Originally an orchard belonging to the Abbey, the Parade Gardens were first named ‘St James’ Triangle’ when they became the formally designed gardens by architect John Wood the Elder in 1737. The area was a place for the society of Bath to promenade after a visit to the nearby Harrison’s Assembly Rooms, which overlooked the Gardens and riverside path known as ‘Harrison’s Walk’. The Harrison's Assembly building was destroyed by fire in 1820, and the Assembly Rooms we know today were built on the northern slopes of the city near to the Kings Circus.
The Parade Gardens today are still laid out in much the same style as they were in Georgian times. John Wood, famous for his architectural works in Bath such as The Royal Crescent and Queen Square, also designed the houses adjacent to the Parade Gardens in North Parade. Famous residents included Admiral Lord Nelson, William Wilberforce and poet William Wordsworth.
The current Abbey Church of St Peter, a marvellous example of late gothic perpendicular architecture, is clearly visible from the Parade Gardens Café and was started in 1499. It replaced a Norman Cathedral, which was in turn built on the site of a Saxon Church.
The large building overlooking the Parade Gardens from Grand Parade is ‘The Empire’ built in 1898 and it was a hotel until 1939. The interesting roof top, depicting cottages, a town house, a manor house with Dutch style gable and a castle is said to have represented the different classes of Victorian customer who were all welcome to use the hotel!
Many commemorative plaques and statues can be seen in the Parade Gardens and include the original ‘Angel of Peace’ sculpted by Trent, dedicated to Edward VII’s acts of diplomacy in Europe. Copies of this statue can be found in parks and gardens all over the UK. Tuscan style columns are incorporated into the surrounding colonnades, salvaged at the end of the 1800's from a house in the nearby Orange Grove, occupied by the Prince of Orange in 1734. The Orrery, a form of sundial was presented to the city and erected on the dolphin pedestal in 1916. Partially hidden treasures include remains of the foundations of the medieval Monks Mill and until recently, an overgrown area covering a Victorian Pets Cemetery. Work has been ongoing since 2009 to clear and restore the Pets Cemetery area to its former glory.
The riverside path gives a truly spectacular viewing point of the famous Pulteney Bridge - a Palladian masterpiece c1760 desgned by architect Robert Adam. Down river is the elegant North Parade Bridge, actually an iron bridge built in 1836, then encased in Bath stone a century later.
These are only a few of the historical delights to be found in or nearby the Parade Gardens.