The Circus, Bath
...classical architectural symmetry at its best
Part of John Wood the Elder’s grand vision for the city of Bath, the Circus is a testament to the startling originality and inspiration of design that has made Bath what it is today.
Started by the architect John Wood the Elder in 1754 and finished by his son John Wood the Younger in 1768 the Circus is a mixture of inspirations but ultimately Palladian architecture at its best. It is made up of three curved sections of equal length, South East, South West and North with three road entrances so that whichever entrance the visitor uses there is always a classical facade straight ahead.
The vision was that of John Wood the Elder who had been yearning to build a circus but he sadly died only 3 months after the laying of the first stone and it was left to his son, John Wood the Younger to complete the task to his father’s specifications.
It wasn’t without problems though. Following the completion of the South West segment work came to a halt as the total area was not big enough and more land was required however due to that and other factors no building took place during the period 1759-61. From 1762 onwards however things picked up and the whole plan was finished by 1768.
It would seem that Woods inspiration came mainly from the Colosseums however with the view to be seen from inside rather than outside as with the Colosseums. There are three classical orders, Greek, Roman and Corinthian in the structures with one on top of the other all topped with a frieze of Doric entablature with alternating triglyphs and 525 pictorial emblems. These then have stone acorn finials, perhaps a tribute to the druids who Wood believed were responsible for stone circles, another of his fascinations.
Whatever your beliefs this is surely a place not to be overlooked. The whole circus is a grade I listed building and sure to get your cameras snapping as you are amazed by the pure symmetry of it all.
Other attractions in the area:
The Mission Theatre
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015