This is not really a post about washing and personal hygiene although I suppose, in a way, it is. Where can you sit and watch the steam rising from warm bath water whilst having liveried waiters serve you tea in a highly polished silver tea service along with traditional English afternoon tea of scones and cakes? Add to this scene, chandeliers and a pianist playing at a grand piano and you could be forgiven that it is fantasy.
But, of course, it isn’t for this is England and is just another example of the crossing of eccentricity, tradition and commercialism to create the Pump Room in the city of Bath. In the photo below, the Pump Room is in the further building, the nearer one being the entrance to the Roman Baths themselves.
Bath developed soon after the Romans had invaded Britain giving it the name of Aquae Sulis about AD60 although the hot spring had been a sacred place even before then. Over the next three hundred years the waters were gradually enclosed and then abandoned two hundred years after that with the fall of the Roman Empire.
photo: view of the Roman baths from the Pump Room tea rooms
During the eighteenth century the Grand Pump Rooms were built where it was possible to ‘take the waters’. At this time, the dandy Beau Nash became Master of Ceremonies and made Bath the most fashionable resort in Britain – the future of the Pump Rooms was assured.
Photo: Beau Nash (statue) still presides over the social gatherings in the Pump Room
Today the Pump Rooms are the perfect place to relax and just absorb the genteel atmosphere. It is very easy to imagine Catherine Morland visiting here in the hope of meeting Mr Tilney in Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey. Although the rooms are steeped in tradition they are not an intimidating place to visit and all are welcome – it isn’t necessary to be wearing formal clothes! They are open every day for lunch and tea or, if you really want to be exclusive, you can book them for your private party in the evenings.
Photo: even the stairway to the cloakrooms has style!
In the YouTube video below, the music is performed by the Pump Room Trio, the longest, continuous playing ensemble in Europe. The fountain is shown in the clip where you can try the water yourself for which, I believe, there is no charge even if you don’t stay for tea.
Bath is a fascinating city to visit and a World Heritage Site. This will be one New Year’s Resolution that will be easy to keep: visit Bath more often.