1. ITV Report

Roman Baths attracted troops and Royalty in the war

People believed the Roman Baths had healing qualities Photo: ITV News West Country

During the great war life in the West changed for all of those left behind. Many of our stately homes became field hospitals, the so called 'land army' took to the region's farms, and jobs previously only available for men were opened up to women for the first time. And tourism continued to play a part in the region with many soldiers, and in fact the King of England, visiting the Roman Baths in Bath for a spot of relaxation and to experience the healing properties of the water.

Below you can see black and white footage from the First World War:

The Roman Baths look much the same today as they did during World War 1. And in part they were used much as they are today - as a tourist attraction. The surrounding streets would fill with troops from America or Australia stationed at nearby barracks as they prepared to join the war effort.

"We know that American troops came into Bath from a base in Wiltshire, they were given a reception in the Abbey churchyard by the Mayor, they came into the baths, they were given lunch in the concert hall which is now the main reception hall and generally had a good day"

– Stephen Clews, Manager, Roman Baths
Troops came to the baths for it's healing qualities Credit: ITV News West Country

But there was another much greater draw for the soldiers of World War 1. Those returning from the battlefields, with injuries that we can only imagine, desperate for their health to be restored. And it the supposed healing qualities of of the waters here in Bath that saw hundreds of troops returning from frontline action and in recovery here in the city come and touch and even drink this famous spa water. In fact the Baths were deemed important enough to warrant a visit from King George V and Queen Mary in 1917 during a moral boosting visit to the West Country.

"He went to the war hospital, the Queen gave 200 weight of best quality tobacco to the troops there, so she was popular. They then came to the pump room, tasted the spa water, then they headed back to the railway station and had lunch I understand in Trowbridge."

– Stephen Clews, Manager, Roman Baths

But perhaps what troops valued most at the Royal Baths was simply the chance to enjoy some peace. For many it would be the only time they could.

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