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|Letter 32: "It would be pleasant to be near Sidney Gardens !
Written by JulieW
(9/17/2007 8:48 a.m.)
Thjis is a colour plan of the Sidney Gardens which was a pleasure garden situated on the right hand bank of the Avon, along the new developments around Pultney Street.
Here is a link to an old post of mine on the gardens.
JA expresses a wish to go into the Labyrinth every day. You can see the Labyrinth on the plan of the gardens above: on the right hand side near to the canal( coloured blue on the plan) .
Here is a map of the labyrinth itself from the Guidebook to the Sidney Gardens ( 1820).
You can see on the left and right of the plan, representations of different attractions to be found in the gardens : on the left, The Miller's Wheel and the entrance to The Grotto ( which was itself the entrance to an underground passage leading to the Labyrinth,shown on the top right of the plan) , and on the right you can see views of the Ruined Castle and the Hermit's Cottage.
The Labyrinth ( or maze, if you like ) was supposed to be twice as large as the maze at Hampton Court. Here is a link to the Royal Palaces website ( BTW, do go and look at the opening page for many a giggle with the interactive quizzes!) on the maze to give you some idea of the scale of The Labyrinth.
If you look closely at the Labyrinth plan you can see that there were gazebos dotted around the maze where presumably one could rest when lost , and that in the middle is The Merlin Swing. No one really knows what this was, but it is thought it was one of John Joseph Merlin's inventions.
Mr Merlin -The Ingenious Mechanic - was one of the first engineers employed by Coxe at his exhbition at Spring Gardens London, famously mentioned by Sheriden in his play The Rivals. .
Merlin was the sort of interesting man the 18th century produced, and it is hard to categorise him. He invented/imporved musical instruments, watches, roler skates, Bath Chairs and countless other items.
He was keen on the effects of gravity on health and it is now supposed that his swing(sadly there is no illustration surviving of the famous item) was not decorative but something like the contraptions we now see which invert you so that stresses on the body can be relieved: it has been thougth that it took the form of a revolving wheel.(See specualtions in John Jospeh Merlin: The Ingenious Mechanick by John Jacob et al) I wonder if JA ever gave it a try?
You might note the dotted line on the plan of the labyrithn.This is the route "to be pursued".......very useful no doubt ;-)
I find it interesting and quite sad that JA preferred looking for houses in Bath in areas surrounded by open countryside, don't you? I wonder if her wish will be granted......;-)
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