Turn Left At The Pub: Twenty Walking Tours Through The British Countryside

Turn Left At The Pub: Twenty Walking Tours Through The British Countryside

by George W. Oakes, Anton Powell

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Turn Left at the Pub was first published in 1969 as a follow-up to the highly successful Turn Right at the Fountain by the same author, George Oakes. This fully updated edition features a wealth of brand new material by Anton Powell, author of Londonwalks, and takes the reader on leisurely yet educational strolls through some of the best town and country scenery that Britain has to offer. Oxford, Cambridge, and York are included, along with some lovely out of-the-way places such as Tenby, the Cornish fishing village of Solva, and St. David's, a bishop's fortified village, rich in history. Architectural and cultural details that might ordinarily be missed by a visitor are expertly noted here. True to the title, each section also features suggestions on the best pub or restaurant in which to refresh yourself at journey's .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250123466
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 05/24/2016
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

The late George W. Oakes was a highly regarded travel writer for the New York Times.
Anton Powell is a professional guide in London and the author of Londonwalks.

Read an Excerpt

Turn Left at the Pub

Twenty Walking Tours Through the British Countryside

By George W. Oakes, Anton Powell

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 1968 John B. Oakes as Executor for the Estate of George W. Oakes
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-12346-6


Bath I

Bath is perhaps the prettiest town in Britain. The Romans made the site famous across Europe for its hot spring. The elaborate ruins of the Roman swimming pool and bath house are now jewels, to compare with Stonehenge or York Minster. But the town of Bath is more than an elegant setting. In the 1700s it became the favorite place of the grandees of England. Top politicians, soldiers, writers, artists made their homes here, at least for part of the year, as an alternative to London. The general level of architecture is far finer than London's. From the local stone, of a yellow-fawn color, sweeping crescents, grand squares, and little alleys were made, all with a delicacy of design which is seldom found in large and deliberate projects. And yet Bath was a deliberate project. Orchestrated by a genius of organization and elegance, "Beau" Nash, social customs and town streets were painstakingly created. The supposed healing qualities of the local water were used to draw wealthy visitors. In the early 1800s, and especially with the coming of the railway, the town lost some of its cachet; it became too easy for ordinary people to reach. But heavy industry and arterial roads never came. This is still a town which belongs to the walker. Bath is easily reached by train from London (Paddington station) in about ninety minutes.

There is so much to see in Bath that two walks are suggested so that each can be completed in a morning or an afternoon.

Start your first walk at North Parade Bridge over the River Avon. Standing here you have a picturesque view along the river of Pulteney Bridge, the Italian-style bridge designed by Robert Adam and the public gardens just below on your left. Often you will see swans swimming in the stream.

Look all around you and into the distance, to enjoy Bath's setting amid gentle hills and to see the effect of the warm local stone. In front of Pulteney Bridge is a weir. Far behind it, grand terraces of houses stretch across hillsides. And on the skyline to your left is the Abbey.

From the bridge walk one hundred yards west (toward the Abbey), along North Parade Road. On the way look for commemorative metal plaques on the houses. At No. 11 lived Edmund Burke, a political theorist who sought to disprove the republican and wealth-sharing ideas of Tom Paine and the French revolutionaries. In one memorable phrase he urged the rich to organize in defense of their wealth against the "combinations" of the radicals: "Where the bad combine, the good must associate." That last word captures nicely the languid understatement fashionable among aristocrats of the day. Fervor and overstatement were dreadfully vulgar. Three houses farther on lived the romantic poet William Wordsworth, for whom the great horror was not political revolution but industrial revolution. Here, far from grimy factories, he had the river and its swans.

