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Walking Jane Austen's Bath
A visit to Bath is unique. Not only is this city an important setting in two of Jane Austen's novels, it is where the Austen family lived for five years. It has amazingly preserved Georgian and Regency buildings; every one of the Jane Austen and Regency sights is easily seen on foot; and it is the home of the Jane Austen Centre and its Jane Austen Festival!
In this introduction to the city, we'll show you where you can find the locations from Jane's novels Perusasion and Northanger Abbey, the places where Jane and her family lived, and the most iconic examples of Georgian architecture in the city – all of which are possible to seen on foot!
They can all be seen in one day if you get an early start. And even if you'd rather go at a slower pace, it is possible to visit everything in two days. Just be sure to refresh yourself with some tea in The Pump Room or the Jane Austen Center Tea Rooms – or both!
We begin at the train station and take a route in a circle around the city:
"Taking the waters" at the Pump Room
1. The Parade Gardens
(Formerly the Lower Rooms)
If you walk up Manvers Street from the railway station, one of the first sights of interest that you will see is park known as the Parade Gardens. Located on your right, near the river Avon, this was once the site of the Lower Assembly Rooms that Jane would have known, and where Catherine Morland is introduced to Mr. Tilney in Northanger Abbey.
Across the street, in the North Parade Passage, is the famous Sally Lunn's restaurant, where the Bath Buns that Jane wrote to her sister about are still made in a building erected in 1622. These buns are more like a cakey brioche bun than an ordinary bun, and are still delicious with a cup of tea!
2. Bath Abbey and The Pump Room
Walk across the street from the Parade Gardens through Orange Grove (paved courtyard), then along the left side of Bath Abbey and into the Abbey courtyard where you will find the Roman Baths and The Pump Room, as well as the magnificent west end of the Abbey itself.
The Pump Room was rebuilt in its present form in 1795, where it continued to be the place in Georgian Bath to meet your friends and acquaintances, be introduced to new people, and "take the waters" for your health.
As soon as the divine service was over, the Thorpes and the Allens eagerly joined each other; and after staying long enough in the Pump-room to discover that the crowd was insupportable, and that there was not a genteel face to be seen, which everybody discovers every Sunday throughout the season, they hastened away to the Crescent.
In Northanger Abbey, we find that every genteel visitor to Bath would take a stroll in the Pump Room every day, including Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe, who enjoy many friendly tête-a-têtes while they walk arm-in-arm around the elegant Georgian interior. Catherine also comes here to find Miss Tilney when she wishes to be better acquainted with her after their introduction at the ball the previous evening.
The hot springs that were originally discovered by the Romans were thought to aid in the healing of many physical ailments, so if you were in Bath for your health, a glass of the warm spring water every day was recommended. The fountain is still there, and for less than a pound you can try the water yourself! Be warned, it tastes rather like bath water (no pun intended...).
Now it is home to a restaurant and tea room, where a live piano will serenade you while you sit in the original Georgian chairs and enjoy a cup of tea. Remember, you may even be sitting in a chair once used by Jane herself!
3. Shopping in Bond Street and Milsom Street
Leave the Abbey courtyard, cross Union Street, and you'll find yourself in what is still the place to shop in Bath! Bond Street is where the many shops for which Mrs. Allen is thankful were located.
Now, here one can step out of doors and get a thing in five minutes.
It would have been convenient for Jane Austen to be within walking distance of the fabric, hat, book, and food shops, that were as well-stocked as the most sophisticated shops in London.
Milsom Street is also the address of General Tilney and his family – which tells us that it must have been quite the smart and sought-after address, being good enough to please the elevated tastes of the General. This is where Catherine walks with her "elastic step" to call on Miss Tilney, only to find that she is not at home.
The sweet shop Molland's was also located at No. 2 Milsom Street, and was where Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth have their memorable first encounter in Bath.
4. Queen Square
Walk back down Milsom Street, turn right on Quiet Street and continue on to Queen Square, where Jane and her mother stayed with her elder brother Edward in 1799. Edward rented No. 13 of the square for his own family, including his two children Fanny and Edward. It was built between 1728 and 1736.
Jane was ready for an exciting stay, and seemed ready to enjoy herself. She wrote to her sister Cassandra:
I like our situation very much; it is far more cheerful than Paragon, & the prospect from the Drawing room window, at which I now write, is rather picturesque...
May 17, 1799
5. No. 25 Gay Street
Walk back out of Queen Square and turn left onto Gay Street. In Jane's day, this was a less expensive, but still genteel, part of town. It is where Admiral and Mrs. Croft live in Persuasion.
Jane, her sister, and their mother lived here for a short time in 1805.
Now No. 40 is the location of The Jane Austen Centre with it's elegant and delicious tea room!
6. The Circus & The Royal Crescent
Continue up Gay Street and enter The Circus, one of the most iconic sights in Bath. Built between 1754 and 1756, this perfectly round circle of three terraces of houses was home to some of Jane's friends, who lived at No. 11.
