See this remarkable series of Georgian townhouses, built in a compelling circular shape.
The Circus consists of a circle of 33 mansions overlooking a beautiful garden. Divided into three equal terraces by intersecting streets, these identical three-story residences have been home to numerous famous occupants over the centuries. Note how each of the curved segments faces one of the three entrances, a design that ensures visitors see a gorgeous façade regardless of the entrance they choose.
Originally known as King’s Circus, this site was designed by John Wood who used the Roman Colosseum as inspiration. The area takes its name from the Latin word “circus,” which means ring, circle or oval. Wood died soon after construction of the houses began and the project was finished by his son John Wood the Younger. Several houses were completely destroyed by a German bomb attack in 1942, but they have since been carefully rebuilt and today you’ll find it difficult to differentiate them from the original buildings.
Examine the frieze that runs along the length of the circle. Consisting of more than 500 different carvings, this frieze incorporates numerous emblems, including various nautical and Masonic symbols. Look for the carved acorns set on top of the houses. The acorns are believed to be a tribute to the legend of Bath’s founding. According to the story, King Bladud discovered the city’s healing waters with the help of a pig rooting for acorns.
Read the plaques commemorating some of the famous people who have lived in the townhouses over the years. Painter Thomas Gainsborough lived at No. 17 from 1759 to 1774, while other buildings have been occupied by medical missionary David Livingstone and, more recently, actor Nicolas Cage.
Walk through the grassy area found in the center of the Circus. This area was originally paved and once acted as a reservoir that supplied water to the townhouses. The residents of the Circus converted the space into a garden in the early 19th century and it has been a green haven ever since.
The Circus is open-year round. Combine it with a trip to Bath’s other famous rounded landmark, the Royal Crescent, which is just a short walk away.