Art and Culture in Georgian Bath 1714-1830
Leisure: Parades and Pleasure Gardens
The eighteenth-century desire for spaces for public display and mixed-sex socializing was apparent in the development of outdoor, as well as indoor, venues. While the Abbey had provided early eighteenth-century visitors to Bath with somewhere to walk during inclement weather and the Pump Room (constructed first in 1706 and extended in the 1750s, before being replaced with the current building in 1795) provided a meeting place for visitors, complete with tasteful music, there was also a demand for other venues.
Following the lead of London, Bath developed its own parks, promenades, parades, and pleasure gardens, where the Company could meet and mingle in the good weather. Doctors prescribed gentle exercise for those taking the waters, and encouraged walking. A subscription to Harrison’s Walks, an extension of Harrison’s Assembly Rooms in the Lower Town, provided the early eighteenth-century subscriber with exclusive walks overlooking the river, as well as bowling greens and a summer house. With the construction of North Parade (1740–3), the city gained a socially mixed, but very popular public promenade. The Royal Crescent (1767–75) coincided with the shift of the fashionable society to the Upper Town and a taste for rus-in-urbe. The ostensibly rural walks below the Crescent became increasingly popular.
Pleasure gardens had always been popular with visitors to Bath. Spring Gardens, accessed by ferry until the opening of Pulteney Bridge in 1774, was the most central of these. Opened in the late 1730s, Spring Gardens took London’s Vauxhall and Ranelagh as a model and provided paying guests with walks in carefully tended grounds. It also offered music and concerts, fireworks, dancing, and food. Its tempting hot breakfast rolls quickly became a Bath speciality. The end of the century saw the construction of the Sydney Hotel, at the end of Pulteney Street. It served as a meeting space and catered for the needs of visitors to the attached pleasure gardens.