20th Century Bath

Between 1936 and 1940, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia resided here during his exile. He took a house in Newbridge Hill, which is now a community centre for ethnic minorities. On 18th October 1954 Haile Selassie was admitted as an Honorary Freeman of the city.

Bath during World War II

Part of the Admiralty was moved to Bath in 1939, taking over private schools and all the major hotels including ‘The Empire’. This influx increased the city’s population by several thousand and put a severe strain on local accommodation.

On 25th and 26th April 1942 Bath was bombed in the ‘Baedeker’ Raids. The Germans had decided to bomb cities that were marked with three stars in the Baedeker travel guides. Much of the southern part of the city was destroyed and there were 1272 people killed or injured. More than 19,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed, prompting a large-scale rebuilding project after the war ended in 1945.

Post-War Bath

On 20th July 1950 Sir Winston Churchill was admitted as an Honorary Freeman of the City. The first female Mayor of Bath, Miss Kathleen Harper JP, performed the ceremony.

In 1964 Bath City Council granted the use of 106 acres of land at the top of Claverton Down to create a university. The new university received its charter and formally opened in 1966. Today, the University of Bath is among the top ten in the country. It has a student population of over 8,000 and is one of the largest employers in the City.  

The Sack of Bath

During the 1960s and 1970s councillors and city planners redesigned several areas of the city. Artisan cottages and Georgian terraces were demolished and replaced by blocks of flats, car parks and shops. Although these were thought to be progressive, they were out of sympathy with the style of the Georgian City.

The Ebb and Flow of the Waters

Throughout its history the city has been subjected to severe flooding from the River Avon. In 1974 the Flood Prevention Scheme at Pulteney Bridge was built to protect the southern parts of the city. The weir enhances the view of Pulteney Bridge and won a Civic Trust Award.

In 1978 amoebic contamination in the spa water caused the death of a young girl and bathing in the water was prohibited. Drinking the spa water also stopped and did not resume until 1985 after remedial works had been carried out. Bathers took the plunge again when a new Spa complex incorporating the Hot and Cross Baths opened in August 2006.

UNESCO designated the city a World Heritage Site in 1988 so the local authority has a duty to protect Bath’s heritage. The World Heritage Symbol is set into the roadway at the junction of Stall Street and Bath Street.