love a little book about aphrodisiacs (£2.00), for your gorgeous Gothic romantic try A Sicilian Romance by Ann Radcliffe or perhaps a First Edition of Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass (£35.00); and for the charming Classicist perhaps purchase bound copies of Restoration Love Songs and Shakespeare’s Sonnets (from £400.00).

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Along with a good book one needs something to nibble on, and perhaps a box of scrumptious “sealed with a kiss” Valentine cupcakes or Love Bug cookies from Coffee@Camden will do the trick. A box of 4 Valentine’s Cupcakes, ribboned with a love tag costs £11.00; Single love bug cookies ribboned with a love tag are £4.00 each. You could even get your children involved in Valentine’s Day with the fun Cupcake class Coffee@Camden are running on Friday 13th February, 4-5.30 pm where they will make 4 cupcakes to enjoy, along with tea afterwards (£15.00 pp).

kwai feh

What about something to wash all those goodies down? You could prepare yourself pre-Valentine’s Day at Independent Spirit’s Cocktail Masterclass on Friday 6th February where if you fancy yourself as the next James Bond you’ll learn to make the perfect Martini, shaken or stirred. Woo your loved one with your mixology skills by picking up from the shop, the very special Kwai Feh liquor (£26.95). Recommended by Chris Scullion, Director at Independent Spirit as their Valentine’s Day drink, this Lychee liquor not only has a romantic story attached (naturally) to its name but it works well as a floral alternative to Kir Royal with champagne or added to a cosmopolitan. Perhaps while you’re there pick up a bottle of their bestselling Cartier NV Brut champagne (£24.95) to create your own Kwai Royals.

Most of all during your time in this beautiful of cities just simply take time to be together with the person that means the most to you. Life can go by too fast these days so just pause a moment and take in the words of John Betjeman from his poem, “In a Bath Teashop”,
“Let us not speak for the love we bear one another –
Let us hold hands and look…”

 

 

Happy Healthy New Year!

With Christmas and New Year behind us, January is typically the month of good intentions; and we at The Bailbrook Lodge can recommend some great ways to get fit and eat well in Bath this year.

If you’re thinking of staying with us, then enjoying one of our great value Spa Packages is one way to prep your body for a new you. The naturally hot spring waters at the Thermae Bath Spa are packed full of different minerals that are great for your body, and having been enjoyed by the Romans, Georgians, and Victorians, centuries of use can’t be wrong! Your visit to the Spa can be supplemented with one of the many treatments on offer, from facials to massages and wraps, they will detox your body and rejuvenate your skin. If you’re visiting The Pump Rooms, then you can also take the waters internally too, trying a sample of the mineral rich water from the dipper.

Thermae Bath Spa

Exercise is a great way to boost the body’s metabolic system and clear the head, and there are plenty of walks for all abilities throughout the city (or run the routes if you’re even keener!). Even just strolling up and down the city window shopping and enjoying the sights can burn off calories. There’s a great incline from Queen’s Square to The Circus up Gay Street, or via Milsom Street and Bartlett Street past the Assembly Rooms. Plus don’t forget to enjoy walking up and down bohemian Walcot Street, and you can cut back into the city via The Paragon which takes you back to the top of Milsom Street again. If you’re feeling a bit fitter and want to see another crescent, then head up Lansdown Road and go explore a part of Bath you may not have discovered before.

Bath Skyline City to Countryside Walk

The National Trust Skyline walk around Bath is the most downloaded walk on the National Trust website, and with good reason, as you are treated to beautiful views over the city, hidden valleys and woodland, while walking past 18th Century follies and Iron Age hill forts. According to the website if you complete the full 6 mile walk you can burn on average 735 calories (kcal) which is as much energy as playing 90 minutes of football! The walk can take up to 3 hours depending on speed, and dogs are welcome on the walk as long as on a lead. Remember to dress appropriately and wear suitable footwear as the paths can be muddy and there are stiles to negotiate. Starting point is up Bathwick Hill near The American Museum.

If you fancy something a little easier on the feet, maybe try a walk along the Kennet and Avon Canal path that runs through the city. There are also other riverside walks available too, but we particularly like this 2 mile walk that starts off at Pultney Weir. From there you head over Pultney Bridge and along Argyle Street towards the magnificent Holburne Museum. From here you can detour through Sydney Gardens behind the Museum where you can find a Roman temple, tea rooms and little bridges that take you over the Avon. Considered a “little Venice”, this park was created in 1795 as a pleasure garden, and continues to delight visitors to Bath today, as it did back when Jane Austen visited. Back to our route, carefully cross over the main road on Beckford Road where you will find the canal path. Follow the path along the canal until you reach The George Inn, a 17th Century hostelry usually surrounded by narrow boats, where you can relax with some refreshment before heading back into Bath the same way you walked. If you want to head back to The Bailbrook Lodge from The George Inn, then you easily can. Simply follow the road from the pub past Bathampton Mill and over the Tollbridge and you will find yourself on London Road West which by turning left and walking along, you will find yourself back at the Lodge!

