A Local Guide to Bathampton
A picturesque village and civil parish, Bathampton is situated in the county of Somerset, covering around 932 acres with a population of just 1800. Approximately 230 of these acres are widely known today as Bathampton Down, the hill that makes up the southernmost part of the village and is an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
A Brief History of Bathampton
Some of the earliest records of Bathampton can be found in the Domesday Book, as well as a Saxon Charter dated 956AD. The entirety of the Bathampton Down plateau is covered in archaeological remains, confirming to historians that the area was utilised by humankind as far back as at least 3000 years ago.
Historically, the Bathampton community has worked primarily in agriculture, but the Industrial Revolution acted as a disruption to this when forms of transportation of goods greatly improved.
Ralph Allen, who was responsible for rebuilding the church during the 1750s, was a key local character in Bathampton’s history, as he significantly contributed to the stone industry in the area. Having bought several mining companies, Allen modernised the operation to modern standards, transporting the stones in railway trucks from Combe Down to the valley below and then onto Bath, London, and other major cities.
After his death in 1764, local quarries continued to thrive far into the next century. 1810 saw the Kennet and Avon Canal open, meaning stone could now be transported by barge. However, the First World War period saw the Combe Down quarries activity decline, before Bathampton was hit with a major economic regeneration via the introduction of plasticine production.
Its inventor, William Harbutt, moved to the village in 1874, producing small packers for his art students and local shops. It became so popular that he started manufacturing in factories, selling plasticine to buyers all over the world.
Today, Bathampton remains a quaint, quiet area, highly sought after by local residents and adored by visitors across the country.
Location of Bathampton
Bathampton lies just two miles east of the city centre of Bath, on the north bank of the River Avon, with the village occupying the southern side of the valley bottom and extending up along the lower slopes of the hillside. The Kennet and Avon Canal also pass through the village.
Bathampton Down overlooks the River Avon and the city of Bath, made up of a plateau of flat limestone that dates back to the Middle Jurassic period with preserved deposits of flint quartz and sandstone.
Leading to Bathampton Down are the Bathampton Rocks, a steep slope that has been heavily quarried for stone. The track used for bringing stone down into the valley could be seen as recently as the late 1950s, but was demolished in 1958 as it was deemed too low for bigger vehicles like double decker buses to safely pass through. The rocks were also the site of the Bathampton Patrol Operational Base during World War II.
Connected by a toll bridge, Bathampton is linked to the nearby village of Batheaston.
Sights to See
Sat just above the village is Sham Castle, a folly constructed by Richard James during 1762 for entrepreneur and philanthropist Ralph Allen, intended to ‘improve the prospect’ from Allen’s Bath townhouse. Illuminated at night, the castle has a central pointed arch flanked by two three-storey circular turrets, with a two-storey square tower extended out at each end of the wall.
There’s also St Nicholas’ Church, a beautiful Anglican parish church that was built during the 13th century. The church is renowned for its Australia Chapel, which celebrates the first Governor of New South Wales Admiral Arthur Phillip, who was buried there in 1814 amongst the churchyard’s tombs.
Things to Do
Situated next to the gorgeous Kennet and Avon Canal, Bathampton is perfect for a day out on the water. The canal can also be used as a route to Bath city centre if you fancy a day out in the town.
The Pulteney Princess offers scheduled trips to the Bathampton Mill from Pulteney Weir, or the Bath & Dundas Canal Co spans trips along the spectacular Dundas Aqueduct. With so many green spaces along the canal, there are endless spots to stop and enjoy a picnic on the bank.
A popular rest stop includes Café on the Barge, a floating café that’s perfect for enjoying a cup of tea and a slice of cake on the deck.
The canal is also a natural hotbed for stunning wildlife, so you can keep an eye out for resident ducks, herons, cormorants, and water voles while you set sail. You might even catch the Water Gypsies, a four-strong string band, playing gypsy jazz music wherever they decide to moor up.
Bathampton Weir is also a popular spot for wild swimming in the summer, a site that is around 600 years old situated in the garden of the riverside pub, Bathampton Mill.
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