Perhaps the most recognizable sight in Bath is The Royal Crescent. Walk along Brock Street from The Circus to find this engineering marvel built between 1767 and 1775, where the Prince Regent's brother, the Duke of York, once rented a house.
The Crescent is where Mrs. Allen met Mr. and Miss Tilney, and tells Catherine about it after her disastrous attempt to visit Blaize Castle with John Thorpe, her brother James, and Isabella – although Mrs. Allen cannot remember anything Miss Tilney told her.
Now No. 1 Royal Crescent is home to a museum. The house has been restored to it's original Georgian interior, and visitors can see what life was like for the rich and famous who lived in Bath's most prestigious locaton – including a dining room, drawing room, bedroom, and kitchen.
7. The Upper Assembly Rooms
Walk back down Brock Street, through The Circus, and a short way down Bennett Street to find the Upper Assembly Rooms. These rooms have been restored to their former Georgian glory, and include a ballroom, a concert room, and the octagon room, where it is easy to imagine Jane or any of her characters attending a dance or a performance.
While Mr. Tilney is amusing Catherine with his hilarious conversation during their first dance, he discovers that she has visited this set of assembly rooms.
"Indeed! Have you yet honoured the Upper Rooms?"
"Yes, sir, I was there last Monday."
It is here that she and Mrs. Allen must squeeze themselves among the crowd just to get a glimpse of the feathers of the ladies dancing.
They were built in 1769, and became the chief venue for entertainment in Bath, holding a dance, concert or card came nearly every night of the week.
Now it is also the home to Bath's Museum of Costume, with over three centuries of fashions on display.
8. Camden Crescent
Walk all the way down Bennett Street, and turn left up the Lansdown Road to find Camden Crescent, home to Sir Walter Elliot in Persuasion. Its lofty position on the hill makes it a fitting place for Sir Walter and Elizabeth, who have lofty views of their own importance. But it also offers a beautiful view over the south and east of the city, including Beechen Cliff where Catherine Morland went on a walk with Henry and Eleanor Tilney in Northanger Abbey and received her lesson in "the picturesque."
9. St. Swithin's Church
Walk back down Lansdown Road until it runs into Walcot Street, then follow it until you see St. Swithin's Church. This is where Mr. and Mrs. Austen were married in 1767, and where Mr. Austen was buried in 1805.
10. Pulteney Bridge
Continue down Walcot Street until you see Pulteney Bridge – that un-missable sight on the river! It was built to replace the ferry in 1774, and has been lined with shops ever since. Jane would have crossed it to walk along the river and up to Beechen Cliff.
Catherine Morland and the Allens would have gone back and forth along the bridge to get to and from their lodgings in Pulteney Street.
11. Laura Place
This prestigious address was, of course, home to the Dowager Lady Dalrymple and the Honorable Miss Carteret, cousins of the Elliots.
They visited in Laura Place, they had the cards of Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple, and the Honourable Miss Carteret, to be arranged wherever they might be most visible: and "Our cousins in Laura Place,"--"Our cousin, Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret," were talked of to everybody.
12. Great Pulteney Street
Continue through Laura Place to reach Great Pulteney Street, home of the Allens and Catherine Morland during their stay in Bath.
They passed briskly down Pulteney-street, and through Laura-place, without the exchange of many words. Thorpe talked to his horse, and she meditated, by turns, on broken promises and broken arches, phaetons and false hangings, Tilneys and trap-doors.
Jane would have been familiar with Great Pulteney Street since she walked along this 100-foot wide street on her way to the shops in the center of town from their first address in Bath, No. 4 Sydney Place.
13. Sydney Place and Sydney Gardens
At the end of Great Pulteney Street turn left to find what was the Austen family's home in 1801, which, to Jane's delight and relief, was across the street from Sydney Gardens; both were established in the 1790s.
"It would be very pleasant to be near Sidney Gardens!–we might go into the Labyrinth every day."
Jane's letter, January 21, 1801
It was a genteel but affordable address, which suited her parents, and it allowed Jane to enjoy some of the greenery that she had been forced to leave behind in Hampshire.
There were concerts and public breakfasts held in the Gardens, which might include dancing in the adjacent Sydney Hotel.
This concludes our introductory tour of Bath! These are our favorite places in the city, as well as some of the most important places in Jane Austen's life and novels, but there is always more to see. And the best way to find your own favorite spots in this beautiful city is to travel there and discover it for yourself. We hope we've given you a head start for planning your own adventure to Jane Austen's Bath!
Written by Anna Morton for thitherjaneausten.com
Jane Austen in Bath: Walking Tours of the Writer's City, by Katharine Reeve
Could Jane have sat in this chair on a visit to the Pump Room? Well, we sat in it, so we like to think so!