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Walking the streets of Bath is like stepping into a time capsule of Englands past.

Renowned relics of Roman Britannia rub up against the seals of high society in Georgian Europe. It’s little wonder, then, that everywhere I turn, I charge into a dawdling tourist – the beige brigade of America, animated young Aussies, a few brooding French. But even though it’s impossible to avoid the impression of Bath as one consolidated tourist attraction – a sort of English heritage theme park – it remains a remarkably intriguing and unique pocket of England.

You might assume that after a glance at the Roman Baths and the city’s Georgian splendour, you’ve seen it all. But most enjoyable about a visit here is the little details you pick up in dusty corners; slices of life that slash a very human peephole into the past. Standing at the altar of what was once a vast temple complex accompanying the Great Bath, built between 60-70AD, I hear that the Romans would sacrifice animals atop it and read the future in the creature’s entrails. 

These primitive beliefs – consider, too, that Bath’s main draw is only here today because its architects thought the bubbling geothermal springs signified the presence of the goddess Minerva – feel so at odds with an empire advanced enough to control 6.5 million square kilometres of the world at its peak. Seems the Romans were also a spiteful lot. I see a series of curse tablets, dug up by archaeologists from the Sacred Spring. On these sheets of lead, bathers inscribed the names of people they suspected of great crimes such as nicking their bath robe, then tossed them into the water in the hopes that Minerva would wreak bloody vengeance.


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Bath's hidden stories - a guide to the lesser-known secrets of the city
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