As a teenager I was much addicted to reading the romantic novels of Georgette Heyer and in early adulthood I fell in love with Jane Austen’s works, so when I was in Bath last week it made perfect sense to make a beeline for the Assembly Rooms in the Upper Town. The rooms were at the heart of fashionable Bath society in bygone centuries; Georgette Heyer’s heroines, Jane Austen (when she lived in Bath) and characters in her Bath novels (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion) visited the rooms to dance, listen to music, play cards or drink tea.
The elegant rooms are on view to the public but as they are empty except for a few pieces of furniture and the splendid chandeliers, it was difficult to imagine what they were like back in the day when, candles flickered after dark, young women were chaperoned in public places and Beau Nash ruled society in Bath.
Bath’s Fashion Museum is housed in the lower ground floor of the Assembly Rooms and when I visited there were two special exhibitions on, the first Dressing the Stars (until 29th August) which showcases the work of British costume designers who have won Academy awards and the second The Enduring Romance of the Wedding Dress (until the end of the year) in celebration of this year’s Royal Wedding. While the exhibitions at the Fashion Museum in Bath may lack the lustre of the set pieces put on by major museums, I nonetheless spent a good two hours happily viewing them and the museum’s permanent collection. The permanent collection has clothes and accessories dating from the 17th century to the present day. (The pictures above show costumes from The Duchess and the dresses worn by the actresses who played the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret in The King’s Speech)
The outfit I would most liked to have walked away in, came from the contemporary section of the permanent collection, it was a very wearable high-low mix of a vintage Chanel jacket worn with chinos and a white blouse from The Gap, accessorized with a Mulberry bag.
After my visit to the Assembly Rooms I strolled to the magnificent perfectly proportioned Royal Crescent where I stopped to have tea and homemade biscuits in the sunlit garden of the Royal Crescent hotel.
I am sad as I write this, as the television is on in the background and I am listening to news and discussion about the violence, rioting and looting in parts of England over the last three days. It’s very difficult to take in, in total contrast to the serene England I saw a week ago and a shocking reminder of the lurking darkness that can cast gloomy shadows around the heart of any civilized society.