Bath

Panorama of Bath from Beechen Cliff, 1824, Harvey Wood

In all the lectures I have attended in my life on Bath and Georgian architecture, I have never seen this image.  Bath as we value it developed throughout the 18th century; by time this drawing was made, some of the terraces would have been over a hundred years old, yet how raw it appears.  Nature was clearly to be held at bay, providing a prospect from which one might consider the elegant city.

I once stayed in a bedsitter in Queen's Square (1730, John Wood the Elder, Grade 1 listed buildings); elegant it was not.  Unheated, cold water tap, toilet on the landing, no bath access, dingy and absolutely freezing.  There was an architectural value in the Georgian city, but little social value.  There was still, in the early 1970s, unmended bomb damage from WWII and many of the terraces had been divided into hives of dark low-income bedsits.  This was also just the tail end of the council tower block which looked pretty good in comparison: modern, heated, full of space and light — again, an optimistic but discrepant architectural solution that soon foundered on social realities. 

It is still surprising how quickly Britain shed its social housing programs once the 1980s came and everyone, no matter how impoverished, was encouraged to cut free from the state and to become a property owner.  It took almost thirty years for this political, economic and social project to crash in the sub-prime bubble.  It would be difficult to find anything to rent in Bath today, certainly bedsitters are not considered legitimate housing any more unless as emergency housing for homeless families, and they certainly wouldn't be found in the classic terraces, squares or crescents of Bath.