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The History of Bath (III)


The Norman conquest brought to a halt the development of the town and it was almost destroyed during the conflicts between William Rufus and his barons. Another attempt to revive the town, which again proves its importance, was when Rufus invited the Bishop of Bath and Wells to move the episcopal seat to Bath and construction began on the cathedral, which was much larger than the present Abbey. At the same time interest was revived in the spring waters and Bath became recognised as a centre of healing. This brought great prosperity to the town. Bath also benefited from of the wealthy wool trade that characterised the surrounding Cotswolds area in general.

The popularity of the baths, however, was also the cause of their decline. The people that flocked to the waters were poor and could not afford alternative treatment. The Baths deteriorated rapidly and it is reported that they actually became a health hazard rather than a source of cure for illnesses. It was the antiquary John Leland who noted this unfortunate decline. In 1533 he wrote of the Cross Bath that it was "much frequentid of people diseased with lepre, pokkes, scabbes and great aches". Not a very healthy situation for a health resort!

Further attempts at a revival of the town came with a series of royal visits: Queen Elizabeth I came in 1574 and so did Queen Anne, wife of James I in 1613 and then there were also frequent visits by Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I.

The town was to undergo a further setback in its fortunes during the Civil War when the town was occupied first by Royalists and later by the Parliamentarians. It was at the outbreak of the Civil War that the walls of the town were rebuilt.


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latest update: 17/4/04