Nothing beats bathing in Bath’s waters

As beautiful as Bath is, it is more interesting underground. This is where the ruins, the gods, and the waters are: the steps to the temple of Sulis Minerva near the Pump Room, the Victorian tunnels, and, in the eerie plant room below the Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel, the water from the ancient springs, waiting to be purified before it flows into the Gainsborough’s private baths. The three springs of Bath – The Cross, the Hetling and the King’s – formed when rainwater fell on the hills 10,000 years ago, descended 2500 metres and rose through the limestone to the city. They produce one million litres a day, at a

The Georgians feel closer to us now than the Victorians

‘The two most fascinating subjects in the universe are sex and the 18th century,’ declared the novelist Brigid Brophy when the ban on Fanny Hill was lifted in 1963. Penelope Corfield’s big, handsome, enjoyable book goes a good way to illustrating Brophy’s assertion. Part source book, part interpretive history of the long 18th century (1688-1837), it is also a guide and gazetteer to the continuing presence of Georgian England in our towns and minds. The world before 1688 is largely unfamiliar to us. The 18th century, however, with its lovable rogues, its introduction of constitutional monarchy, its rights of man and its sexual libertines, is akin to ours. Despite recent

‘I’ve seen the bare bones of London’: street painter Peter Brown interviewed

‘I’ve been seeing the bare bones of London,’ explains the landscape artist Peter Brown, who is known affectionately as ‘Pete the Street’. We meet on the corner of St Martin’s Lane, where he is painting the view facing north, taking in the Coliseum, the Duke of York theatre and an Iranian restaurant called Nutshell. ‘The pandemic has been a good opportunity to paint all these West End theatre awnings.’ What has he noticed about London during the pandemic? ‘UPS vans, everywhere,’ he says. How about Deliveroo bikes? ‘I’ve spotted less of those.’ Has London changed over the past year? ‘I met a bloke on Old Compton Street who described how

Gay abandon: Islands of Mercy, by Rose Tremain, reviewed

Rose Tremain has followed her masterly The Gustav Sonata with an altogether different novel. In 1865, Clorinda Morrissey, a 38-year-old woman from Dublin, arrives in Bath and sells a ruby necklace in order to set up Mrs Morrissey’s High Class Tea Rooms. Mrs Morrissey believes that ‘the future was going to be perfumed with raspberry jam and freshly baked scones and fragrant lemon cake’. The tea rooms also, however, once open, become the scene of Jane Adeane — a highly skilled nurse — rejecting a proposal from Dr Valentine Ross, her colleague at her father’s surgery. Jane has achieved a near-mythic status as a nurse in Bath and ‘was described

Carve his name with pride: Andrew Ziminsky rebuilds the West Country

Andrew Ziminski is the man who rebuilt the West Country. For 30 years, this skilled stonemason has renovated some of Britain’s greatest buildings. Along the way, he has acquired an unparalleled understanding of this country’s stones. He got hooked as a young man when a mason asked him if he noticed that tea tasted different in different parts of the country. That was because the land’s personality had an effect on its water; and so it is with stones. It’s oolitic limestone that gives Bath its golden tint. It’s granite that gives Aberdeen its mighty, hard-as-rock profile — fizzing, incidentally, with a batsqueak of radiation. Until the 18th century and