During the Georgian era, the population of Bath exploded from 2,000 to 38,000. In addition, many non-residents visited the city each year.
The original attraction that drew people to the city was its mineral springs, which were believed to have curative powers. Unlike the ancients, however, the belief was that the water's therapeutic powers came not so much from bathing in it but by drinking the water.
The place where fashionable people came to drink the waters was the Pump Room. Located by the King's Spring, water was pumped up from the spring to the Pump Room where patrons could purchase a glass.
By the later half of the 18th century, the original pump room had become too small to handle all of the fashionable people who were coming to Bath to take the waters. Therefore, architect Thomas Baldwin began a new Palladian style building made from the local Bath stone. Baldwin was dismissed, however, for mismanagement of funds and John Palmer was brought in to finish the job. The Duchess of York officially opened the building in 1795 but it was not really finished until 1779.
While the curative power of the water was the original attraction, it soon became a place for fashionable society to see and be seen. People would come between eight in the morning and three in the afternoon dressed in their finest outfits and promenade up and down the 60 foot long room. Music would be playing as people met and socialized. The City of Bath derived a healthy income from the subscriptions it sold to those who ostensibly came to drink the water.
The Pump Room was so much a part of fashionable Bath that Jane Austen described it in her novel Northanger Abbey.
Today, the Pump Room is a restaurant. The double-height room is still decorated in elegant Georgian style. A pianist or the Pump Room Trio, said to be the longest established resident ensemble in Europe, play music. The King's Spring Fountain still yields the unusual tasting water with its 43 minerals. However, the tables prevent one from promenading up and down the length of the room.
Above: The main entrance onto the Abbey Church Yard..
Below: The Stall Street entrance.
Cruise destination guide - England - Bath - The Pump Room