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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Somerset

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Myths and Legends
Beau Nash’s Bath

Nash, born in Swansea, was largely a failure at most things in his early life. His schooling was nothing extraordinary; he dropped out of Oxford University, the army and his chosen profession as a lawyer. Nash lived for his socialising, and had found his time in the Guards Division in London a great help in establishing connections in society.
Ralph Allen
Ralph Allen's development of the Post Office proved profitable
© Courtesy of Bath Postal Museum
However, he soon found his military duties an inconvenience to his social life, so he resigned and returned to law at the Inner Temple in London.

Gambling was to dominate his life, so much so that it took precedence over his legal studies, and became the driving force in his life. His visit to Bath, where the popularity of the spa waters was increasing, proved to be the perfect match with Nash’s lifestyle. Bathers were found soaking in the mineral waters from early morning, and would generally finish about 9am, leaving the idle rich with the remainder of the day to relax, walk in the parks or visit taverns and coffee houses. This gave Nash the perfect opportunity to promote his love of gambling to Bath society.

But it was Bath that made the man, and the man made Bath. He moved into the town, rapidly becoming the aide-de-camp to the Master of Ceremonies, Captain Webster. In Georgian days, The Master of Ceremonies would arrange “society’s social life” - balls, dances and social gatherings and ensure their smooth running. Nash was the natural successor to Webster, when the young Captain was tragically killed in a duel as a result of an altercation over a card game.

Nash then assumed the self proclaimed title of “King of Bath”. He dressed appropriately with an exaggerated elegance that soon earned him his accustomed nick-name of “Beau”. He dared to be different. Instead of the customary white wigs of the time, Beau’s was black with a bejewelled cream, beaver-trimmed hat worn at a raffish angle. Whilst his braided and laced coat was worn open to show off his waistcoat and ruffled shirt. This was an entirely new way of dressing and only Beau had the bravado to carry off this foppish behaviour.

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