070205.Bath, Avian Voyeurism

February 5, 2007 at 1:25 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Chisel Marks, Columns, Conservation, Corinthian Order, Light and Shadow, Peephole Views, people, Sculpture, siblings, somerset | 11 Comments

Numerous Georgian guide books boast of the Cross Bath’s classical origin and namesake resulting from the land’s historical conversion. Although the bath’s hotspring is a natural feature that could easily have been utilized in classical times, the earliest social location feature that distinguishes the bath is the twelfth century Hospital of St. John the Baptist. Cross Bath historian Jean Manco asserts that the hospital’s location suggests that the medieval Cross Bath was either founded with or predated the hospital but that the latter’s location was determined to make use of the hotsprings. The Cross Baths underwent numerous reconstructions and enlargements, before first attaining fashionable primacy in 1663 after the Charles II’s consort, Catherine, sought privacy to bathe in the high-walled hotsprings in an attempt to cure her infertility.
As stated in Saturday’s post in the “Miracle of Miracles” section, the next queen, Mary of Modena’s successful pregnancy attempts at the bath in 1688 and the subsequently embarrassing Melfort’s Cross. This last Cross of the Cross Bath was demolished bit by bit for nearly a hundred years, until it was completely removed in 1783, the year that Bath’s City Architect, Thomas Baldwin, submitted plans for the new Cross Bath. Redesigned by Baldwin in 1784, the isolation of this fashionable attraction had been one of the main motivations in the Bimbery’s (the Lower Town of Bath City Centre) redevelopment but the resulting neo-classical structure with a baroque north façade (now east do to reconstruction) with four columns was ill fitted in terms of its orientation and orders to its architect’s completed area redevelopment.

cross bath1

When efforts to rectify the Cross Bath with its surroundings in 1797 led by Baldwin’s successor John Palmer, Bath’s 1793 financial crisis had closed the chapter on ambitious redevelopment projects. Palmer’s redesign continued the structure’s long history of altercation and recycling by saving money by dismantling Baldwin’s baroque north façade and reassembling it to face east (toward Stall Street through Bath Street). Omitting Baldwin’s rusticated base, and adding a central chimney with an “ornamental feature with the vase in relied, balanced by ram’s head vases on either side,” Palmer then had Baldwin’s Corinthian capitals and other decorative details matched to fill the new north and south porticoes.
George Phillips Manner’s 1829-1830 alteration of the Cross Bath enlarged the apse into a vestibule and dressing rooms by filling in the detached colonnade, matching the three-fourth Corinthian columns with those of Baldwin’s (present) east façade, and subsequently reduced the presence of Wood’s doorway so that it could only be seen on the diagonal. A 1903 restoration removed the extensions and returned to Palmer’s original north façade design with detached columns, reinstating that design’s relationship with Wood’s doorway.
Between 1999 and 2003, Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners with conservation architects Donald Insall Associates completed a final restoration. The created the funky cantilevered elliptical lead roof, heated pool, and connection to their main project: the New Royal Baths (opened to the public in 2006.) The roof’s shape derives from Baldwin’s supposed original plan for the pump room attached to the baths. The bath beneath is the same size in plan as the roof but pushed to the south.

Facts and plans come from Jean Manco, “The Cross Bath.” In Bath History, ed. Simon Hunt (Gloucester: Alan Sutton Publishing Limited, 1988. 2: 49-84) and text in quotes come from page 74.


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  1. Great shot J…and history lesson too…but I wonder which one of those weemen knocked off that pour guy…at least he’ll be easy to retrieve for evidence, sod floater! HURRY! Call the blog police! 😉

  2. I thought we didn’t like people…?

    I guess it’s okay since you’re focusing on the architecture.

    But the title mentioned “voyeurism.”


  3. Cheers Ame,
    I concur. If this photo does anything then it proves the old proverb that whenever seven girls congregate in a pool together, somewhere a boy dies. Or something, at least that’s what I’m getting from this photo.

    And JC: I do dislike taking people shots but this was from above. I thought I was being stealthy, but this is one of the final shots in the series. The first several had the people glaring up at invisible ol’ me with inexplicable hatred in their eyes. What can I say?—Heisenberg principle. You’ll notice in this photo, everyone is trying to cover their face, looking down, or drowning themselves. People are so dramatic these days.

  4. tres bon titre et tres bon post.

    very good title and very good post.

  5. And I’m guessin this isn’t a clothing-optional sorta spa? And it’s coed…definitely coed! And what were you doing there taking snaps of people’s privacy ANYWAY! Oh, I forgot..it’s all in the name of architecture! Yeah, THAT’S it! 😉

  6. Thanks Olivier.
    I was actually in the Hospital of St. John the Baptist at the time being given a tour of the building by the minister in charge. …so I had a reason to be there….

  7. What has the uncertainty of a measurement of any physical system got to do with your innate hatefulness? Are you sure you don’t mean Murphy’s Law?

    …Whoa, you’re right, that boy is dying! Shoot. If we’d known, we’d have been more careful in the pool at Girl Scout Camp.

    Or maybe we DID know.

    (dun dun DUNNNN)

  8. You have a scientific mind but in pop culture the Heisenberg principle often is linked with the “observer effect,” wherein the observation of an event changes the event.

  9. hmm..i dont like that glass bit that has been added on. i dont think it is in keeping with the original…would you make sure they know myy feelings thank you?

  10. Great picture, I just love it! Not the sort of scene one would expect to see in the U.K.

    While I’m here I thought I’d let you know that I have moved my site on to Wordpad, unfortunately that means it’s time to update those links again…….sorry

    South Shields Daily Photo

  11. decorative glass

    I found it very useful. Thanks for the knowledge. I am personally trying to follow the advice & try to be independent.

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