Tuesday morning finds me fulfilling my duties as a member of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides and pleased today to be able to take my group of Italian, Spanish and Israeli visitors on a tour of the (Upper) Assembly Rooms.
You have to check the A board outside the entrance to see if it’s a good day for a visit. If it says historic rooms ‘open’ you can sign in your group and show them around this Georgian centre of entertainment – designed by John Wood Junior – and opened in 1771.
Imagine my pleasant surprise to be greeted – in the central crossing point between rooms – by the return of the second of the two genuine sedan chairs that have been on display here for years.
Both were taken away after it was discovered they were suffering from an insect infestation. The first of the two came back last December after treatment – and now the second has been returned.
These late 18th century Bath ‘taxis’ were licensed by the Corporation and would have brought people to the doors of the Assembly Rooms for concerts and balls.
This ‘new’ form of transport – introduced from continental Europe in the 16th century – was well suited to Bath’s narrow and crowded streets.
They were used to take people to the thermal baths for treatment and also to transport them to public entertainments like concerts and balls.
By the 1850’s most sedan chairs had been replaced by wheeled bath chairs for short trips in the city and fly carriages to take people to the suburbs.