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This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.



Thursday, 9 September 2010

So why do people come to the Roman Baths? - Guest Blogger - Part 1

This year more people are visiting the Roman Baths; visitor numbers like this haven’t been seen since the end of the 20th century.

In the world of museums and attractions there are plenty of pundits who can proffer an explanation for a change in visiting patterns and you can take your pick from macro-economic circumstances, cultural trends and ‘local factors’ or some proportional permutation of them. Personally I’d like to think it’s something to do with the investment we have made in the last four years in conservation, better access and improved interpretation at the site, but in this strange world where science and speculation meet, any reason can have some weight and some reasons must be right. If only we knew which ones!

Since its discovery in the 1870s visitors, or at least the prospect of visitors, have been the reason why the Roman Baths were uncovered, developed and indeed continue to exist. Visitor's interest and the money they bring have sustained the site now for well over a century. Without visitors the site would have little purpose and it would have no money for conservation and maintenance either. It would become a forgotten and ruinous ruin.

The Great Bath in the 1890's

So what has sustained the interest of visitors for so long? We don’t really know why people visited a hundred years ago. Nearly all our evidence is circumstantial. The baths then were another new attraction in Britain’s leading spa city. Many people were here to enjoy a spa holiday or take a medical treatment. We know that the discovery of the baths had roused national interest and indeed it’s uncovering and care had generated some controversy too. Although the population was smaller, there were probably more people then with some classical education, having learnt Latin or Greek at school, than there are today.

So many people in Britain had heard of the Roman Baths and some of those visitors may have come to Bath specifically to see the Roman Baths; but back in that age of the train when motor cars were curios longer distance travel was still not particularly easy and those visitors were probably in a minority.

I think I’ll leave the matter here for now. This is a mystery that cannot be solved in one post. Check back on Monday (following post) for Part 2 and feel free to give suggestions about why the Victorians may have visited the site in the comments.


Stephen Clews

Roman Baths & Pump Room Manager

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