The current Wells Road replaced the old pilgrimage route (the “hollow way” or Holloway) to Wells. The old pilgrim chapel of St Mary Magdalen still stands on the old Holloway road and is the only pre-16th century building left in Bath. By Ralph Allen’s time, the Wells Road was a fast stagecoach route to Wells, Exeter and Falmouth (although normal practice was for passengers to walk up Beechen Cliff to save the horses!). Ralph Allen also owned the Bear pub at the top of the Wells Rd, giving passengers a chance to quench their thirst after the walk up the hill. Wells Rd is also the site of a Roman Villa, described by Michael Forsyth as “within sight of the Baths and Temple, aligned directly with the hot springs”. Sadly much of the original buildings on Wells Rd were removed during the Sack of Bath in 1964.
Widcombe Parade dates from 1780-90, predating both Widcombe Crescent and Widcombe Terrace (1805). At the time of building, the parishes of Lyncombe and Widcombe were small villages with a population of around 3000. By 1830, the population had trebled and included almost 600 weavers. Tthe textile trade, together with shipping from John Rennie’s Kennet & Avon canal (completed in 1810) and Ralph Allen’s stone mine traffic, formed the backbone of the local industry for most of the early 19th century. Lyncombe and Widcombe were not incorporated into the city of Bath until 1835 (under the Municipal Corporations Reform Act). The footbridge (originally wooden) to the city centre was built by Hickes and Isaac and opened in 1863 (with a halfpenny toll). During the Bath and West of England Agricultural Centenary Show celebrations (1877), crowds crossing caused the bridge to collapse into the Avon and it was replaced in the same year by the iron bridge (designed by T.Marsh) still in place today.
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