At the corner of Pierrepont Street turn left and pause at No. 2 where Lord Nelson stayed while visiting Bath. Nelson became for the British, especially their rulers, a hero on a scale hard to imagine today. His leadership warded off the navy of France, and thus kept away the terrors of the French revolution. Across the street go through the pillars into Pierrepont Place. At No. 1 worked — as a nursemaid — the young Emma, the future Lady Hamilton. She became the mistress of Lord Nelson and the statuesque icon of her age. After Nelson's death, at the moment of his greatest triumph against the French, even his glorious memory could not save Emma from disapproval, as a parvenue and loose woman. In debt, she fled her creditors and died poor — in France.

Walk along Pierrepont Place and around the corner to the left a few yards to the old Bath Theatre (now a Masonic hall) on Old Orchard Street. Here Mrs. Sarah Siddons gave her famous performances of Sheridan's School for Scandal and The Rivals.

Returning to Pierrepont Street, turn left on the wide sidewalk of North Parade and wander down narrow Lilliput Alley past some of the city's oldest houses. The alley leads into a quaint square, known as Abbey Green. A huge plane tree shades the delightful green, which is close to several antique shops. You will discover as you stroll about the city that Bath is a great antiques center, one of the most noted in the country. From Abbey Green stroll up Church Street (to the right of Lilliput Lane) to Bath Abbey.

An exquisite gem of Bath stone, the Abbey is a cruciform church in Perpendicular style. Although the present building dates from 1499, a Christian church has stood here for over twelve hundred years. A Norman church, of which only a few bits remain, was destroyed by fire before the erection of the Abbey.

Stroll around to the right of the Abbey to the little square opposite the great east window so you can admire the beautiful stonework, the flying buttresses, and the pinnacled tower. On your way round to the west entrance of the Abbey, notice the little Victorian statue of a chaste-looking woman carrying water. "Water is best" says its legend. You immediately guess what the sponsors of the statue really meant. Behind is the name of the local Temperance Association.

Before you go in the west entrance, stop for a moment to notice the remarkable carving on the west front — a representation of the founder's dream of saints and angels ascending and descending a ladder from heaven. There are ladders both left and right of the great Perpendicular window. Notice the long, medieval skirts of the climbing figures and the one falling angel on the left.

On entering the Abbey you will be struck by the magnificence of the roof fan vaulting. The great number of huge windows flood the Abbey with a brightness most unusual in English cathedrals. Though rather small in size, the Abbey has a grace and lovely atmosphere that is quite unmatched. Wander down the nave to the choir to see the new east window, which replaced one bombed out during World War II. Don't miss the fine wrought iron grille in the north transept, the superb fan vaulting in the north aisle, or the richly carved chantry of Prior Birde on the south side of the sanctuary. If you are lucky, you may hear the excellent organ.

On leaving the west door, you will be in the Abbey churchyard, a large court. To your left is the entrance to the great baths, probably the oldest health establishment in the world (in summer open Monday–Saturday, 9:00–6:00; in winter, Monday–Saturday, 9:00–5:00; Sunday, 10:00–5:00).

Before touring the Roman baths, visit the Pump Room, a stately eighteenth-century assembly room, now a café. As you enter, look sharp left. There is a statue of Beau Nash, and below it a long-case clock given in 1709 by Thomas Tompion, perhaps the most famous clockmaker ever. Beside the clock are two sedan chairs, in which ladies and invalids of the 1700s were carried by sweating men. You will admire the exquisite crystal chandelier.

You should now descend to the Roman baths where the water gushes forth at the rate of half a million gallons a day at one hundred twenty degrees Fahrenheit. A channel at one end of the bath allows you to dip your fingers to feel the heat of the water. It is worthwhile taking a guided tour.

The remarkably preserved Great Roman Bath, open to the sky, is the center of the establishment which the Romans used for three hundred and fifty years. The six-foot-deep pool is eighty feet long and forty feet wide. The huge blocks of Bath stone around the pool and the diving stone date from the Roman period, as does much of the pool's lead lining. Parts of the lead conduit were laid by Roman plumbers almost two thousand years ago. There is an unusual view of Bath Abbey's tower from here. While touring the baths, notice the Roman system of underfloor heating. In a small antechamber you can see the source of the hot spring water.

