John Wood, the Elder, designed The Circus (originally called King's Circus) in 1754 and was completed in 1768. The listed Palladian architecture is divided into three parts consisting of townhouses and each entrance was symmetrically aligned for a classical facade straight ahead. Sadly, John Wood, the Elder, died just before the construction so his son, John Wood, the Younger completed his father's design.
The Circus linking with Gay Street and Queens Square has a key shape appearance viewed from the air which signifies masonic symbol which links to Wood's profession. One of the early residents, Thomas Gainsborough, had No. 17 as his home during 1758 to 1774 and used for his art studio.
Bath was a kind of experiment: In the 18th century, Ralph Allen, a rich businessman, bought the sandstone quarries of Claverton and Combe Down near Bath. Together with John Wood sr., he fulfilled his dream: to build a symmetric town resembling the buildings of the Roman antiquity. Ever since then, Bath is a sandstone gesamtkunstwerk. This is particularly obvious at The Circus and The Royal Crescent.
The Circus is a round square with three streets leading to it and some trees in the middle. All the facades look similar and thereby create a harmonic uniformity. 560 (!) different motifs adorn the frieze, and it is a lot of fun to look out for interesting depictions. The 18th century prime minister William Pitt lived here, as did David Livingstone.
The Royal Crescent is even more magnificent. Only 100m away, its 30 splendid houses demonstrate what harmonic architecture is supposed to look like. Situated on top of a hill, this semi-circular row of houses is among the most spectacular I've seen in terms of architecture. The semi-circle opens into a hillside park so that you can enjoy both views down the hill over the town and up the hill towards The Royal Crescent.
I must admit I didn't listen to the explanation very well. It was something about regardless where you stand you will see the front of a building.
It is magnificent though. I was too amazed by the lovely architecture to listen.
While the Royal Crescent is perhaps more famous, and is certainly stunning, my own preference is for the relative intimacy of this elegant circle of terraced houses just to its east. It was designed by John Wood the Elder and begun by him in 1754, but only completed in 1768 under the direction of his son John Wood the Younger after a hiatus of several years.
The innovative form consists of three even-sized terraces of houses curving around a central circular space, and each separated from the other by the entrance into the circle of a street. The centre is today planted with London Plane trees but was originally left open as a sort of forum where residents could meet and do business (several notable politicians had their Bath residence here, including William Pitt in his second term as Prime Minister).
It is said that Wood was inspired by the amphitheatres of Ancient Rome (he even talked of an “exhibition of sports” taking place at the centre of his Circus) and by druidical stone circles. It has also been said that both of the Woods were intrigued by Masonic symbolism, and it perhaps not an accident that seen from above the Circus and nearby Royal Crescent appear a little like the sun and moon. The Circus, along with Gay Street and Queens Square, also forms a key shape which is another Masonic symbol.
Whatever drove Wood, he created a masterpiece of form that inspired others after him and set the tone for a frenzy of elegant building construction in his century’s most fashionable city.
Divided into three segments of equal length, the Circus is a circular space surrounded by large townhouses. Each of the curved segments faces one of the three entrances, thereby ensuring that whichever way a visitor enters there is a beautiful facade straight ahead.
The Circus in Bath has nothing to do with clowns and lion tamers, circus is the Latin word for circle and the Circus here is a circle of three buildings designed by one of Bath's main architects, John Wood the Elder. The elder Wood died before it was completed so his son John Wood the Younger completed the plans. It is said to be John Wood the Elder's finest work.
There are three segments of buildings forming the circle and each segment has three floors. The exterior is adorned with three different types of columns, Corinthian on the top, Ionic in the middle and Doric on the bottom.
This is one of Baths most famous examples of Georgian Architecture. The Circus was originally named Kings Circus.
The name of circus comes from the latin translation of ring/oval/circle.
John Wood the Elder had grand plans for the architecture of Bath, and this circular street of large townhouses is considered to be his masterpiece! He was inspired by the Colosseum in Rome, but instead of following the design of the outer being the most important view, he designed the circle to be admired from the inner. It was intended to be used for civic functions and games.
The foundation stone was laid by John Wood the Elder on 18th May 1754, sadly, he died five days afterwards, leaving his son John Wood the Younger, to complete this incredible project .
33 houses, built on 3 storeys, arranged in a circle, formed by 3 long curved terraces (the first circular street in Britain) the diameter of Stonehenge!
Roman architectural styles (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian) can be seen in ascending levels, each becoming more ornate.
The central grassed park area was originally formed of stone setts, which covered the reservoir which supplied water for the houses.
Many of these houses were demolished during WW2, when a bomb scored a direct hit during the Baedeker Blitz in 1942.
The Circus is inspired by Roman architecture. It is round like the Colosseum, and three orders of columns are associated with the three stories of the building. This is an unusual feature in this area, as squares were common rather than circles. The center of the circle is a nice green area. These townhouses were certainly built for the wealthy. Bath was the place to live and be seen.
