Buying a slice of history
Two Grade II-listed houses in Bath give a unique insight into the city’s past
It’s fairly easy to build up a picture of life at 18 Russell Street in the 18th and early 19th centuries, thanks to its architecture and period details.
The house is situated opposite the Assembly Rooms, in Georgian times a centre for balls and social gatherings, and its owners, no doubt a wealthy Georgian family with 8-12 servants, would have been used to entertaining. The two principal rooms on the ground and first floors would have been used for gatherings, with the large kitchen below supporting these events. The drawing rooms and withdrawing rooms on the first floor would have been where the Georgian elite were entertained. The landings are noticeably large, this was to allow for sedan chairs to be turned around with relative ease.
Two of the main rooms have ornate plaster ceilings, uniquely hand-made rather than moulded.
There are ‘speaking tubes’ which connect the two floors.
If a plug was removed from the one inch-wide hole, the lady of the house could get the servants’ attention by blowing through the pipe which made a whistling sound. The device became known as ‘the blower’ and (the name gives it away) was an early form of telephone. The house also still has some of the network of wires and one remaining bell which were used for communication throughout the house in later Victorian times.
The kitchen would have originally been on the lower ground floor, which still has its Georgian dresser. The old ranges have gone, but there’s a gap cut in the mantelpiece which would have housed the ‘turnspit dog wheel’. Dogs were used to run in a wheel (rather like a modern hamster wheel) which was linked up to a mechanism to turn meat over the range. There’s an original dog wheel along the road at the No 1 Royal Crescent museum. One item still in evidence at 18 Russell Street is an original Georgian sauce maker, one of only three remaining in the country.
Other historic features include gas light fittings from the later part of the 19th century and a ‘snuffer’ on the wall just outside the front door. It was used by the Link Boys who would be paid a small fee to carry flaming
18 Russell Street, Bath, in the heart of the city