The Birth of Bath

July 18, 2017
The RCH Spa

Our Beautiful city of Bath is world famous for its healing waters and breathtaking Georgian architecture – but what many people don’t know about is its rather humble origins.

Legend has it that Bath was founded in 860 BC when a local Celtic royalty called Prince Bladud was cured of his leprosy after wallowing in pools of hot mud.

He stumbled across this rather unconventional activity after watching his leprosy-ridden pigs do the same thing.

And so delighted was Prince B to be disease free, that he founded the city of Bath around the ‘curing’ hot springs in 863BC.

Oh! And he made himself King too.

Since then, we have discovered that Bath, which is the only entire city in the UK to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, sits on a whole load of geothermal hot springs, which are highly rich in minerals.

And it’s these minerals which reputedly have healing powers and enhance wellbeing of the mind, body and soul.
But more of that later! Back to the history lesson and Prince B.

So…well there’s not a huge amount of information about what happened next – but what we do know is that many years later, in around AD43, the Romans picked up on Bath’s reputation as a source of health-boosting hot springs.

They had settled down the road in the valley of River Avon in Somerset, and decided they needed a sort of holiday retreat where they went to relax and rejuvenate in-between conquering and fighting and building roads and forts.

And so they put their skills to excellent use and built Bath – not as a garrison, but as a sanctuary.

They named the city “Aquae Sulis” (the “waters of Sulis”) to keep the locals happy, as Sulis was the goddess of thermal springs worshipped by the Celtic tribes living in the area.

In AD70, the Romans built a reservoir around the hot springs followed by a series of sophisticated baths and temples.

Around this time, they also developed a number of pampering treatments which sound remarkably similar to the sort of treatments we enjoy today.

These include:

  • The Great Bath – a large pool that the Romans filled with hot spring water from the Sacred Spring – similar to a modern-day Jacuzzi.
  • They then moved onto the ‘Caldarium,’ a steam room similar to a sauna.
  • After that it was straight into the ‘Tepidarium’ a room of warm water – much like a power shower.
  • Finally, an invigorating splash around in the ‘Frigidarium,’ a room with cold water – much like an icy shower.
  • They also enjoyed a range of massages with oils, which saw rich Romans and army generals lounging around in various stages of undress while minions rubbed and pummeled their flesh.

This went on for hundreds of years until, finally, fully pampered, and with their attentions turned to some trouble back in Italy, the Romans decided they’d had enough and withdrew from Britain in around AD410.

And along with some rather straight roads and interesting forts, they left behind a legacy for sitting around in warm water – and the thermal baths continued to be used long after they’d waved us Brits goodbye.

In the Post Roman era, Spa Baths were built over the ruined Roman Baths and Temples and in the 1790s the entire area was excavated and the Pump Room was built.

And so today, millions of people flock from around the world to enjoy the hot springs which feed the thermal pool at the famous Thermae Bath Spa.

Click HERE for information about our rejuvenating Spa & Bath House.

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