We’ve done it again – world honours for Bath

Liverpool may just have been stripped of its World Heritage status by an international gathering of UNESCO – and Stonehenge given a ‘red flag’ warning – but Bath is basking in the glory today of its second ‘inscription’ – this time as one of the Great Spa Towns of Europe!

It’s an amazing second honour for a city which was first inscribed in 1986 and which shares with Venice the honour of being one of only two European cities to be completely covered by such a status.

The confirmation came at the weekend during a UNESCO conference in China.

The spa water tap in the Pump Room.

Bath – one of 11 partners in the transnational bid – gets a second and rare coveted inscription to overlay the first.

Just as well the new World Heritage Centre in Swallow Street has not yet opened.

When it does it will explain why Bath was given its original inscription – that is for its Roman remains, Georgian architecture, town planning, social history and green setting.

Now – when the centre opens some time in the autumn – it will have an extra board explaining how this year’s second inscription marks it out as one of the great spa centre of Europe.

The Great Spa Towns of Europe project focuses on historic spa towns, based around mineral springs, which formed fashionable resorts of health, leisure and recreational ‘diversions’ such as gambling and dancing from the eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries.

The towns were built in harmony with their natural therapeutic landscape settings to create unique urban forms. They were the pioneers of modern tourism and although often small in size, they attracted guests who might otherwise only gather in great metropolises and capital cities. Only a few spas rose to great prominence and of those only a few remain in a good state of conservation.

Thermae Bath Spa

The spas included in the inscription are Bath, Baden bei Wien (Austria), Spa  (Belgium), Vichy (France), Baden-Baden, Bad Ems and Bad Kissingen  (Germany), Montecatini Terme (Italy), and Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně and Františkovy Lázně (Czech Republic). This is a transnational nomination, meaning that the 11 towns are seen as a single World Heritage Site.

Councillor Dine Romero, cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Communities and Culture, said: ‘This inscription is a confirmation of the exceptional historic value of Bath. Our architectural and archaeological quality is already recognised, but this new accolade underlines the influence that the hot springs have had on the city. This is not just about history, as moving forward Bath will continue to successfully blend our outstanding heritage and wellbeing offer with our vibrant modern city.”

Heritage Minister Caroline Dinenage said: “This listing is testament to the role Bath has played in our history. For thousands of years people have flocked to the city to experience its healing waters and I’m delighted that this inscription will protect this historic location for future generations.”

Bath is the only one of the 11 towns to already have World Heritage Status.

Councillor Ruth Malloy, the lead councillor for the project said ‘Bath was included in this elite group through merit as you cannot fully tell the story of European spa culture without it. Realising the opportunity of a very rare second inscription has involved many years of hard work but it now offers us benefits of enhanced cooperation in the fields of heritage conservation, health tourism and visitor marketing. I would like to thank all of our partners who have worked so successfully in this excellent example of European co-operation.” 

Last week Bath was named as one of the World’s Greatest Places in TIME’s annual list.

The city and the Design District, London were the only locations in England to be named in the news platform’s top 100 extraordinary travel destinations.

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For more information on the Unesco nomination file, please visit https://greatspasofeurope.eu/.