« VorigeDoorgaan »
AVING given a slight historical view of the origin
and progress of ancient Bath, it is necessary to
describe its present position. This will include a short account of everything within it calculated to minister to the votary of pleasure, or the victim of indisposition, the philanthropist, the man of taste, the scholar who seeks tranquillity and rest, the economist, or philosopher. In salubrity of situation it cannot be exceeded, nor in beauty and picturesqueness is it excelled by any city in Europe. Placed in the bottom of a narrow valley open to the east and west, it is constantly ventilated by a stream of air which perpetually renews its atmosphere, and prevents that stagnation of the pabulum vitae, which is so often the occasion of epidemic in many other places. Contagious diseases are little known in Bath, whilst examples of longevity are more numerous than in any other cities or towns of a similar magnitude. Moreover, the average death-rate which has to be measured by the exceptional standard of so many elderly people in Bath retiring, who have already borne the “heat and burden of the day," in the military, naval, and other professions in various parts of the world, is relatively lower than that of other larger towns.
Planted originally on the spot where its hot waters boil up, it continued for ages to be confined to the dimensions which the Romans had at first marked out for it, and until 1755, the ancient, or perhaps more correctly speaking, the medieval walls, enclosing a space of about fifty acres, formed the boundaries of Bath. But even before the demolition of the walls, the spirit of enterprise was awakened, and buildings began to rise in all directions beyond the confines of the city. The large resort of “company" greatly encouraged and
sustained the spirit, and the city spread rapidly in all directions, streets multiplied with uninterrupted progress beyond the parent city, until the population, in 1811, had increased in a century from 2,000 or 3,000 souls to 38,000, and at the present time it is nearly 55,000. Built of the beautiful oolite or granulated egg-like freestone, which forms, in a great degree, the surrounding hills, the houses are as remarkable for neatness as for splendour; and being thrown over the sides of the broad acclivity of Lansdown (which rises to the north), in groups of streets, squares, parades, circuses, and crescents, they present to the eye an appearance singularly imposing, graceful, and beautiful. Connecting their buildings with those of the original city (which only included the parishes of St. Peter and Paul, St. James, and St. Michael, intra muros), they now constitute our city.
To describe this city, its history, rise, and development, with all its institutions, is the object of this work.
Of these objects, the Hot Springs, which first gave an existence and name to our city, are entitled to priority of description.
OF THE HOT SPRINGS AND BATHS. The phenomenon of springs issuing from the earth’s surface considerably hotter than the temperature of the atmosphere, and preserving uniformly, at all seasons, their heat and supply, must early have caught the notice of the casual observer, and fixed the attention of the scientific enquirer. We have seen, accordingly, that the hot waters were immediately objects of regard with the Romans, on their arrival into these parts, and we have now to notice, that numerous attempts have been made by philosophical and scientific men to account for their high and unvarying temperature. Some have attributed this effect to the operation of subterraneous fires, burning in sullen silence far beneath the crust of the earth, and happily discharging by these springs those vapours and gases, which without such spiracula, would burst the
limits of the prisons in which they are generated, and convulse the country around them with an earthquake or a volcano. Others deduce their heat from a subterraneous chemical decomposition, effected by the passage of their water through immense accumulations of pyritical strata : but the only satisfactory hypothesis, and probably the true one, because, whilst it accounts for all the phenomena, it involves no objections against itself, is that proposed by the late Dr. Wilkinson.
The Doctor's theory rests upon this supposed general law in geology, verified by many curious facts, and much solid reasoning, that the temperature of warm springs depends on the different depths below the surface of the earth from which their waters originally proceed. The Bath Hot Springs, he observes, are found flowing on a bed of firm, argillaceous, blue marl, which is itself placed over the white lias :' a circumstance which has occasioned the supposition, that the springs may originate in the latter stratum ; but as the Bath
1 waters possess some properties which the white lias does not exhibit, we may therefore suppose that the warm springs
1 The blue marl is not visible in any part of the reservoirs, except that of the Kingston Bath. The beds of the other reservoirs have been raised by large quantities of alluvial matter, brought from the neighbouring districts : hence arise the nuts (the occasion of so much wonder, and so much nonsense) and other extraneous matter found in cleansing the springs; substances which are not produced by them, but imported into the Baths with the materials employed to elevate their level. The relative elevation of the different beds of the Hot Bath, Cross Bath, King's Bath, and Kingston Baths, were well ascertained at the great flood of Jan. 25, 1809; the flood line was 73/ inches above the bottom of the King's and Queen's Baths; 7 inches above the bed of the Cross Bath ; 2 feet 6 6/10 inches above the bed of the Hot Bath; and 8 feet 2 3/10 inches above the bed of the Kingston Baths. Hence 8 feet : 23/10 inches + 73/10 inches 8 feet : 93/5 inches, the difference of level between the beds of the King's and the Kingstov springs, being the measure of the alluvial matter deposited on the natural bed of the springs supplying the King's and Queen's Baths. Recent excavations have altered all this.