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Of course Bath doesn’t have to be explored by foot – cycling is a great exercise too, and there are a number of places you can hire a bike from if you haven’t brought your own – Green Park Bike Station is one place, as is Bath Bike Hire. Remember to always make sure you get and wear a helmet with your hire too. Maps and recommended routes are available if needed, but again you have the city to explore, the waterways through and out of the city – both toward Bradford on Avon, and toward Bristol; plus the new Two Tunnels cycle route is a recommended 13 mile route out of Bath.

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There are of course Golf Courses around the city if you prefer to be out on the green with a putt in your hand, such as one of England’s oldest clubs – Bath Golf Club, or the 9 hole Entry Hill Golf Club. If you want somewhere if the weather is wet, perhaps for tennis, squash or badminton, then you can enjoy the Gym and other facilities of the YMCA Bath, or the Pavilion Sports Centre, where membership is not always necessary for certain activities (please contact sports facility directly to check).

After all that exercise, you will need to refuel with something tasty, but healthy, and we can recommend our sister hotel, The Royal Hotel, for great food. Included in your stay with us is a card entitling you to 10% off food at The Royal, so you can enjoy one of their varied menus, either in their 1846 Bar or in the Parisian style Brasserie Brunel. To give you an idea of some of their healthy choices, on their A la Carte menu they tempt you with such starters as Avocado and Strawberry salad, with mixed leaves, toasted pine nuts, fresh Parmesan and balsamic dressing (£4.55), then to follow a Fillet of Salmon garnished with fresh asparagus and lime hollandaise (£13.25), finishing with perhaps a selection of sorbets, or a Poached pear in red wine syrup with honeycomb ice cream (both £4.95 each). To book a table at The Royal Hotel simply call them on (+44) 1225 463134.

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If you are intending to stay with us, whether on a Spa Break or just for a getaway, and have any food intolerances, such as Gluten, then do let us know in advance at the time of booking and we will try and cater for you. Our Breakfasts here at The Bailbrook Lodge, include healthy choices such as porridge, muesli, eggs cooked to your liking and smoked salmon, so you can start the day off the right way. Available both at breakfast and in your room are herbal and fruit teas as well as coffee, normal tea and hot chocolate.

Whatever your intentions are this New Year, we hope you have a happy and healthy 2015!

Beat the January Blues in Bath!

All the excitement of Christmas is over…the last of the turkey has been eaten…those New Year resolutions are tentatively being planned out; what a perfect time in what can be a dull, quiet and cold month to come to beautiful Bath and enjoy a lovely Spa Break and all the events that are on during January.

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There is plenty to do in Bath during the month of January. The Ice Skating Rink in Royal Victoria Park finishes on the 4th January so you could get some last minute practice in. From the 3rd to 10th, there will be the fantastic free, Festival of Light – Illuminate 2015, throughout the city. Now in its fourth year and organised by Bath Spa University, this collaboration of local and international artists bathe the city in wonderful light installations in unusual and unexpected public spaces, making a walk around the city an adventure to find these wonderful pieces of art.

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If you want to be in the warm and keep everyone entertained, then the Theatre Royal Bath’s annual pantomime runs until January 11th. It’s that classic tale of Cinderella, with CBBC’s Tracy Beaker (aka Dani Harmer) in the feature role, and Gavin & Stacey’s, Gwen (Melanie Waters) as the magical Fairy Godmother. Full of fun, laughs and magical moments, this pantomime is not just for the kids!

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There are plenty of exhibitions running in all the museums and galleries in Bath to delight and entertain during January too. One particular interesting exhibition that begins on 17th January and runs until 1st March, is Jeremy Gardiner’s installation at the Victoria Art Gallery entitled “Jurassic Coast”. Cleverly linking two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Bath and the Jurassic Coast of Dorset and Devon, Jeremy’s work involves him building up layers of paint into collage and sanding it down to create fascinating textures and effects. The exhibition includes fossils and a 3D model of the coastline, plus a film. Cost is £3.50 for the exhibition, the rest of Victoria Art Gallery is free.

