Members of Crewkerne & District U3A heard about the less glamorous history of Bath in the 18th Century, at their January meeting. Guest speaker Dickon Povey, a former teacher and a retired city and Jane Austen tour guide at Bath, delivered his own version of a ‘horrible history’. The city of Bath had become the social and fashion capital of the country, due to its famous visitors such as the royal family and Beau Nash, its Georgian architecture like the Royal Crescent and other features such as the Pump Room, Baths and its fashions.
Queen Anne was one of the first ‘celebrity’ visitors when she went there in search of a cure for her gout. Following her example, many others came mostly from London and if you were famous, the bells of the abbey would be rung to announce your arrival in Bath. Dickon Povey said: “Bathing was thought to be a cure all for a variety of complaints. But it makes you shudder to think of all those people suffering from a variety of skin complaints, all sharing the same hot water.”
On the topic of fashions, Dickon explained: “The pannier dress was so wide and difficult to wear that ladies were forced to go sideways through a door. It could take them two or three hours to get dressed. Their elaborate high hairstyles were sustained with lots of padding, bows and ribbons. And the men fared no better as their wigs were filthy, full of insects and bugs and had to be powdered regularly with mercury to kill the creepy crawlies.”
Apart from the discomforts, a typical day for those of high society in 18th Century Bath consisted of going to the baths usually by sedan chair, a public breakfast, morning ride, promenade along the North Parade, taking the waters at the Pump Room, dancing lessons and a concert or ball in the Assembly Rooms. Dickon Povey who is a member of West Wilts U3A was thanked for his talk on Bath. Crewkerne U3A’s Val Warren said: “It was an interesting, informative and humorous talk.”