are determined from a source still deeper than it. Now, as the earth is believed by most philosophers to be the grand depository of caloric, and as the deeper it is penetrated the higher its temperature is perceived to be ; it follows, that if the source of a spring be sufficiently profound, it may have that degree of heat communicated to its waters at the point of its formation, as shall enable it to retain, on reaching the surface of the earth, a degree of temperature, not only equal to that exhibited by the Bath springs, but to that astonishing elevation which is found in those of Iceland; which, after having spouted into the atmosphere to the height of 60 or 70 feet, are found in their descent to equal the heat of boiling water. As the Doctor's theory accounts satisfactorily for the heat of the springs, so does it make provision for the uniformity both in their temperature and supply which has been an object of wonder for ages—"Attributing,” says he, “the warmth to the depth to which the spring descends, is ascribing it to a cause which must remain invariably the same, as long as the same structure in that part of the earth continues. To vary this temperature, would be to alter the direction of the strata ; which could only be effected by some tumultary operation of nature."
But whatever uncertainty may be supposed to cloud the natural history of our springs, their early application to the purposes of public utility is unobscured by any shadow of uncertainty ; since the most satisfactory testimony exists of baths having been constructed here by the Romans, shortly after their settlement in the neighbourhood of Bath. “Among the ancients,” says that most enlightened and interesting traveller, Dr. Clarke, “ baths were public edifices under the immediate inspection of the Government. They were considered as institutions, which owed their origin to absolute necessity, as well as to decency and cleanliness. Under her Emperors, Rome had nearly a thousand such buildings : which, beside their utility, were regarded as master-pieces of architectural skill, and sumptuous decoration.” The · Travels through Russia, 148.
remains of Roman Thermo discovered at Bath, whilst they evince the truth of the above observations, authorise their application to the city before us. These remains were brought to light in 1755, and, fortunately for the admirers of Roman antiquities, examined and described, first by Dr. Lucas, and afterwards by Dr. Sutherland, physicians, who at that time practised in Bath.' The site of these magnificent buildings seems to have extended over the ground occupied by the Monastery or Abbey-house ; their walls stretched to the Abbey-green and the back of Church street, and containing a centre and two wings. The ruins occurred at a depth of twenty feet below the surface of the ground ; and consisted, first, of a Bath running north and south, forty-three feet in length and thirty-four in breadth, included within walls eight feet in height, built with wrought stone, lined with terras, and ornamented with twelve pilasters; secondly, of a semi-circular Bath, to the northward of the former, measuring from east to west fourteen feet four inches, and from north to south eighteen feet ten inches, ornamented with four pilasters, and containing a stone chair, eighteen inches high, and sixteen inches broad ; thirdly, two large Rooms, to the eastward, each thirty-nine feet by twenty-two, designed for Sudatories, ' having double floors, on the lower of which stood rows of pillars composed of square bricks, which sustained a second floor formed of tiles, and covered with two layers of firm cement mortar, two inches thick ; the stones and bricks having evident marks of fire, and the flues being thickly charged with soot. One of the furnaces which heated these hypocausts 3 was still visible; and at its mouth were scattered pieces of charcoal and burnt wood, testifying the use to which it had been applied.
Dr. Lucas on Mineral Waters, p. 228, par. 111. Sutherland's attempt to revive ancient Med. Doctrines, p. 17.
2 A Sudatory was the hot room in a Bath; the term is almost interchangeable with Caldarium.
3 A furnace with flues under a bath for heating the air.