Pembroke Castle, Wales circa 1829 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

To tie in with the recent release of the biopic film about J.M.W. Turner, “Mr Turner”, starring Timothy Spall, get your fill of those swirling landscapes and big skies and head to the fantastic Holburne Museum. From the 10th January to 8th March 2015 there is an exhibition of eight of Turner’s work including those painted during his time in Bristol between 1791 and 1793. Entitled “Turner: Watercolours from the West – An Intimate Touring Show” this is a FREE exhibition and should not be missed.

Thermae Bath Spa

Of course, while you’re visiting Bath, why not enjoy not just a taste of the famous waters in the Pump Room near the Abbey, but immerse yourself in it’s warm waters and have a relaxing few hours, half or full day experience in Britain’s only naturally heated spring, the Thermae Bath Spa, in the centre of the city. After all that indulgence of Christmas and New Year a Spa Break would be the perfect treat, and our Spa Breaks offer all that luxury without breaking the bank.

Our package includes two nights accommodation in our comfortable en-suite bedrooms with complimentary teas, ground coffee, mineral water and biscuits, plus toiletries are provided. A free parking space per room. Awake to our award winning champagne English Breakfasts (or “healthy choice” breakfast also available). A 3 hour visit (Mon-Fri) or 2 hour visit (Sat or Sun) to the £40 million Thermae Bath Spa where you can experience the various pools including the stunning rooftop pool with vistas over the city (a complimentary towel, bath robe and slippers will be provided by the Spa). A delightful 3 course lunch or early evening dinner at the delightful Brasserie Brunel (must be scheduled before or after your spa session, before 7.30pm), is also included in our Spa Break package. Prices for this fabulous getaway start from just £125.00 per person (Sun – Thurs) or from £145.00 per person (Fri – Sat). All prices are based on two sharing a double or twin room. Upgrades to our Four Poster rooms are available and prices for single occupancy can be requested by contacting us directly on 01225 859090.

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Everyone deserves a little pampering in those cold winter days of January, and with plenty of things on during the month, and with such great value prices, we look forward to seeing you soon!

Christmas Shopping in Bath – Part Two

We hope you enjoyed reading the first part of our Blog piece about alternate festive shopping in Bath during and after the Christmas Market. Now, here’s Part Two for you all; so put up your feet, have a munch on a mince pie and start planning your trip to The Bailbrook Lodge and shopping in Bath!

Food & Drink Gifts

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Bath has a plethora of great places to not only sit and enjoy lovely local food, but also to take-away. Again, we can’t name them all, but here are a few to whet the appetites, perfect to pick up a gift from; and you may find more on your stroll around.

* Charlotte Brunswick - Handmade chocolates in the heart of Bath. Having worked with an historian to create these yummy products around local stories, your box of goodies includes cards with the history written on them. Enjoy the experience of selecting your own tempting carton of treats from the piles of milk, white and dark delights piled up around you in this lovely shop. [3 Church Street, Abbey Green]

* Independent Spirit of Bath – The two witty chaps who run this great off licence offer more than just your average bottle of plonk and can of low grade lager. You come to Independent Spirit for expert advice on spirits, whiskies, fine wines, champagnes and a fantastic selection of world and craft beers. With tasting evenings ever popular, and the guys happy to try and source customers requests, shopping for alcohol got a whole lot more pleasurable! Found opposite the Parade Gardens and Bog Island. [7, Terrace Walk]

* Gillards of Bath – Established in 1886, this lovely stall inside the Guildhall Market, is the place to go for your tea and coffee requirements. Still blending teas and roasting  coffee beans for the aficionados delight, you can also pick up a infuser or grinder as well. [Guildhall Market]

* The Fine Cheese Company – Established in Bath for twenty years this mecca for cheese lovers is one to delight all the senses! Specialising in British cheeses, there are also artisan cheeses sourced from Europe; plus a wide range of biscuits, jellies, jams and other accoutrements all to add to your cheeseboard. Planning a wedding? Then try a cheese wedding cake as something a bit different! Next door there is also a popular cafe where they sell sandwiches, salads, quiches and cakes to eat in or take away. [29 & 31 Walcot Street]

* San Francisco Fudge – For all you sweet toothed fudge lovers out there you will love this great shop near the Abbey Courtyard. All handmade in Bath, the owner is an American lady who ran a fudge stall in San Francisco, but since opening her shop here in Bath in 1995, her fudge is enjoyed by people from all around the world, and shipped around it too! Children’s parties and wedding favours are catered for, and what’s best of all is there are no artificial ingredients. Most of the fudge is also suitable for vegetarians and those with gluten intolerances (always check beforehand). [6 Church Street]

