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Posts Tagged ‘Labyrinth Sydney Gardens’

“Well, here we are at Bath; we got here about one o’clock, & have been arrived just long enough to go over the house, fix our rooms & be every well pleased with the whole of it. … it has rained almost all the way, & our first view of Bath has been just as gloomy as it was last November twelvemonth.

Jane Austen to Cassandra Friday, 17 May, 1799

Sunday, 11th September 2022 marks a celebration at Sydney Gardens in Bath to commemorate the completion of the Garden Restoration project. (Facebook: Garden Gala) This project started three years ago. The £ 3.4  million restoration of the gardens and historic buildings includes the Temple of Minerva (below) and the Loggia (link to a 1972 photo not in the public domain).

Detail_of_Minervas_Temple,_Sydney_Gardens,_Bath_(geograph_Stephen Richards

Detail of the Minerva Temple, Sydney Gardens, Bath. Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain Image. Stephen Richards, Photographer.

“There is to be a grand gala on Tuesday evening in Sydney Gardens, a concert, with illuminations and fireworks. To the latter Elizabeth and I look forward with pleasure, and even the concert will have more than its usual charm for me, as the gardens are large enough for me to get pretty well beyond the reach of its sound. In the morning Lady Willoughby is to present the colours to some corps, or Yeomanry, or other, in the Crescent, and that such festivities may have a proper commencement, we think of going to . . .”

Jane Austen to Cassandra, June 2, 1799 on a visit to Bath

Plan-of-sydney-gardens-1810

Plan of Sydney Gardens, 1810. Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Bath’s 21st century gala celebrating the renewal of Sydney Gardens coincides with the Jane Austen Festival, a well attended and internationally recognized yearly event. Click here to see details for the 2022 Jane Austen Festival which will be held from the 9th to the 18th of September of this year.

janeaustenfestival.padfoot.bath

Jane Austen Festival in Bath, padfoot.org.uk

Location of the gardens:

Sydney Gardens is located at the end of Great Pulteney Street, behind the Holburne Museum. In Jane Austen’s day the museum was known as the Bath Hotel. Built in 1795, the park was popular from the late 18th into the 19th century. Jane and her family moved from Steventon to #4 Sydney Place in May, 1801, when the park was quite new.

Sydney_Place_Bath-Wikipedia-Public Domain

Sydney Place today. A plaque commemorates the location of #4. Wikipedia. Public Domain

The house the Austen’s rented is situated across the street from the park, diagonally opposite the hotel. (See Google map image below.) 

Bath-Pulteney St-Sydney-Gardens

Sydney Gardens in relation to Great Pulteney Street in Bath, with a star over #4 Sydney Place. Screen shot of Google Maps

The distractions this pleasure garden afforded Bath’s populace and visitors were musical and theatrical entertainments, outdoor parties, fireworks, menageries, illuminated night time walks, and even a hot air balloon ascent. During Austen’s day, the Bath Hotel (now Holburne Museum) drew guests, and offered a tavern, coffee room, and billiard room. These amenities were expected by the upper crust during the height of Bath’s popularity. (“Outdoor Parties in the 1800’s vs Now” – Sasha Semjonova, 2021)

Sketch_of_the_Fancy_Fair_at_Sydney_Gardens,_Bath

Sketch of the Fancy Fair at Sydney Gardens, ca. 1836, artist unknown, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

One can imagine that country women like Cassandra and Jane, who were accustomed to long daily walks and bracing air, must have loved their daily perambulations along Sydney Garden’s paths while smelling the scent of its grasses, trees, and flowers. Number 4 Sydney Place had a long narrow garden in the back of the house, so that the Austen women and a maid servant were able to grow some herbs and vegetables, and perhaps raise a few chickens for fresh eggs. The family could not grow all their own food and depended on frequent purchases for their provisions from city vendors, markets, and shops, where meat and produce were not as fresh and nourishing as at their former home in Steventon. 

Jane noted in June 1799 that public breakfasts were offered at Sydney Gardens every morning. She and others were enthusiastic about pretty illuminations (fireworks), visits to the theatre, long strolls in the city and its environs, and walks around the Pump Room to meet and greet other visitors. (Geri Walton.)

Recreating the Labyrinth in Sydney Gardens

Interestingly, Austen wrote this passage to her sister in January, over four months before the family moved to Bath:

“…it would be very pleasant to be near Sidney Gardens!  We might go into the Labyrinth every day.”

Jane Austen to Cassandra, January, 1801

The Labyrinth Austen mentioned fell into disuse and was reconstructed in 2017. Its restoration is fully described in Richard Wyatt’s article “It’s Amaze-ing!” in the November 20, 2017 issue of Bath Newseum. A short YouTube video entitled “Sydney Gardens: Recreating the Labyrinth” and created by the BathnesCouncil includes many images past and present. 

Articles about Sydney Gardens, with many images not in the public domain:

  • Visit Bath: Sydney Gardens from Visit Bath provides some lovely photographs of the current garden, which is among the last of the pleasure gardens that people in Regency England frequented. 
  • The Bath Magazine’s article entitled “The History of Sydney Gardens” offers lovely images of the gardens throughout the 19th century, from Austen’s time and on.
  • Today, #4 Sydney Place, the Austen’s first rented house in Bath is now available as an Airbnb. The Literary Hub discusses this house past and present. One can appreciate its proximity to Sydney Gardens and in some article view the long garden in back of the house, but the dwelling has been extensively renovated and, I assume, has been so changed that the Austen family would not recognize its interior. The reviews from those who have stayed there are positive. If one is inclined to rent the rooms, this link will take you to the page to check its availability. As you stay in Bath, you can “Walk: In the Footsteps of Jane Austen”, as described by Bath Magazine. My husband and I stayed at the Dukes Hotel many moons ago. Our view from our room was the Holburne museum.
No.4-SydneyPlace-Airbnb

Number 4 Sydney Place Airbnb screenshot. The modern renovations are in the former kitchen areas, described by Constance Hill in 1923. Obviously this part of the house has been renovated:

“…  a passage leads to a garden at the back of the house. The large, old-fashioned kitchen, with its shining copper pans and its dresser, laden with fine old china, looked as if it had remained untouched since the Austens’ day.

Chapter XII, Bath, Jane Austen: Her Homes & Her Friends, by Constance Hill, 1923

This charming blog post (with even more pictures) discusses a 2015 stay at the Austens’ former dwelling in Bath. Click Here. 

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