TODAY'S LESSON S LIVING HISTORY ; Meet the Romans - and Georgians - in Bath. It's a Better Way to Teach Kids about the Past Than through Dusty Books, Says Juliet Rix

By Rix, Juliet | The Independent on Sunday (London, England), March 12, 2006 | Go to article overview
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TODAY'S LESSON S LIVING HISTORY ; Meet the Romans - and Georgians - in Bath. It's a Better Way to Teach Kids about the Past Than through Dusty Books, Says Juliet Rix


Rix, Juliet, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)


Yuck!" was our rather vocal family verdict on the "health- giving" waters of Bath Spa. Full of natural minerals (including a hefty dollop of sulphur), the waters are still available by the glass.

The Romans had more sense than to drink the stuff - they bathed in it, basking in the only hot spring in Britain. Taking over what was already a Celtic sacred site, the Romans built a full bath complex, much of which was unearthed in 1880 and can be visited today.

It isn't just the Romans that come to life in Bath. This city offers a child-friendly whistle-stop tour of British hist ory from the Celts to the Georgians and beyond. But the Romans are a good place to start.

The baths are about six metres below street level and you can look down, as if from a balcony, on the Great Bath, fed from the hot spring that pours out more than a million litres of water a day at 46C. Downstairs, at Roman level, you can step over the channel taking water to the pool and dabble your fingers in the amazingly hot water.

An excellent audio guide leads you through the surprisingly large complex, and a new children's audio guide, narrated by Michael Rosen, is now available. Aimed at seven-11-year olds, it uses a variety of characters (some of them real people) - including a Celtic boy who works at the baths and a Roman slave girl - to bring the history to life.

One of our favourite things in the baths museum was the "curses" made by Bath's Roman residents. These inscribed sheets of lead or pewter were rolled up and thrown into the water to request help from the spa goddess, usually in bringing to a sticky end

When the Romans left, the city and a baths fell in ruin until the next bath was constructed more than half' a millennium later. In the meantime, a monastery wasbuilt in the seventh centuryand here, in Bath Abbey, Edgar was crowned the first king of all England in 973.

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