Queen Square, Bath
Architect: John Wood the Elder (1728-1736)
Book: John Wood. An essay towards a description of Bath, vol. II, pl. 12-13 (1749)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library
Bath’s visual transformation from medieval town to modern spa is due principally to three men. ‘Beau’ Nash led society, ensuring entertainment for its fashion-conscious visitors; Ralph Allen owned local quarries and invested in developments; while John Wood the Elder (1704-54) laid out new streets and squares and designed the new buildings for them.
Wood the Elder was responsible for planning Bath’s great sequence of residential spaces: Queen’s Square, The Circus, and the Royal Crescent, (in its basic form). This engraving is an early plan for his earliest masterpiece, Queen Square. Built between 1728 and 1736, it contained only private houses, but was designed on a handsome scale. The north side, containing the most prestigious properties, was conceived externally as a single palatial façade in the fashionable Palladian style. A great temple front with pavilions, it was actually made up of seven individual houses.
The plan shown here indicates how carefully Wood considered views in his new layout. Geometric gardens were at the heart of the scheme; elsewhere, buildings provided focal points. It also shows how he thought of terraces as blocks, rather than individual properties. This vision was central to creating a grand urban environment. How suitable then that one of the streets should be named after him.