Five Fascinating Firsts from the city of Bath

Five Fabulous Firsts for the City of Bath

Our home city of Bath is a double UNESCO World Heritage City, famed for its thermal waters, Roman remains, elegant Georgian architecture and association with the novelist Jane Austen. But the city has other things to boast about too – including five fascinating firsts.

 

No. 1 - The First Bath Oliver Biscuit

Dr William Oliver
Dr. William Oliver by Unknown author - httpwww.medicalheritage.co_.ukBatholiver.htm The site claims copyright only of the text not the pictures. The picture is from an old painting., Public Domain, httpscommons.wikimedia.o.jpg.

In 1750, physician and philanthropist Dr William Oliver came up with a recipe for a savoury hard cracker that has become a British institution, appearing in novels from The Borrowers to Brideshead Revisited and even acting as a decoy during World War II. (During World War II, the Crown Jewels were hidden in a secret chamber deep beneath Windsor Castle. The royal archivist prised out all the major stones and placed them inside a Bath Oliver tin.) When Dr. Oliver died, he bequeathed £100, a sack of flour and the secret formula for his biscuit to his coachman, who subsequently set up a shop on Green Street and became rich on the proceeds. 

No. 2- The First Sighting of Uranus

Herschel telescope
HerschelTelescope By Mike Young - Own work, Public Domain, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=7621206.jpg

On 13th March 1781, William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus through a homemade telescope in the back garden of his home on Bath’s New King Street. His former home has been preserved as a unique example of a modest Georgian townhouse and is now a museum dedicated to his, and his sister Caroline’s, achievements in music and astronomy.

No. 3 - The First Mailed Stamp

Penny Black stamp
Penny_black By Unknown author - httpwww.medicalheritage.co_.ukBatholiver.htm The site claims copyright only of the text not the pictures. The picture is from an old painting., Public Domain, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwi_.jpg.

On 2nd May 1840, four days before the first official posting day, a letter left Bath Post Office with a stamp featuring an engraved image of Queen Victoria on a black background. This stamp is now known as a Penny Black.

No. 4 - The First Appearance of Plasticine

 

Bath School of Art
Bath School of Art as it was in 1874. lquara / Walcot School and the Star Inn, Vineyards, Bath / CC BY-SA 2.0

In 1874, a man called William Harbutt came to Bath to teach sculpture at the city’s School of Art and Design. Realising that clay was difficult for his students to work with, and dried up too quickly, he created a makeshift lab in his basement and started to experiment. By 1899 he was ready to patent his recipe and Plasticine was born. Production soon moved out of Harbutt’s basement and into a factory on the outskirts of the city, where the world-famous modelling material continued to be made right up until 1983.

No. 5 - The UK’s First Farmer’s Market

Bath Farmers Market
Image courtesy Visit Bath

In 1997 Bath became the first city in the UK to hold a farmers’ market, beginning a trend that has swept the country. A regular market can still be found at Green Park Station on Saturday mornings selling fresh, seasonal produce all produced within a 40-mile radius of Bath.