One key figure in Bath's architectural heritage is John Wood, the visionary 18th-century Yorkshireman whose dreams of recreating classical Rome in Bath led to the creation of many of the city's most notable buildings, including Queen Square, and North and South Parades. Although many of his elaborate ideas, which included the building of a forum and piazzas, were dismissed by the council of planners, he was given permission to build a terrace of houses outside the medieval walls of the city in an area known as Barton Fields. In 1754, work was begun on The Circus, a perfect Georgian terrace.
The Circus was inspired by buildings as varied as the Coliseum and Stonehenge. With Doric columns lining the ground floor façade, Ionic pillars on the next level and elaborate Corinthian columns on the top level, complete with stone swags and leafy decorations, the building epitomises three architectural styles.
Wood was an enthusiastic antiquarian and the terrace is overflowing with evidence of his interest. The frieze above the doors shows figures apparently drawn from fortune-telling books. Wood was also interested in stone circles, and The Circus is built to the same dimensions as Stonehenge. Note, too, the row of stone acorns, a potent Druid symbol, which crowns the building.
Of the original terrace, only four houses remain intact, and one of them, which has been completely refurbished, is now for sale. Its present owner, Ian Hetherington, bought the house nearly two years ago. "I had been looking for the quintessential country house, something 'Queen Anne-ish' on a hilltop with about 20 acres. But the downside of that particular idyllic dream was the isolation, and all the problems associated with maintaining an old country house," he says.
But when Hetherington found the terrace in The Circus, he saw that his family could have the very best of both worlds. Situated in the middle of the city, with the theatre, galleries, shops, Roman baths and Bath Abbey on the doorstep, the house also faces directly on to a park of 29 acres. "Sitting in the back garden, you could be in the country," says Hetherington.
In keeping with the grandeur of the exterior, the house is luxurious inside, though the functional parts have been developed in a more contemporary style. The house now has five reception rooms, six bedrooms and Phillipe Starck bathrooms. The period detail is exquisite, too, with intricate garlands of plasterwork and elaborate cornicing throughout, ornate ceiling roses and marble fireplaces.
On the lower ground floor, there's a study, family room and plant room, as well as a hallway leading to a Roman-style 36ft by 24ft swimming pool, complete with changing rooms, Doric columns and stone seats.
A large dining room and kitchen occupy the whole of the ground floor. Because the building is Grade I-listed, the kitchen units have been hand-built as freestanding units in order to protect the plasterwork.
Up one of the house's two staircases, the reception room on the first floor looks on to a view of the 150 square foot south-facing walled garden. Six bedrooms occupy the second and third floors of the house, and the main bedroom has an ensuite with egg-shaped bath.
What's so special about this house is that it has been preserved in its original state, with all examples of craftsmanship restored to perfect condition, incorporating state of the art systems for air management, underfloor heating and wireless sound.
Now the Hetheringtons have decided to relocate to the capital, another buyer has a chance to live in what many regard as Bath's most beautiful building.
Get the spec
What's for sale: House with six bedrooms and five reception rooms
How big? 809sq m overall
Serious kit: Intricate cornices, plasterwork, marble fireplaces
Extras: Underground swimming pool, underfloor heating, wireless Bang & Olufsen sound system
Buy it: Hamptons, 01225 312244, guide price £4m