You will see a model of the Roman remains and also wonderful Roman relics. Two of the finest pieces are the pediment of the Sulis Minerva Temple and the beautiful gilded bronze head of the goddess. Other fascinating relics are the Roman memorial stones and a Roman curse engraved on lead, expressing a young man's frustration over losing a woman's favors.

Go round to the side of the Pump Room furthest from the Abbey, and look for Bath Street. Stroll along Bath Street, one of the few streets in England colonnaded on both sides. At the foot of the street stands the medieval Cross Bath where Mary of Modena, James II's Queen, bathed. A cross which formerly stood here celebrated the birth of a son to Mary in 1688, after bathing in these healthy waters. This baby brought disaster to his parents. As a boy he stood to inherit the throne before his Protestant half-sisters, but he would be brought up as a Catholic, like both his parents. The fear of an indefinite Catholic succession caused the mainly Protestant ruling class to eject James II and his family. James's Protestant daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange were installed instead. (Bath's Tourist Information office is now twenty yards away.)

Turn right at the Cross Bath and left into the passage that runs beside the Little Theatre. On reaching a road, turn right and see two hundred yards away the Theatre Royal. Walk to it. The Popjoys Restaurant, just beyond the theater, used to be the home of Bath's uncrowned king, Beau Nash, where he died in 1761. As you stand with your left shoulder to the Theatre, opposite and to your right is the street called Upper Borough Walls. Go into it, then turn first left into Trim Street. Before you reach the arch, called Trim Bridge, you will notice at No. 5 a large house with a decorative doorway on the right. General Wolfe, the hero of the Battle of Quebec during the French and Indian Wars, lived here in the mid-eighteenth century. Carved in stone above the door are symbols of soldiering and power: musket, helmet, quiver, arrows, and (the Roman symbols of authority) rods and ax.

Beyond the arch you will be in picturesque, cobbled Queen Street with many small, quaint houses and little shops. This is one of the most attractive corners of Bath where you may want to wander about and browse.

At the top of Queen Street turn right into Quiet Street. An excellent antique shop specializing in furniture is on your right.

Retrace your steps on Quiet Street and cross over to Wood Street. This will lead you to Queen Square, one of the most charming in the city. The classic and beautifully proportioned north façade designed by John Wood Senior is an excellent example of his distinguished architecture. His home was No. 24. In front of the door is the frame of an eighteenth-century oil lamp. While you are strolling around the square, which encircles a pleasant little park, it is interesting to recall that the novelist Jane Austen, who lived in Bath at various times during her life, resided at No. 13 in 1798. Above and to the left of the fanlight is the metal badge of a private eighteenth-century fire brigade — the Sun company. The badge shows father sun and his rays. Without a badge such as this, a private brigade would not tackle your fire. Two of Jane Austen's novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, are connected with Bath and describe vividly life in Bath at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The latter novel contains delicate satire of the social round at Bath. Austen describes a young lady of quality who complains to her friend about two quite dreadful young gentlemen who are following them, while considerately stopping from time to time to ensure that the two young men do not lose sight of them in the crowd. This charming square, with its literary associations, is a good place to end this first walk through Bath.


Bath II

This second walk through Bath will show you some of the best eighteenth-century taste in civic planning.

At the northeast corner of Queen Square cross over to No. 41 Gay Street on the corner of Old King Street. This was the home of John Wood the Younger who carried on the magnificent classical building of his father. From the street, to the right of the door, you can see the small powder room. In its decorative recess the gentlemen and ladies of the period used to powder their wigs.

Continue along Gay Street past stone houses to George Street, the next on your right. Take a left turn into the little pedestrian street called Miles's Buildings. Even in this unpretentious setting there are stylish housefronts. Look at the wrought iron balcony at No. 6. Come back to the corner with George Street and go left for a moment — or for several hours! — to the Hole-in-the-Wall restaurant, very highly recommended for cooking in the French style. As in many elegant restaurants in Britain, prices are lower at lunchtime.

