Friday, October 21, 2016

From Bath to Bourton on the Water in The Cotswalds

Well we made it to Bourton on the Water in the Cotswalds today. Was so nervous driving out of Europcar and out of Bath.
Driving is easy but when you have to navigate as well and Suri stops talking to you. Waaaaaah. It's all in miles and yards too which takes a bit of getting used to. Layne took over the navigation and got us here with just a few wrong turns. She is a legend, much more relaxed than me.

Everything here is tiny............. cottages, streets, parking opportunities, even the river is only 10cm deep. Anyway it's a total adventure and a very beautiful town. A lesson for me in how much I take Mr Beach House for granted when driving in a foreign country.

Bourton on the Water

As for Bath yesterday, we loved the Assembly rooms. Took the balcony tour. There also a fashion exhibition on there. So interesting in terms of social history. Once the sovereigns in the Georgian era started coming to Bath, soon the upper classes followed, thereafter came the wealthy (mainly acquired in the colonies firstly via the slave trade late 1700s, then on trading sugar, tea and wool) and the military. 

 It's horrible to look around town and think of all that beauty is garnered from so much misery, but that by and large is the sorry truth.

Bath and the assembly rooms were all about pleasure and indulgence. It was uncool to work and as lady and gentleman, it was fashionable to flaunt your wealth and spend it seeking pleasure. Gambling, balls, concerts, theatre, tea, and all day breakfast when one cup of tea was equal to the cost of 10 bottles of gin, were what the rooms were all about. 

Transport to and from the assembly rooms and around Bath generally was by way of sedan chair, with servants carrying you at either end. At the end of the night when leaving the ball to get transport home, you shouted 'chair ho',  which is how we get the word cheerio .

The Sedan Chair

The thing with the Assembly rooms was that once you paid your subscription for the season to be there, you could get in, subject to being socially acceptable, so it was gold diggers and title seekers via marriage on parade.  Jane Austen did not like it one bit and that's why she parodies so much wanky human nature in her stories.

Interestingly the big hoop dresses of the 1700's made way for the more slender dresses of Jane Austen's time because the narrower dresses were more suitable for the country type dancing that became fashionable and so everyone could fit into the assembly rooms. Often  there were 1000 people in the ballroom, not much bigger than a council hall. Also the Napoleonic wars meant that French silk was no longer available or fashionable. So English muslin and cotton from the antipodes it was.

So how did socialising at the assembly rooms all come to an end? Once 'anyone' could get in, the scene became less attractive over time. Kind of like night clubs etc today. The in crowd decided to take the waters on the coast instead.  Parliament banned gambling and the age of indulgence became less fashionable. Being Pius became more fashionable than blowing the family fortune at the card tables. George 4 had applied to parliament and was granted over a million pounds, which was lost via gambling  etc and the people just got Jack of it I guess.

Queen Victoria didn't like the place because someone called her chubby in Bath. She then used to close the blinds on the train as she passed through the town on her way to the coast. The Assembly rooms ultimately fell into disrepair and the interiors we're all but destroyed in the bombing of WW2. 

No 1 Royal Cresent Bath

Elizabeth Taylor's dress on show at the assembly rooms in Bath

The whole complex was almost demolished after the war to make way for a carpark. Someone saw the historical value of the building. The interiors were recreated and once restored the building was donated to the National Trust. Today it holds exhibitions and functions in its stunning rooms. One set of 5 original chandeliers in the ballroom is insured for 1.5 million pounds. They were saved by the WW2 bombing because they had been hidden in a mine and almost sold to the US White House after the war and before the restoration. Close call.


  1. I am loving your tour highlights and snippets of history. The fashions look amazing even though I prefer the casual clothing we have now. I would hate to be in a tight corset all day!

  2. Fascinating post! As a history geek I love to know those details of how things came to be. So much of what happens is affected by seemingly unrelated things - ie the Napoleonic wars impact on fashion. Very much enjoying sharing your trip to the UK !

  3. I would be nervous about driving in a different country as well which is probably why I've never done it! You have been on a really fab holiday I can't believe you are still away what an amazing holiday!

    1. Hi Michelle
      We are home now, but I am writing up my travel diary as is. We were away for about 6 weeks.

    2. Hi Michelle
      We are home now, but I am writing up my travel diary as is. We were away for about 6 weeks.


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