Bath and the Australian Connection

We chose to stay in the village of Batheaston, a 30 minute walk from Bath at a newly opened B&B called the Poplars. We can very highly recommend this renovated Georgian House. The first image shows our sitting room. The windows, with their original glass with that rippled effect, have a wonderful view to the other side of the Avon Valley to the twin village of Bathampton.

It is a ten minute walk down the hill to the riverside. I was told that an evening walk along the river will occasion sightings of otters but you have to make do with a dawn picture of the toll bridge at the Old Mill crossing of the Avon.

A further 10 minutes up the hill into Bathampton and you reach an interesting Australian connection at the church of St Nicholas.

Captain Arthur Phillip was the Royal Naval Officer who lead the First Fleet (11 ships most of them carrying convicts) to occupy Australia, first Landing in Botany Bay, then quickly moving to Sydney Cove on the 26th January 1788. For my America readers, Captain James Cook was our equivalent of Colombus, he discovered and mapped the East Coast of Australia, while Captain Phillip is more like the Leader of your Pilgrim Fathers, the leader of the first white settlement.
After finishing his 4 year posting, he sailed home to England, leaving the colony very well organised but still so far from the country we are today. He continued to serve in the Royal Navy, finally retiring in 1805 as Admiral of the Blue, having served in the War against the French.
On his death in 1814, he was buried just inside the church doors of St Nicholas, Bathampton, pictured above. Within the next few decades, his significance not recognised locally, Australians had no idea of his resting place. Sir Henry Parkes, the Father of Australian Federation, discovered his gravesite in 1895 and started the process which now has an Australia Chapel inside the church at the grave site. The stained glass windows carry the Australian Crest and that of all the States, the floor is paved with Australian stone and the pews made from timber from our state of Tasmania. Every year, close to the Anniversary of his death there is a gathering of Australians in a memorial service.
Interestingly, Australian QC Geoffrey Robertson, an internationally famous lawyer (and stirrer!), is unhappy about this burial place being so obscure and has called for his remains to be moved to Australia where they could be more suitably honoured as Australia’s first leader in modern times.


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