Sport Lovers

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After indulging in all that lovely food and drink, New Year is usually when new intentions are started and the trainers are donned; however there are plenty of you out there who enjoy sport (both watching and partaking) all year round. Bath is the home not only to Bath Rugby and Bath City FC but also has it’s own Racecourse out at Lansdown and a West of England Premier League Cricket Team. There are lots of local sporting groups throughout the city, plus we’re lucky enough to host and train many of the past, present and future Olympic and Paralympic athletes who train as part of Team Bath at the University of Bath. You can find Bath Rugby’s Official shop just along Pultney Street opposite the entrance steps down to The Rec. Here’s a couple more independent shops that may be able to cater for the sporting types whom you have to buy a gift for this Christmas.

* Running Bath – Don’t be too surprised on your walk around Bath if you’ll suddenly see a suited office worker pound up and down The Corridor shopping arcade in Bath with a pair of bright trainers on their feet being watched closely by one of the team at this expert running shop, for this is all part of the service here at these trainer specialists. They make sure that the footwear you choose isn’t based on the name, but on the suitability for your shape of foot and running gait. Great for the first time runner or the ironman triathlete. Sell accessories and clothing too. [ 19 High Street]

* John’s Bikes – Bath’s oldest bike shop, John’s Bikes has been a well loved shop on Walcot Street for 36 years. Offering expert advice and tips as well as servicing and repairs, it’s a great place to go to catch up on the latest cycling news and events in and around Bath too. Of course they sell bicycles here too and they’ve got all makes and models for all budgets, from commuting to competing, from children to adults. [82-84 Walcot Street]

Unique Gifts

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* Vintage & Rare Guitars – Established in 1982, this fantastic shop is hidden down the cobbled streets of Queen Street. Selling investment pieces to gigging guitars these guys know their Fender’s from their Gibson’s. Amps and other accessories sold too; plus they also buy Guitars if you dare part with your old one. With 20 different brands from the past 60 years this is Guitar heaven and what makes it even more special is you can “try before you buy”; often the sound of a potential rock god can be heard echoing around the streets. Bliss for the budding Hendrix in your life. [11 Queen Street]

* Frederick Tranter – Now known under the “Havana House” brand name, this tobacconist and cigar specialist has been established in Bath since 1898. Although smoking is no longer as accepted as it once was, for those of you who still enjoy, this little shop is a blast from the past. You can purchase cigars, blended tobacco, pipes and other smoking paraphernalia in here; plus 30 flavours of snuff, and shaving accessories.[5 Church Street, Abbey Green]

* Ora et Labora – This shop lies within what were once Bath Abbey’s Cloisters and sells unique gifts made by monastic communities from around the world. From Trappist beers, cheese and leather goods to toiletries, scarfs and ceramics you’ll be surprised and delighted by the artisan products that monasteries are still producing today. The shop also sells the unique Bath Medieval Pudding, based on an original recipe found in Bath Archives dating to 1430. You can taste more of history here with regular sampling evenings and dinners, plus there is a small museum downstairs. [3 Church Street, Abbey Green]

* Bath Stamp & Coin Shop – This little shop does exactly what it says in its name and has done so since 1958 in Bath. This family run business not only buys and sells coins and stamps but also military medals; plus free valuations are available when the shop isn’t too busy. A philatelists paradise, it brings back childhood memories for many, and continues to delight every age. [12 Pultney Bridge]

 

Christmas Shopping in Bath – Part One

With the Bath Christmas Market in full swing, we thought we’d also add to your shopping miles by suggesting some great independent traders to visit while you’re staying in the city. The Market is a mecca for local businesses but we’d hope that you’d take some time out to explore a bit more of the city on foot and perhaps one of these shops you will stumble across may tempt you too.

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Clothing & Accessories

Bath is so lucky to have many independent retailers within the City, plus lots of great charity and vintage shops too. These will require a separate post another time; but here are a choice few for your Christmas delights.