Go back to Gay Street and walk a few yards uphill to the Circus. The uniform beauty of this superb group of four-story houses that encircles the central green shaded by five plane trees is quite exceptional. Designed by John Wood the Elder and begun in 1754, these fine Palladian-style homes, with extensive gardens at the back, have recently been refaced. The Circus was so laid out that there is a true crescent between each of the three streets which lead off from it. Note the crowning acorns and the frieze that runs along the top of the entire circular group. Many distinguished people lived in the Circus. At No. 14 lived Lord Clive, who, without any formal military training, founded the British empire in India by outgeneralling the French; Major André (of the American Revolutionary War) lived at No. 22, and Thomas Gainsborough at No. 17.

Bear left into Brock Street; look at the lovely stone doorway of No. 16, and the "light" above it (the arrangement of metal in the glass). At the end turn left into one of Bath's lovely parks. As you stroll along, you will see the gardens of the houses you have just passed and the beautifully planted flower beds in the park.

Look right to the magnificent sweep of Royal Crescent, often called "the finest crescent in Europe." The sheer expanse of this dramatic architectural masterpiece is in itself overwhelming. Built between 1767 and 1775, these thirty houses constitute a noble ellipse over six hundred feet long. One hundred and fourteen tall Ionic columns support one continuous cornice designed in the monumental Palladian style. Pause for a while to absorb this stupendous architectural effect.

Returning to Brock Street (unless you want to have a close look at the houses in Royal Crescent), turn left in a few yards along a passageway called Margaret's Buildings lined with small shops.

Now go back to the Circus, bear left on Bennett Street and take a sharp right to the Bath Assembly Rooms. This is another architectural triumph of John Wood the Younger. Bombed out during World War II, the beautiful ballroom, with its lovely high plaster ceiling, has now been restored to its original splendor. The five exquisite chandeliers are pre-Waterford glass and were made in London about 1771 (open weekdays, 10:00–5:00; Sundays, 11:00–5:00). Be sure to visit downstairs the intensely interesting Museum of Costume. Its collection includes fashionable men's and women's clothing from the days of Beau Nash to the present. Many of the costumes are shown against a background of Bath. The earliest complete dress, and the pride of the collection, is the Silver Tissue Dress from around 1660, made of cream silk and metal thread. The dress has an air of alluring simplicity, expensively achieved. It would have suited well an age in which puritan tastes were being overtaken by royalist luxury. (In 1660 Britain's brief republic ended, and Charles II was brought to the throne.) From three hundred years later, the museum also has striking dresses by Mary Quant and her contemporaries. And from the heyday of Bath there are costumes of dandies and grand dames from the 1700s.

Turn left from the Assembly Rooms into Alfred Street. No. 14 (Alfred House) has a pair of iron torch snuffers on either side of the front door. Note also the cogs of a former pulley on the left of the door which was added in the days of Queen Victoria for the purpose of raising beer barrels at the time the house was occupied by resident employees of an adjoining department store.

From Alfred Street go first right into Bartlett Street where you will find several antique shops. At the bottom turn right, then first left, and stroll along Milsom Street, Bath's distinguished shopping street. One hundred yards along Milsom Street, on the left, explore Shires Yard, now an interestingly designed modern precinct of small shops, and formerly, around 1770, a stableyard from which horses went clattering out with carriages to London, carrying portraits of grandees by Thomas Gainsborough.


Excerpted from Turn Left at the Pub by George W. Oakes, Anton Powell. Copyright © 1968 John B. Oakes as Executor for the Estate of George W. Oakes. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Editor's Note,
Bath I,
Bath II,
Cambridge I,
Cambridge II,
Church Stretton,
Oxford I,
Oxford II,
St. David's and Solva,
York I,
York II,
About the Authors,

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