Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent
Royal Crescent from a hot air balloon, contrasting its uniform public front façade against its more architecturally varied private rear.
LocationBath, Somerset, England
Coordinates51°23′13″N 2°22′06″W / 51°23′13″N 2°22′06″W / 51.38694; -2.36833
ArchitectJohn Wood, the Younger
Architectural style(s)Georgian
Listed Building – Grade I
Official name: Nos. 1–30, Royal Crescent
Designated12 June 1950[1]
Reference no.1394736
Listed Building – Grade II
Official name: Five lamp columns
Designated15 October 2010[2]
Reference no.1394739
Listed Building – Grade II
Official name: 1A, Royal Crescent
Designated5 August 1975[3]
Reference no.1394740
Royal Crescent is located in Somerset
Royal Crescent
Location of Royal Crescent in Somerset

The Royal Crescent is a row of 30 terraced houses laid out in a sweeping crescent in the city of Bath, England. Designed by the architect John Wood, the Younger and built between 1767 and 1774, it is among the greatest examples of Georgian architecture to be found in the United Kingdom and is a Grade I listed building. Although some changes have been made to the various interiors over the years, the Georgian stone façade remains much as it was when first built.

The 500-foot-long (150 m) crescent has 114 Ionic columns on the first floor with an entablature in a Palladian style above. It was the first crescent of terraced houses to be built and an example of "rus in urbe" (the country in the city) with its views over the parkland opposite.

Many notable people have either lived or stayed in the Royal Crescent since it was built over 240 years ago, and some are commemorated on special plaques attached to the relevant buildings. Of the crescent's 30 townhouses, 10 are still full-size townhouses; 18 have been split into flats of various sizes; one is the No. 1 Royal Crescent museum and the large central house at number 16 is the Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa.

Design and construction

The street that is known today as "The Royal Crescent" was originally named "The Crescent." It is claimed that the adjective "Royal" was added at the end of the 18th century after Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany had stayed there.[4][5] He initially rented number one and later bought number 16.[6] The Royal Crescent is close to Victoria Park and linked via Brock Street to The Circus which had been designed by John Wood, the Elder.[7]

The land on which the Royal Crescent stands was bought from Sir Benet Garrard of the Garrard baronets, who were the landlords, in December 1766.[8] Between 1767 and 1775 John Wood designed the great curved façade with Ionic columns on a rusticated ground floor.[9] Each original purchaser bought a length of the façade, and then employed their own architect to build a house behind the façade to their own specifications; hence what can appear to be two houses is occasionally just one. This system of town planning is betrayed at the rear and can be seen from the road behind the Crescent: while the front is uniform and symmetrical, the rear is a mixture of differing roof heights, juxtapositions and fenestration. This architecture, described as "Queen Anne fronts and Mary-Anne backs", occurs repeatedly in Bath.[10] It was the first crescent of terraced houses to be built and an example of "rus in urbe" (the country in the city) with its views over the parkland opposite.[1][11][12]

Ha-ha in front of the Royal Crescent

In front of the Royal Crescent is a ha-ha, a ditch on which the inner side is vertical and faced with stone, with the outer face sloped and turfed, making an effective but invisible partition between the lower and upper lawns. The ha-ha is designed so as not to interrupt the view from Royal Victoria Park, and to be invisible until seen from close by. It is not known whether it was contemporary with the building of the Royal Crescent, however it is known that when it was first created it was deeper than it is at present.[13] The railings between the crescent and the lawn were included in the Heritage at Risk Register produced by English Heritage but have been restored and removed from the register.[14]

In 2003, the archaeological television programme Time Team dug the Royal Crescent in search of a Roman cemetery and the Fosse Way. The remains of a Roman wall were found behind the crescent and evidence of possible Iron and Bronze Age settlement on the lawn in front.[15]

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