Monday, July 4, 2011

Bath 2011-Guest blogger- My mom, Beth Cooper

I thought it would be great if my mom would write about our trip to Bath since she had set it up for us to see some of her family history spots!  Hope you enjoy!

Jenny has asked me to write a few blogs about our trip so here goes!
Bath, England
What a lovely place!  Jenny and I had several days on our recent trip to sightsee and explore in the UK while Billy left London for a business trip to Madrid.  Jen and I have been to London many times (and we both had lived there at one time in our lives) so we know the city well and a short overnight trip out to the countryside seemed like the perfect thing to do.

My dad had recently been contacted by a distant relative who found him on Facebook.  This man has been researching our shared geneology and had emailed us our family tree from my paternal grandmother’s side.  The earliest date was 1790 with the birth of my great-great-great-great grandfather, William Gurner in Bath, England.   We knew his name, wife’s name and marriage date and his occupation including  specific addresses in Bath!   We learned that most of our Bath family had been married and baptized in the Bath Abbey up until 1855.

Bath is situated on a beautiful river - the Avon.  As in Stratford-Upon-Avon. It's fairly close to the west coastline of England and also to Stonehenge.  The trip to Bath from London is very quick via a train that leaves hourly from Paddington Station.  It's a little over an hour and I found a cute little B&B via and booked the room just the day before we left London.  (Thank you iPhone!)

We got to Bath mid-morning and checked into our B&B and set out for lunch and a tour of the Abbey.   We happened to come into the Abbey during their daily afternoon organ concert.  I found one of the robed chancellors or deacons, told him my story and he pulled out a huge book to see if our ancestors were buried or memorialized in the Abbey.  After browsing through this large book we came up empty handed.  I had thought about exploring the cemetery for grave markers, but without a car and with limited time we were unable to arrange it.   Later that afternoon on our Big Bus tour we drove by the local cemetery and it's was very overgrown and we didn't know if there was a directory to help us find specific headstones - I guess that will be saved for another trip.  We spent the rest of our first afternoon touring the Roman baths which are the only thermal spas in the UK - still flowing and still hot and steamy.

After a rainy Big Bus tour we hit the pub for some drinks and eventually found a great Indian restaurant with a terrific view of the Abbey and spent an hour or so after dinner walking a big loop around the town and across the famous Pulteney Bridge back to our B&B.

The next day, I was anxious to see if I could find out more about my great (x4) grandfather.  We knew he was a bookbinder, which in the early 1800's was quite an accomplished profession. He lived in Bath at the same time Jane Austen was alive and also a residence of Bath. They were 5 years apart in age, so it is possible they knew each other.  In order to mentally prepare for the Bath excursion I was reading Persuasion by Jane Austen and it was fun to imagine that maybe my grandfather knew her and even worked on some of her manuscripts.

I found a local bookbinder shop called George Bayntun that has been in Bath since 1829. When I explained my search and showed them our family tree, they too pulled out a book entitled “Book Binders of the United Kingdom (Outside London) 1780-1840.”.  Seriously.  I found out that my ancestor had indeed been a bookbinder, found his name in the book with 2 street addresses in Bath and discovered he had not been an independent bookbinder so the chance of finding any of his actual books was going to be a challenge (again – next trip or an internet search?).  I was able to purchase a few antique prints in this shop, both printed at the time my great-grandfather lived there – one a map of Bath and the other an etching of the Bath Abbey exterior.

Continuing to explore our ancestors’ home city, Jenny and I got on our handy-dandy iPhone maps and they led us directly to the exact street addresses listed in the book! Amazing.

Our final activity was to have tea at the Jane Austen Center.  It was chilly and rainy in Bath so a pot of hot tea and some yummy pastries and finger sandwiches was the perfect end to our Bath excursion.

We had to catch an early afternoon train back to London to see Le Miserable  that evening but I look forward to going back to that area and exploring more family history – plus I’ve never been to Stonehenge. Again – next trip!

Click here to see the Bath Pics!

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