After our wonderful historical walking tour around the city of Bath we thought we’d visit the Roman Baths but with a great long line we changed up our plans a little and headed to the Royal Crescent instead. Everyone must have been at the baths because when we arrived at No 1 Royal Crescent there was hardly a wait at all. Just a couple of people in line for tickets ahead of us, and then into the house we went!
To begin our tour we were greeted at the door by a charming gentleman in period clothing who gave us a little introduction to the home, now a museum, and the time period. We were then off to explore the home on our own with the help of other friendly and knowledgeable guides situated throughout the house, along with information cards in each room that gave us an idea of what the room was used for, special items in the room to be sure to take note of, and little stories about the family that lived there.
While I really enjoyed listening to the people describe the features of the room and share their knowledge of the family, I liked that I was able to take photos of the cards because even now, three months later, I can look back on them and remember those details that would have been forgotten forever. I may be a bit of a nerdy note-taker while on holiday, but sometimes even this gal likes it when museums make it easy on me and provide things like this. All the information. None of the hand cramps. Sweet!
So what interesting tidbits did I learn on our tour of No 1 Royal Crescent? I’m so glad you asked because I can’t wait to share!
One of the first rooms on the tour was the very masculine Gentleman’s Retreat. Here a fine Georgian gentleman had a private space where he could indulge in some of his manly pursuits like science, inventions, and the natural world. The 18th century equivalent of today’s “Man Cave”?
Included in this particular gentleman’s retreat were fine display cabinets typical of the 18th century folk’s obsession with recording knowledge by creating collections. Also in this room were a telescope (with a nice view out across Bath), a globe, and an “electrical machine”, which was a replica of Nairns Patent Electrical Machine used as medical therapy to relieve aches and pains.
This was decorated in a formal, masculine, and sober style to reflect the host’s status in society while entertaining his guests. During an elaborate Georgian dinner, dessert would have been the high point and the host would have pulled out all the stops to show off his wealth. This particular table was set with Chamberlain Worcester dessert service that displayed expensive confectionery.
As beautiful as the room is, I think you’ll be quite surprised to learn what is behind the screen in the corner of the room. If you visit, you must ask the guide.
This room was the inner sanctum and private retreat for the lady of the house. She would have slept here and, with the help of her maid, performed her elaborate grooming and dressing rituals. Sometimes she might receive guests in this room that would keep her company during her morning routine.
One thing on the “Not to Miss” list in this room was the wig scratcher which, despite the glamour of the period, was used to relieve ladies from the itch of lice! Really though that was minor compared to all who became ill, and even died, from all the toxic chemicals in the make-up they used.
Very elaborately decorated in a light and feminine style this room would have been used by ladies to take their tea after withdrawing from dinner. Because tea was so expensive in those days it was kept locked in a tea cabinet (there is one in the room) that only the lady of the house would have held the key to so the servants couldn’t help themselves to a taste.
The owner of the home that we learned about, Henry Sanford, suffered from poor health, especially after his wife died in 1764. This room would have given him privacy for rest and recuperation from his ailments. It was furnished with George Hepplewhite pieces and included a portable medicine cabinet that Henry was likely to have for all his home remedies.
This room made me feel like I had stepped in to Downton Abbey life. I could almost hear Mrs. Patmore scolding Daisy for leaving a sauce on the stove too long because of her daydreaming. In this room the servants would have all eaten together and it included a handy, though not particularly humane, invention called a Dog Wheel. In this wheel a dog would have walked, and walked, and walked, to turn the cooking spit, but it likely would have been well fed with the kitchen scraps.
Very much a valued and skilled professional, the head housekeeper would have had her own room, like this one, as basically her private office where she organized the household and paid bills. Because of her elevated status above the other servants, she would have dined in here too instead of in the servant’s hall.
Kitchen and Scullery
Two other important rooms for the proper running of a fine Georgian home, the kitchen and scullery at No 1 Royal Crescent are well stocked with tools and foods of the day so we could get a good sense of how they were run.
If you visit you have to lift the iron. One lift and you’ll thank the makers of our modern irons that are so much lighter. They must have had bodybuilder muscles to use those irons every day!
I really enjoyed our little step back in time to tour No 1 Royal Crescent and would definitely recommend it to visitors to Bath. So much of the city is built around the Georgian style of architecture it would be a shame to only see it from the outside of the buildings when such a charming museum such as this is withing easy walking access from the rest of the sights in Bath.