What’s bubbling under Bath? All you need to know about the city’s hot springs21st April 2020
Bath is world famous for a great many things, from its magnificent architecture to esteemed former residents such as Jane Austen.
But much of what we love about Bath today can all be traced back to one thing – the hot springs bubbling away under the city. It is these geothermal waters that have drawn people to Bath over the centuries, and stimulated its growth into one of the most fashionable cities in the country.
Bath’s reputation as a spa and leisure resort may have been revived in the Georgian period, but it began all the way back in Roman times. After arriving in Britain in around 43 AD, the Romans spotted the hot springs in Bath and began building a bathing and temple complex there in around 60 AD. They built heated rooms, plunge pools and other chambers fed by the natural hot springs, which were channelled around the complex using lead pipes.
They named the town Aquae Sulis, which is the Latin for ‘the waters of Sulis’. The site of the natural mineral springs was previously a Celtic shrine to their god Sulis, who the Romans identified with their own goddess Minerva. Aquae Sulis became a major bathing complex for the Romans, used all the way up to the end of Roman rule.
Bath as a Georgian spa town
The Roman Baths fell into disrepair after the Romans left Britain, and the original structures were lost. However, in 1878, the remains of the Baths were discovered by city surveyor architect Major Charles Davis.
The site was reopened to the public in 1897, before being extensively (and expensively) extended, conserved and redeveloped by famous father-and-son architects John Wood, the Elder and John Wood, the Younger.
But the start of Bath as a popular Georgian spa town began even earlier than this, when the first Pump Room was opened in 1706. Doctors were prescribing the drinking of mineral-rich waters for all kinds of conditions and illnesses.
Bath soon went from a quiet market town to a fashionable metropolis, with throngs of high society visitors flocking there to enjoy the spa waters and other leisure attractions.
The Roman Baths today
The Roman Baths is one of the top 10 most visited tourist attractions in the UK, according to one of the latest reports from Visit Britain. Over a million visitors a year tour the complex, including the Pump Room, grand bath, underground chambers and museum containing fascinating Roman artefacts. Bathing is not permitted in the Roman Baths however, as the water contains a potentially dangerous amoeba.
However, you can still safely enjoy the pleasantly warm waters of Bath’s geothermal springs at the Thermae Bath Spa. Three springs feed the complex in the heart of the city (next to our Hot Bath apartment), including the heated rooftop pool with its panoramic skyline views.
Where does the hot water come from?
Bath’s hot springs start life as rainwater trickling down through limestone, although the source of the waters remains a mystery to this day. The water is heated by high temperature rocks, before rising back up through the three hot springs which supply the Roman Baths and the Thermae Bath Spa. At the Thermae Bath Spa, the water is a perfect bathing temperature of 33.5°C and contains a combination of over 42 minerals and trace elements.