070203.Bath, Be Careful Where You Bathe

February 3, 2007 at 9:18 PM | Posted in Actors in Period Costumes, Architecture, Bath, Corinthian Order, Ionic Order, Jane Austen, Monuments and Memorials, Overcast, people, Pilgrimage, Ruins, Sculpture, somerset, Supernatural | 12 Comments

A photo from back in October during the filming of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.061007.049.Somset.Bath.Bath St.Filming Austen's Persuasion near the Cross Bath
Here, terminating the Ionic-ordered Bath Street’s (formerly Cross Bath Street) western vista is the Corinthian-ordered Cross Bath, with the John Wood Building of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist as its background. On page 126 of The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol (1958), noted architectural critic Nikolaus Pevsner described the street as a the “finest piece of formal planning at Bath,” and “a perfect piece of design made especially attractive by its modest easily manageable size.” The pictured Cross Bath east façade was designed principally by Thomas Baldwin, completed in 1784 to replace the Elizabethan structure. The Cross Baths have been heavily remodeled since then, most recently in 2003.

cross bath

Miracle of Miracles:

James II’s consort, Mary of Modena, who followed her sister-in-law’s failed attempt at an infertility cure at the Cross Bath and succeeded. Exuberantly expecting a male heir, the Earl of Melfort commissioned and then erected the Melfort Cross at the site, just three months after the 10 June 1688 birth. Descriptively almost a metaphor of Robert Campin’s c.1425 Annunciation Merode Altarpiece, the monument itself was referencing that Biblical subject too literally. The costly marble monument rose from the center of the baths and was composed of a Trinity-referencing three Corinthian columns “springing from a pedestal and supporting a dome, surmounted by a cross with a crown of thorns. Around the dome were three cherubim holding aloft a crown, scepter and orb.” A dove, clearly representing the Holy Spirit, descended between the columns toward the bath, implying the miraculous conception of Queen Mary, soon to mother of a king of three kingdoms. Should this monumental message be missed by the Protestant majority, it was spelled out with numerous religious and political inscriptions, dedications and heraldic shields. An embarrassed Corporation maintained the monument until the Glorious Revolution later that year when the Melfort Cross became a memorial for the Catholic cause. A slow process of dismantling ended in 1783, the same year Baldwin drew up his plans for the new Bath. However, given its expense and quality of workmanship, Melfort Cross fragmentally resurrected around town as decorative parts of shopfronts and in the North Parade Gardens, as late as 1907.

All facts and historic images came from Manco, quoted text from page 65.
See Manco, Jean. “The Cross Bath.” In Bath History, ed. Simon Hunt. Gloucester: Alan
Sutton Publishing Limited, 1988. 2: 49-84.
Melfort Cross

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12 Comments »

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  1. wouldn’t you love to have been there in 1793? i reckon i was. oh! look! there i am on the balconette oggling the bathers….

  2. tune in monday then.

    ps. they’re bathing in their own hotsprings-warmed feces (they didn’t get up to relieve themselves….)

  3. It’s like any public swimming pool… as long as you don’t think about what’s in there, it’s all right! Right? Right.

  4. post tres interessant. merci


    post very interesting. thank you

  5. […] sought privacy to bathe in the high-walled hotsprings in an attempt to cure her infertility. As stated in Saturday’s post, the next queen, Mary of Modena’s successful pregnancy attempts at the bath in 1688 and the […]

  6. AH! yes the HOLLY WELL – the one where the white lady lives. I wonder if she had any part in holding up the Spa Development ? If I were her I would have turned all of the blueprint plans for the Spa upside down in the water – warning of a a bad omen to anyone who dares to tamper with these powerful healing waters. I remember hot spa water stand pumps all over this once fair City, now ruined by the Bigot councillors that supposedly ru(i)n the City.
    Give us back our free healing water, complete with all of the minerals that dwell in it. Just because one person died from the ingestion of a so called bad ameba, Bath city council saw an opportunity to sell the whole project to the Americans instead of fund raising or better, pay for it themselves to properly restore the Baths to their former glory.

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