|Hetling Pump, Bath.|
If you were ill or convalescent during Jane Austen's lifetime, your physician would probably recommend you ‘take the waters’ at one of the many fashionable spas like Bath, Buxton, Cheltenham, Tunbridge Wells, Harrogate and Bristol’s ‘hot wells’. Drinking mineral water, and bathing in it, was thought to relieve many ailments like gout, rheumatism, and the palsy. Your doctor would give you a special diet to follow, and prescribe blood-letting, in addition to taking the waters.
During Jane's stay in Bath in 1799, her brother Edward tried the waters of the Hetling Pump for his illness, thought to be gout. On 2 June, Jane wrote to her sister Cassandra that Edward 'was better yesterday than he had been for two or three days before. He drinks at the Hetling Pump, is to bathe tomorrow, and try electricity on Tuesday'.
A sedan-chair was the most convenient way to reach the baths, and to explore Bath’s busy streets, as Robert Southey explained in his Letters from England (1807): ‘There being in some places no carriage road, and in others so wide a pavement that in wet weather there would be no getting at the carriage, sedan chairs are used instead. They are very numerous, and with their chairmen, who all wear large coats of dark blue, form another distinguishing peculiarity of this remarkable town.’
The Hetling Pump Bath.
A sedan chair and chairmen at Knutsford May Day.