The Circus, Bath

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Designed by the architect John Wood the elder (1704-1754), he was to set a standard for building in Bath. He used quality materials on street frontages, set a scale for the city, and established the Palladian style in Bath. Consequently, Bath is unique, possessing a feeling of architectural conformity.

Surprisingly, this town planning was based on historical fantasy. John Wood identified pre-Roman Bath as the seat of Apollo. He also thought nearby Stanton Drew had been a university for druids. These imaginative ideas were probably the basis for his finest work, the Circus, begun in 1754. Made up of three circular terraces of town houses. It is similar in style to a Roman Colosseum 'turned outside in'. However, the Colosseum in Rome is oval, this is round. It has been speculated that the Circus is a reconstruction of Stonehenge.

The trees in the centre block the view a little but you can see how stunning this place really is. The three main storeys, set with coupled columns, rise from Doric, to Ionic, to Corinthian. Their heavy cornices are ornately carved: the lowest has some 525 carved emblems. How much of the sculpted decoration, such as the acorns on the parapets, refers to John Wood’s druid ideas is difficult to say. Nevertheless, this grand Circus cannot but impress.

Photo of The Circus
(above) A pedestrian view of the curved interior.

Aerial view of Bath
(above) Aerial view of The Circus.

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