On my trip to Bath, I had the opportunity to visit the Georgian House Museum. The museum is located at 1, Royal Crescent – one of Bath’s finest localities.
The Royal Crescent is an elegant Georgian terrace of 30 classically designed houses in golden Bath stone. The Crescent was designed by architect John Wood the Younger between 1767 and 1774. Located close to the Circus and the Victoria Park in the Upper Town, the Crescent is an impressive sight, with lovely views across the city.
The below picture from 1829 is from the Bath In Time website, which provides image archives of Bath throughout the ages.
In Jane Austen’s days, the Crescent provided luxurious lodgings to Bath’s aristocratic elite who came in to take waters and to enjoy the pleasures of the “season”. People would go to the Crescent for an afternoon stroll, take in a bit of fresh air and meet other members of the gentry.
Jane Austen mentions the Royal Crescent in Northanger Abbey (Chapter 9).
As soon as divine service was over, the Thorpes and Allens eagerly joined each other; and… they hastened away to the Crescent, to breathe the fresh air of better company.
Mrs Allen tells Catherine that she met with Mrs Thorpe and “We walked along the Crescent together for half an hour.” “We agreed to take a turn in the Crescent, and there we met Mrs. Hughes, and Mr. and Miss Tilney walking with her.”
It appears that meeting people was an integral part of an afternoon stroll by the Crescent. In 1801, Jane writes to Cassandra, “On Sunday we went to church twice, & after evening service walked a little in the Crescent fields, but found it too cold to stay long.” In 1805 she writes, “We did not walk long in the Crescent yesterday, it was hot & not crouded enough; so we went into the field & passed close by Stephen Terry & Miss Seymer again”.
The Museum is the first house on the right. The Georgian town house has been restored to its former glory and a tour of it creates a vivid picture of Georgian lifestyle. The house has been furnished in a style that a rich family would have preferred; richly decorated rooms with heavy draping, grand paintings, authentic china, textiles and furniture.
The drawing room, dining room, bedroom and study were interesting and had plenty of detail. The guides to the rooms were knowledgeable, with plenty of stories to share! The downstairs kitchen was a fascinating place to visit. It was well stocked with period gadgets, bake moulds, pots and pans… such a working kitchen that I could almost imagine myself rolling up my sleeves and starting to cook there and then!
Jane Austen herself did not live in a grand house like this, but will have been familiar with many similar houses on her visits to friends and family. For anyone interested in the Georgian lifestyle, I would warmly recommend a visit to No 1!
Unfortunately, photography was not allowed inside the museum, but you can see some photographs and further information on the museum at their website here.
Jones, V. (2004). Selected Letters by Jane Austen. OUP.