The Circus

The Circus


21st C

The latest buzz word in England is 'narrative.' Everything described on radio or television must have a 'narrative' associated with it. The subject is immaterial. If you talk about a plumbing problem, a work of art or a football match you must describe the narrative behind it. Buzz words are catching and this one is no exception. The Concise Oxford Dictionary offers alternatives like 'tale' or 'story' but they are ignored: the 'narrative' is king.

The original stone stable at the end of the garden here at No. 17 is unique: it is part of the only surviving original layout of house, garden and stable remaining of John Wood's plan for The Circus. The stable was used to house Gainsborough's favourite horse and now it is due for partial demolition. The current owner uses the building as a store for his tools of trade. He has now been granted permission to demolish most of the stone stable alongside the original 18th C cobbled laneway leading to it in order to erect a domestic dwelling on the site. The officers of the local authority's Planning Department deemed the unique historical connection to be unworthy of concern and as a consequence we lose yet another link with John Wood's world-renowned 18th C architectural gem.

18th C

The winter of 1766 was memorable. Thomas and Margaret Gainsborough with daughters Mary, known as Molly, the sly older girl then aged sixteen, and her sister, Margaret, known as Peggy (described as the more sensible of the two) aged fifteen, moved from Lansdown Lodge to what was then regarded as the most fashionable address in Bath: The Circus, arriving here at No. 17 at the end of the year, in time for Christmas.

A few weeks later a massive snowfall enveloped Bath. Snowdrifts buried Gay Street, the steep access road leading up the hill from the lower town to The Circus and remained there for over two weeks, virtually imprisoning the locals. These unusually deep snow drifts made journeys by foot, horseback or carriage impossible. The teenagers must have felt trapped behind their Bath stone walls - nowhere to go and no-one to see but themselves wandering about the new house still smelling strongly of freshly painted walls.