Posted by: travelrat | January 11, 2008

The Oldest House in Bath …. may not be

Sally Lunn’s

I came upon a very curious happening yesterday. The local TV news told of an item they’d picked up from the ‘Bath Chronicle’, issued over a week ago. Maybe it was a slack day for news, or something?

Anyway, it transpires that Sally Lunn’s Tea Room, long claimed as the oldest house in Bath … may not be!

It’s said that Sally Lunn came here in 1680, fleeing Huguenot persecution in France, and began baking the famous Sally Lunn buns. But, was her name really Sally Lunn? It doesn’t sound very French to me; there are those who claim the name of the buns is a corruption of ‘soleil et lune’ … sun and moon … and the name of the lady who brought them to Bath is unknown.

Over the door is a statement that the house was built in 1482 over the remnants of earlier mediaeval and possibly even Roman houses. However, according to the researches of a local historical group, the house wasn’t, in fact, built until at least 140 years later.

Their claim is based on a map dated 1610, by a well-regarded cartographer called John Speed, which shows an orchard where Sally Lunn’s should be, and no sign of any building. Further research suggested that permission to build on the land was given as late as 1622.

What I think happened is that someone in the way-back-when just pulled a date out of the air to make a good tale, and was, in turn, quoted as gospel by subsequent writers. Goodness knows, it happens; John Aubrey muddied the waters around Stonehenge for centuries by presenting conjecture as fact.

Now, this might be seen as ‘spoiling a good story with facts’ … but my take on the matter is: What if Sally Lunn’s isn’t the oldest house in Bath? What if there wasn’t actually a person called Sally Lunn. The tea and buns are just as good as when Sascha, my friend and fellow writer, and I once called in for a cup of tea and a bun. And, I think knowing ‘the facts’ really takes nothing away from the ambience of a lovely old building

The full story is at http://www.thisisbath.com/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=163061&command=displayContent&sourceNode=163044&contentPK=19330610&moduleName=InternalSearch&formname=sidebarsearch

Sally Lunn’s website is at www.sallylunns.co.uk

NB! NOT .com … that will take you to a tearoom of the same name in Chester, NJ !!

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Responses

  1. Mmmmm, tea and buns…You’re probably right about the date being made up. I’m sure it happens all the time.

  2. I think every writer has nightmares about ‘perpetuating a myth’ … but, like I said, even if the house is 150 years younger than they thought it was … it’s had no effect on the tea and buns!

    I tell you, you need to eat these buns with a knife and fork! You can have a sweet or savoury topping on them … I had golden syrup and cream on my last one.

    And, Earl Grey tea! (Comes of being a fan of Star Trek:The Next Generation!)


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