Today for the last of Lady Russell’s Winter Pleasures posts (although there is one more tomorrow in this series,a book review) we are going to look at the Pump Room. The Pump Room in Bath was built in the lower part of the town, and was where those taking the “cure” would drink copious amounts of the warm spring water in order to effect a cure.The first PumpRom was replaced in 1797 by the one which is still in existence today.
This is the description of it from Feltham’s Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places etc.,(1803):
FOR those who are unable or unwilling to join in more e and expensive amusements, the new Pump-room presents attraction unrivalled…
This noble room was built in 1797 under the direction of Mr. Baldwin, architect. It is 60 feet long by 46 wide, and 31. feet high. The inside is set round with three quarter columns of the Corinthian order, crowned with an entablature, and a covering of five feet. In a recess at the West-end is the music gallery, and in another at the East an excellent time-piece, over which is a marble statue of king Nash, executed by Hoare, at the expense of the corporation. In the Centre of the South-side is a marble vase from which issue the waters, with a fire-place on each side.
The exterior is furnished in a capital stile (sic) of architecture, having its architrave charged with the following inscription from Pindar, in gold letters which may be justly rendered,
“Bath-water is better than Bath-wine ;”
literally, water is, best.
This section of the map of Bath included in John Feltham’s book shows the position of the Pump Room,just opposite what was then the White Hart Inn in Stall Street.
This Victorian photograph, taken from the position of the White Hart shows the Pump Room in all its splendour
And this view, and engraving dating from the late 18th century shows it and the colonnade, with the inn behind.
It is set in the Abbey churchyard, and you can see the marvellous Bath Abbey set at right angles to the Pump Room, above in a photograph I took last year
As you can clearly see with comparison with the 18th century print, not much has changed since the late 18th century, though the White Hart Inn is no longer there.
This is one of the ante rooms to the Pump room and is where you now gain access to the room.
The plan below again from Walter Ison’s magisterial book, The Georgian Buildings of Bath shows the setting of the Pump Room amid the complex of Bath; the Kings Bath, the New Private Baths and the Cross Bath which is situated at the termination of Cross Street, which in its turn is beautifully colonnaded, and will be recognised by fans of the 1995 adaptation of Persuasion as the street along which the reunited lovers-Anne and Captain Wentworth- strolled along once the Circus (and the infamous kiss) had gone away…..
This is the view from the Cross Bath to the New Baths and the Pump Room :
And this is a close up of the ground plan of the Pump Room.
The Pump Room was also, in the early days of Bath, where the book was kept, known as the Subscription Book. This was where new arrivals in the town would enter their names. Something Catherine Morland found useful when she was trying to ascertain if Henry Tilney was still in town:
As soon as divine service was over, the Thorpes and Allens eagerly joined each other; and after staying long enough in the pump–room to discover that the crowd was insupportable, and that there was not a genteel face to be seen, which everybody discovers every Sunday throughout the season, they hastened away to the Crescent, to breathe the fresh air of better company. Here Catherine and Isabella, arm in arm, again tasted the sweets of friendship in an unreserved conversation; they talked much, and with much enjoyment; but again was Catherine disappointed in her hope of reseeing her partner. He was nowhere to be met with; every search for him was equally unsuccessful, in morning lounges or evening assemblies; neither at the Upper nor Lower Rooms, at dressed or undressed balls, was he perceivable; nor among the walkers, the horsemen, or the curricle–drivers of the morning. His name was not in the pump–room book, and curiosity could do no more. He must be gone from Bath.
Northanger Abbey, Chapter 5
Once new arrivals and added their names to the book, the Master of Ceremonies would then know they were in town and it was time to pay a visit of visit of ceremony to them, to inform them of the ways of Bath, should they not know of them. Having consulted this book the names of the new arrivals would also be published in the Bath newspapers. The book was kept in the early 18th century by the redoubtable Sarah Porter, shown below,
who was known for her uncanny ability to ambush new arrivals to town to ensure that their names were entered in the book(and her tip was received ).Putting ones name in the Subscription Book could also involve the outlay of serious money, for putting ones name there also “entitled ” you to subscribe to the Assemblies and concerts in the Pump Room and the Assembly Rooms, and also to the circulating libraries and bookshops.
The fashionable time to visit the Pump Room was in the morning:
Her an excellent company of musicians perform every morning, during the full season and a numerous assemblage of ladies and gentlemen walking up and down in social converse during the performance, presents a picture of animation which nothing can exceed…
(A Guide to all the Watering and Sea Bathing Places etc by J Feltham ,1803.
In the photographs above and below you can see the rounded apse and the musicians gallery within it:
The Pump Room is now a restaurant(and a pretty good one too!) and very often musicians play there.
This is the view towards the other end of the room….
With its magnificent Thomas Tompion timepiece
And statue of Beau Nash,the King of Bath and the original Master of Ceremonies.
Half way along the room, over-looking the Kings Bath is the King’s Spring
Where you can still purchase glasses of the water to drink,served to you by a porter. It is surprisingly warm (and no doubt that added to its purgative qualities when one was taking “the cure”)
Of course it was when she was over looking the Pump Room from the Musgrove’s Room at the White Hart Inn that Mary Musgrove discovered Mr Elliot meeting Mrs Clay in a rather clandestine manner:
They found Mrs. Musgrove and her daughter within, and by themselves, and Anne had the kindest welcome from each… with intervals of every help which Mary required, from altering her ribbon to settling her accounts, from finding her keys, and assorting her trinkets, to trying to convince her that she was not ill-used by anybody; which Mary, well amused as she generally was, in her station at a window overlooking the entrance to the Pump Room, could not but have her moments of imagining.
Persuasion Chapter 22
“Do come, Anne,” cried Mary, “come and look yourself. You will be too late if you do not make haste. They are parting; they are shaking hands. He is turning away. Not know Mr. Elliot, indeed! You seem to have forgot all about Lyme.”
To pacify Mary, and perhaps screen her own embarrassment, Anne did move quietly to the window. She was just in time to ascertain that it really was Mr. Elliot, which she had never believed, before he disappeared on one side, as Mrs. Clay walked quickly off on the other; and checking the surprise which she could not but feel at such an appearance of friendly conference between two persons of totally opposite interests, she calmly said, “Yes, it is Mr. Elliot, certainly. He has changed his hour of going, I suppose, that is all, or I may be mistaken, I might not attend”; and walked back to her chair, recomposed, and with the comfortable hope of having acquitted herself well.
Persuasion, Chapter 22
Hmm… Mr Elliot, proving himself to be quite the slippery eel…..
Here is a link to another panoramic view of the Pump Room, if you go here and look on the right,click on “View the Pump Room Tour“, it is almost as good as being there. Almost….
And that concludes this small series of Winter Pleasures posts. I do hope you have enjoyed them.