Our wonderful Welcome Ambassadors are the friendly faces of Bath, offering everybody a warm and informed welcome to the city centre. Since first taking to the city’s streets in 2018, our Welcome Ambassadors have been asked thousands of questions by people visiting Bath. Here, they share some of their favourites…
Why are there so many big Georgian buildings in Bath?
“Answering this one made me feel like a proper history teacher! We get such a mix of tourists, including those who visit because they have heard Bath is lovely, but know nothing about its history or culture. As Welcome Ambassadors, we provide such a useful resource of information for questions like this, above simply pointing people in the right direction.”
We are thinking of moving here – where should we look?
“A tough question to answer because everywhere has its good points! There are no bad areas to live in Bath. It was interesting to talk about different aspects of Bath as a resident. For example, considering local green spaces, the steep hills, architecture (everyone pictures a Georgian terrace but Bath has much more!), and even public transport links and the dreaded parking.”
Where is number five Abbey Churchyard?
“I was in Abbey Churchyard one Saturday morning when somebody approached to ask for directions to number five Abbey Churchyard. I was taken aback, as there is no number five building in existence.
“Further questioning elicited the reason she was asking – she was looking for the building where the young Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Mary Shelley), had lodged in Bath when she began to write the novel which would later become ‘Frankenstein’. This led me to realise that the building had stood where the Pump Room extension building (now the entrance to the Roman Baths), currently stands.
“Nowadays, there is a cast iron plaque outside the Pump Room building, which marks where the Boarding House once stood as number five Abbey Churchyard, where Shelley lodged for several months as a 19-year-old in 1816. The building was later demolished to permit the excavation of the burned Roman Bath, and the Pump Room extension building was later built in 1897, following the completion of the Roman Baths works in the late nineteenth century.
“Visitors to the city will be able to find out more about Shelley’s time in Bath at Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein, which is set to open later this year.”
Who lives in the Royal Crescent?
“I’d never actually thought hard about this before. We had a really interesting and wide-ranging conversation about house prices, social class, wealth, how some of the properties are sub-divided into flats, how some of them used to be owned by the Council in 1960s and 70s so they were ‘Council flats’, that some of them are second homes, what your address says about you… very interesting indeed.”
Where can I buy a pair of loon pants?
“The question that sticks in my mind the most was a youngish guy planning his outfit for a fancy dress party, who was trying to source some loon pants (for younger readers, these are tight jeans or trousers with absolutely massive flares!) We sent him to the Yellow Shop in Walcot Street.”
Where’s that smell coming from?
“It was a hot day without a breath of air. We were standing at the junction of Cheap Street and High Street, just by the Abbey. Somebody hurried up and asked “where’s that smell coming from?” in quite an urgent voice.
“We were completely taken aback – was he referring to the drains, or even worse, perhaps a gas leak! He could see we were at a momentary loss and quickly went on to explain he was looking for a nearby Indian restaurant but couldn’t find it, however, in he could smell curry in the air! All was now clear, sowe gently pointed him to the ground-floor door leading to the first-floor Indian restaurant, Indian Temptation. Another satisfied visitor!”
Why is the inscription over the entrance to the Pump Room in Greek?
“I was approached whilst in Abbey Churchyard and asked why the inscription over the entrance to the Pump Room is in Greek. The person asking the question was confused as he had expected the inscription to be in Latin, reflecting Bath’s Roman heritage and the adjoining Roman Baths.
“I explained that the Pump Room was completed before the remains of the Baths were uncovered and opened up to the general public some hundred years later but, having consulted with my fellow volunteer, we could not offer any further explanation as to why the inscription is in Greek.
“We committed to researching the issue and this led us to the likely explanation. The Pump Room and the adjoining colonnades were built between 1786 and 1799. The original design was by Thomas Baldwin, who began the work on the main building. However, part-way through its construction in 1793, Baldwin was replaced by another Bath-based architect, his long-time rival John Palmer.
“Palmer determined to alter the design of the northern elevation of the building adjoining Abbey Churchyard, and Willey Reveley, a contemporary expert on Greek architecture, was consulted on the revised plans. As a result the proportions of the revised design follow those of a classical Greek temple and the inscription on the entablature is a quote from Pindar, an ancient Greek poet: ‘Ariston Men Hydor’, or ‘Water is Best’.”