In Bath, you will find a couple of masterpieces of georgian architecture, with two really outstanding : The Royal Crescent and the Circus. The Circus is a complex of buildings, built between 1754 and 1768. It was designed by John Wood the Elder, but completed by his son, John Wood the Younger. The central place was originally designed as a water reservoir, but now trees are planted on it. A part of it was destroyed during german attacks in 1942, but reconstructed in its original style.
33 houses form a perfect circle with the three streets entering arranged in a 120 degree angle. This does not only make sure that you will have a look on the facades when you enter the Circus but also means symmetry. Many elements from classic roman architecture were used in this building. Acorns on the top of the houses were placed, honoring King Bladud who, according to a legend, founded the city of Bath. But perhaps the most interesting decoration on the buildings are over 500 symbols you will found carved into the frieze. They repeat on the one or other building, but it seems that they are not placed in any particular order. People say, that the architect wanted to leave a kind of coded message, but that was never proved of course.
One of the most famous circuses in the country, and full of 18th century town houses for the well heeled in the city. If you were to see the inside layout, you would see the typical "Upstairs Downstairs" of 18th century England with the nanny and butler residing on the top floor and the kitchen being in the basement. Visit no 1 Royal Crescent to get an idea...
Designed by John Wood, this circular group of houses repays study. Notice the three sets of pillars on the buildings, reflecting Ionic, Doric and corinthian pillars, similar to the Collisium in Rome. Included by Wood, not as perhaps you might imagine because of the association between Bath and Rome, but because classic archetecture of the eighteenth and Nineteenth century looked to Rome for inspiration. Wood took a lot of his inspiration from the past, and, for example, the distance accross the circus is the same as the diameter seen at Stonehenge. Pay particular attention to the carvings above the first floor, reflecting Masonic and Pagan symbols, anther qurik of Wood, as well as the acorns on the roof tops (see photo). The legend is that Bath and its healing springs were first discovered by a waywood prince whose pigs were cured of swine fever. Pigs like acorns, so the legend is acknowledged by Wood.
Although it is the Royal cresent that Bath seems most well known for, many vistors I think perhaps are more impressed by the handsome Georgian square known as the 'Circus'.
The name comes from the Latin word 'circus', which means circle, or possibly it is comment on the quality of the buliders used.
The architect, John Wood the Elder saw the Circus was part of his vision to recreate a classical Roman-style architectural landscape for the city.
I believe that the roads into the circus were placed at 120 degree intervals so that whicjever road you approached by there was an impressive building straight ahead of you.
The central space was originally a water reservoir, but is now a garden.
The Circus really does epitomise the elegance of Georgian Bath. Beautiful curved terraces of Bath limestone sweep round in a circle, and it doesn't take much to imagine the ladies and gentlemen of society on this street. So charming and respectable - but look closer....
The Circus was designed by the architect John Wood, who had a fascination with Paganism. He incorporated his interest into the buildings around the crescent, all of which are adorned with Pagan and naturalistic carvings such as pan pipes and mystical figures, each one quite individual. At the top of each house is an acorn. The circular crescent represents the sun, and the Royal Crescent, which he also designed, represents the moon. It is said that the road that connects the two is an ancient ley line. I wonder if the fashionable Georgians who lived in these houses knew of the symbolism?
Looking at the town houses that comprise the Circus today, it is difficult to believe they were part of a speculative suburban building boom between 1760 and 1790. Elegantly uniform on the outside, the houses were sold as 'shells' for individual buyers or builders to finish the interiors and rear yards as best they could.
By maintaining the classical principals of proportion throughout the city, John Wood, father and son, achieved the effect of making Bath look like 'a city of palaces'. (Fanny Burney writing in 1791)
Yes, I'm here. Ah, the circus. Can't beat a few elephants lumbering around beneath a trapeze.
With that in your mind, you'll be disappointed. This Circus is about history. Buildings where famous people lived abound here and it has appeared in films, though not as much as the nearby Royal Crescent which any movie buff would instantly recognize.
In The Circus lived such notables as William Pitt (Prime Minister), Gainsborough (painter), William Wilberforce (anti-slavery), Lord Clive (of India), David Livingstone (I presume) and Major.
An architectural feature of note is that the three main classical column types are on display here. The lower plain one is Doric, the middle level is Ionic (curled top like a capital "I") and above is the highly decorative Corinthian.
In the Circus you can also admire the frieze of carved 528 symbols, each one different, running around the front of the curved terraces. Count the acorns on the top of the parapets and see if there are still 108.
One of these doors was the entrance to William Pitt's abode.
Also here is the Museum of East Asian Art.
John Wood made the Circus represent the Sun and the Royal Crescent the Moon, and Brock St which links them runs along an old line of psychic energy. So it's said, anyway, by the more imaginative guides. This is all John Wood's masterpiece, designed by him and completed by his son in 1754.