The journal of Amélina Petit de Billier

Translation of a page
1825 A visit to Bath

Thursday 15 (September). Mr. F. was kind enough to take me on a little journey to Bath, which is only 12 miles from here and which I wanted to see. The countryside one passes through between Bristol and Bath is pleasant, well cultivated, quite hilly and though it has no outstanding beauty, nature extends its richness and grace there. Bath, a very ancient Roman town, where the Romans already had recognised the virtue of its mineral waters, is quite a big town: it is well built, entirely in cut stone, and situated on a hill which is less steep than Clifton, but quite high. There are very nice shops, fine streets, Bond Street as in London. Invalids come here in the winter and enjoy the mildness of its climate and in summer take the baths and drink the thermal mineral waters, which have great properties. We explored the city all day in full sun and I was very tired from having gone up to Lansdown Crescent which is at the top of the hill. The second (Royal) Crescent is magnificent, very extensive and dominates the town and the valley; it can be seen from a long way away (it is a great regular building in the form of a crescent composed of many beautiful houses rented to visitors). There are several of these crescents; but this is the most beautiful: the Circus has the honours of the three orders of architecture; and also an attractive appearance; we walked in North Parade and South Parade, and saw the private and public baths; the water is naturally very hot: in the public bath everyone bathes together in a big pool, men and women in bedgowns of wool. Previously one dined there; the ladies came, their hair dressed with flowers, feathers, pearls and now everyone rather conceals herself. There is a beautiful ballroom which holds 500 people; a concert hall, a meeting hall, one for gaming; there is much amusement here in the winter but gaming (roulette), which was the greatest attraction of these waters, completely disappeared seven or eight years ago, public gambling being forbidden.

Bath Scientific and Literary Institution in its old site on Terrace walk

The “Library” referred to by Amélina is the Bath Literary and Scientific Institution, founded in 1824.

The library there has been newly created: it contains excellent works in English and French, plaster copies of famous statues, there are several rooms where one can meet; one room where courses and lectures are held. The Marquis of Lansdowne is President of the Society which has made this useful and pleasant establishment. Indeed it seemed to me that one could spend time very well in Bath. There is a Billiard Room. The Pump room is also a place for meeting. There is music every day; it would have to be very powerful if it could make attractive the water which one drinks, I tasted some; it is very bad, warm, with a bitter metallic taste. We dined in Sidney Gardens; gardens like those at Vauxhall where parties are given: they commended to us its excellent French chef and his à la carte dinners, but we found nothing but a bad female English cook and had a plain dinner: I was so tired that I did not mind; afterwards we walked and went on the swings, we went back to Bristol in a diligence to see the famous grey horse of the postmaster.