Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Bath and North East Somerset (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
ST 74945 64698


BATH STREET (West side)

The Cross Bath 12/06/50 GV I

Medicinal baths. 1783-4, by Thomas Baldwin, remodelled 1789 by Palmer, interior remodelled c1890 by Major Davis. MATERIALS: Fine limestone ashlar. PLAN: Roughly square, with quadrant embayment to the south, and semicircular portico to the north. EXTERIOR: A single storey structure in the form of a curtain wall enclosing an irregular space. Except where adjacent to St John's Hospital (qv) to the west, the fine ashlar wall is in a series of panels defined by unfluted Corinthian half-columns on a low plinth, partly absorbed by later paving, and carrying a full entablature with shallow blocking course and parapet. The entrance portico has four unfluted columns to a dentil cornice and inscribed THE CROSS BATH over a pair of part-glazed doors in moulded architrave with fluted frieze and a central head with sunburst. To each side is a sunk panel with a large emblem panel. In the straight wall to each side is a twelve pane sash to a sunk panel. The right return is severely plain. The principal front, facing along Bath Street, has an undulating central section with an attic and tall raised central feature, at some stage used as a flue, with a sunk panel carrying an urn in low relief; the attic has large urns at either end, and typical Baldwin swags in a central oval and side rectangular panels, above a blocked doorway with cornice and enriched frieze, with flanking lights. The bay each side of this centre is contained by half-columns, and has a guilloche band above a sunk panel. The return to the south has sunk panels framed by half-columns, but the end bay has an opened arch with iron grille, under 3 small panels. INTERIOR: Apart from the entrance lobby, is unroofed, and steps lead down to the large central bath, with projecting kerbstones formerly carrying a protective railing. On the west side are some remnants of Baldwin's scheme, including a curved segment of wall with deep niche and urn, and the east wall has a low relief carving of Bladud, after the painting by William Hoare. HISTORY: A bath stood here in medieval times, first described by Leland in 1540. It took its name from the cross that stood in the centre, a later version of which was erected in 1687 by Lord Melfort in honour of Mary of Modena, the Catholic wife of James II, and executed by Thomas Davis of London; it was altered after the 1745 uprising and finally dismantled. Baldwin as City Architect rebuilt it in 1783-84. Fitted within an almost triangular site constrained by narrow medieval lanes, it had a narrow apex to the S and a remarkably Baroque N facade, with a central bow, but with charming Adamish detail. Behind this was an oval pump room. The bath itself to the S was oblong, bowed to the E and W sides. When Bath Street cut through the irregular medieval city fabric Baldwin¿s building was a misfit with a blank façade skewed to the splendid E-W axis. In 1798 Palmer, having replaced Baldwin as City Architect in 1792, took down his building, except for the W wall and bath. Using the existing stone and precisely to the same plan, he reconstructed Baldwin¿s serpentine N façade to face E towards Bath Street. He rebuilt the N elevation to his own design with straight side parts canted back towards the middle where a segmental projection with a portico of four Corinthian columns forms the main accent. Inside, Palmer rebuilt the dressing rooms and pump room. Unable to compete with the enlarged Hot Bath and Tepid Bath, George Phillips Manners in 1829-30 converted Baldwin¿s oval pump room to provide vestibule and dressing rooms with reclining baths and infilled the colonnaded portico to increase the floor area. Manners + Gill carried out a still more drastic conversion in 1854, lengthening the bath by two feet, providing thirteen private dressing rooms and removing Manners¿ earlier conversion and the remainder of the original internal structure. Charles Edward Davis oversaw drastic modifications to the building in 1885-8, by considerably enlarging the bath to become a rectangular swimming pool and roofing it over. The roof was removed in 1952. All that remains of Baldwin¿s interior is an elegant relief carving of a vase and one paterae. SOURCES: Mowbray Green, The Eighteenth Century Architecture of Bath (1904), PLATE CXXVII; Bryan Little, The Building of Bath (1947), 58; Walter Ison, The Georgian Buildings of Bath (Second Edition, 1980), 37-38; Palmer¿s original drawings of 1797 are deposited in the Bath & North East Somerset Record Office.

Listing NGR: ST7494564698


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This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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