City view: Bath
Want to get away from it all? Try the Georgian City of Bath.
More renowned for long stretches of limestone and sweeping
crescents than its creative atmosphere, Bath's entrepreneurial
history dates back to about 500 years before the Romans turned up,
when the city was little more than a muddy swamp.
Exiled from society and forced to work as a swineherd because of
his leprosy, Bladud, mythical king of the Britons, noticed his
pigs, who bathed in the mud around Bath, weren't afflicted. Bladud
tried the mud out for himself, found it cured him, reinstated
himself as king, and built a city on top of the swamp, drawing
lepers from far and wide who came to the city to be cured - and
paid handsomely for the privilege.
Bath is best known for its spectacular Georgian architecture
which means one thing: tourists - hundreds of thousands of them. In
fact, with 1.6 million tourists injecting £281m into the local
economy each year, workers in the tourism and retail industries
make up just over a fifth of the city's workforce.
Creative industries are also on the rise in the city. Ryan
Carson, who set up his business, Carsonified, in 2004, says he has
seen an increase in the number of web businesses. "People spin off
from Future [Publishing, the Bath-based magazine giant]," he says.
"They work there, and then launch web companies off the back of it.
I know at least three people who have done that."
Living in Bath
Carson says compared to London, it's much easier to achieve a
decent work/life balance in Bath. With the countryside never more
than ten minutes away, and a busy cultural programme which includes
the annual Bath Festival, it sounds perfect - Carson says the only
downside is the inevitable London commute. "The quality of life is
much better, but from a networking perspective, if you're not in
London, you're just never going to make the connections." The
capital is an hour and a half away by train, but Carson says it's
worth the travelling. "It's a kind of trade-off, I think. If
you want to work outside London you have to accept it."
Local government isn't particularly well known for its support
of local entrepreneurs - after the introduction in 2001 of the
much-despised bus gates which allow only busses and taxis into the
city centre, the survival rate of small shops has been steadily
declining - not least on Walcot Street, the city's artisan quarter.
There's good news, though - backed by the Bath Chambers of Commerce
and the regional branch of the FSB, local traders have set up the
Bath Independent Group to rally against the council's sky-high
The most recent blow to the city's entrepreneurs came in the
form of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills
(DIUS), which backed out of funding for Sir James Dyson's School of
Design and Innovation earlier this year, which wasted £3.5m of the
entrepreneur's money. Not one to bite the hand that feeds him,
though, Dyson told the
local press the city is a wonderful place to set up shop. "This
should not put anyone off Bath," he said.
Where can I...
... take clients for lunch?
Since Jamie Oliver opened the second in what will be a nationwide
chain of Italian restaurants in the brand new Milsom Place shopping
centre in September 2008, the restaurant has been struggling to
keep up with demand. Located in the centre of the city, the
restaurant only takes bookings for groups of eight or more, which
means there may be a wait - but with an '
utterly delicious' menu on offer, as well as impeccable
service, your clients will be glad you came.
Italian, 10 Milsom Place, Bath. Tel: 01225
... take a coffee break?
If it's all become too much for you, make like the Georgians and
enjoy afternoon tea at the Pump Room near the Abbey. Built in the
late 18th century, the lofty room was once the setting for
exclusive social functions for Bath's upper classes, but is now
more popular with tourists. If you're after something with a bit
more of an atmosphere, try the Adventure Café, which serves up
coffees, sandwiches and snacks until the late evening.
The Pump Room, The Roman Baths,
Stall Street, Bath BA1 1LZ. Tel: 01225 477785
Adventure Café, 5 Princes
Building, Bath, BA1 2ED. Tel: 01225 462 038
... meet other entrepreneurs?
The Bath Business Club holds weekly breakfast meetings, as well as
arranging local training, seminars and social events for its
members. The local branch of the Federation of Small Businesses
(FSB) is also very active, lobbying and working with the local
council to help ensure business growth in the area.
Business Club, meetings held every Tuesday
morning. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
FSB Bath branch, contact Mary Mallia on
01249 449 120
... host my launch party?
By far the most impressive place to throw a party near Bath is
super-exclusive Babington House, a lavish country hotel and venue
set in the gorgeous countryside of the nearby market town of Frome.
The venue, part of private members' club group Soho House, includes
iconic spa The Cowshed and a 'Little House' crèche. Spaces
available for hire include the Orangery restaurant, which can seat
up to 80 people, and even a 45-seater cinema.
House, Babington Nr Frome, Somerset, BA11
3RW Tel: 01373 812266
... hold a conference?
Once described as 'the most noble and elegant of any in the
Kingdom', The Assembly Rooms are the city's piece de resistance,
and formed the heart of life in 18th century Bath. The venue, which
regularly hosts conferences for up to 500 delegates, not only
contains portraits by Gainsborough, Hoare and Ramsey, but also its
original Whitefriars crystal chandeliers - some of the oldest in
The Assembly Rooms, Bennett Street, Bath
BA1 2QH Tel 01225 477789
- Number of VAT registered businesses: 8,740
- Biggest industries: Property and business services, hotels and
- Percentage of businesses surviving three years or more:
- Percentage of the population who are entrepreneurs: 5%
- Average hourly earnings for full-time employees: £10 per
- Notable local entrepreneurs: Vacuum magnate James Dyson,
entrepreneur, philanthropist and postal reformer Ralph Allen
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