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* Liz Cox – Since 1995, Liz Cox has been selling her 100% Made in England bespoke leather handbags here in Bath. All produced locally you can even create your very own customised bag to suit your style (or even your car or dress, whatever takes your fancy!). Men aren’t left out either with their own range of bags and accessories as well. With the monogram currently fashionable on the catwalk, you can make sure your clutch or satchel is initialed too. Head up towards The Royal Crescent and this hidden shopping street of other great independents is found between the Crescent and The Circus. [17 Margaret Buildings]

* Grace & Ted – We all love a bargain and this mother and daughter run boutique is an Aladdin’s den of designer resale clothes, shoes and accessories for both men and women. The fashionable set of Bath come here to sell on their last season wardrobe as well as pick up a Prada or Hermes classic. They also create bespoke hats and fascinators here too. Found in the 18th Century delight of Kingsmead Square there are plenty of great cafes and restaurants around here in which to rest your weary legs. [10 Kingsmead Square]

* The British Hatter – A really unique find, you can almost walk past this shop without realising. It feels like a step back in time when you go in, but The British Hatter still creates and sells headware to the gentlemen and ladies of Bath of styles both contemporary and traditional. Perfect for that hat for races, weddings or garden parties. [9-11 Walcot Street]

* Alexandra May & Not Cartier  – There are many wonderful designers and both small and big shops in Bath that deserve mention; but I will mention in this blog two businesses who bring out the magpie in most people. Alexandra May can be found on the walk up to The Royal Crescent from The Circus; a fabulous shop crammed with jewellery, beads, gifts and curios that will be perfect this Christmastime for stocking fillers. Not Cartier is based inside the Guildhall, and sells everything from early plastics to 80s cast offs and everything diamante in between. Great to pick up that princess tiara, but it’s the earrings and necklaces that truly dazzle here. Clip on Earrings also are a great find for those with unpierced ears.

Books & Maps

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If you’re a Biblophile then you’ll love spending hours in these wonderful shops getting lost amongst the tomes.

* George Bayntun – Antique Books & Bindery. Dates to 1894. Located just next door to our sister hotel, The Royal Hotel; which is opposite the station. [5 Manvers Street]

* Topping & Co. – Lots of collectible books and very popular talks by authors. To be found just at the top of Broad Street as you turn right onto The Paragon. [The Paragon]

* Bath Old Books – A co-operative of 5 experienced book dealers who run this small but fascinating shop. Filled to the brim with general and specialist books on two floors. [9c Margaret Buildings]

* Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights – winner of Independent Bookshop of the Year twice this haven for booklovers is hidden around the back of busy Milson Street. [14-15 John Street]

* Antique & Map Shop – Located on the world famous Pultney Bridge, this small shop is full of maps from all around the world from the 16th to 19th Centuries; along with books and atlases too. [9-10 Pultney Bridge]

Antique Shops/Markets

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Bath was once filled with lots of independent antique shops at once point, but there has been a decline of late. Some have remained though and the ever popular Bath Vintage & Antiques Market that’s run out of Green Park Station every fourth and first Sunday of the month and is a great place to start searching for that gem that will get you on The Antiques Roadshow! Occasionally on a Saturday there is also a pop up Flea Market in the car park next to the Hilton Hotel on Walcot Street; however there are no regular dates for this, so best just to walk along to check.

* Bartlett Street Antiques Centre – This is a great undercover place to visit where there are over 150 dealer showcases and 12 stands filled with jewellery, fine art, glass, toys and many other pieces of Ephemera and Collectibles. Bath’s Goldsmith Company are also on site for restorations, repairs and commissions. It’s to be found on your way walking up to the Assembly Rooms and Circus. [8 Bartlett Street]

We hope we’ve wet your appetite and that you’re looking forward to Part Two coming soon!

Christmas In Bath

Although it is only November, the countdown for Christmas has begun. Last Wednesday saw the Bath Christmas Light switch on, performed by the Bath Rugby Team. Tonight sees the magical Lantern Parade run by the Holburne Museum wend its way through the city; tomorrow, Friday, 21st November, sees the opening of the “Bath on Ice” Ice Rink in Royal Victoria Park, and next Thursday, 27th November is the beginning of the wonderful Bath Christmas Market that flows in and around the historic buildings of the city, tempting you all with tasty treats and local gifts.

Bath Christmas Market

We’ve been decorating The Bailbrook Lodge too, so we’re all in a festive mood as well.  Our lovely fire is lit and keeping guests warm in our lounge; plus they can enjoy a well deserved nightcap from our small Bar before heading upstairs to their comfortable beds, worn out by all that shopping and sightseeing.

If you’re thinking of visiting Bath for the Christmas Market (27th November to 14th November) we’ve a few rooms left for both Sunday nights; but be quick, they’ll be snapped up fast!

If you can only get time off the week before Christmas, then we are offering you a fantastic deal – an en-suite room and our award winning champagne Breakfast, free car parking space per room; plus dinner or lunch at the fabulous Brasserie Brunel in the centre of Bath, all from only £99.00 per COUPLE per night! This Shopping Plus package is available from Sunday 14th December until Tuesday 23rd December. What a perfect excuse to come and enjoy the delights of Bath at Christmas.