The Circus dates from 1754-8
and it is the most monumental of the elder
even more so if one remembers that the old plane trees which are now so
much more splendid than the buildings did not exist and were not
projected. The centre was paved stone and no greenery. Planting was
introduced early in the C19. Wood's architectural conception is original
and powerful. ... The Circus has one architectural motif only, and this is
relentlessly carried through on all sides - without accents of height or
relief - a triumph of Wood's economy of means.
The system is easily
described; coupled columns in three orders, Tuscan (with metope frieze),
Ionic, Corinthian, and then a top balustrade. (Like the
Colosseum, to which it has been compared, turned outside in).
The sustained depth of relief was something new for Bath, a first step in
the direction in which the younger Wood was to continue.
While conceiving the new Roman Bath, Wood was
also inspired by ancient Britain, King Bladud (mythical founder of
pre-Roman Bath) and the Druids. The diameter of the Circus is said to be
based on measurements Wood took of the stone circles at Stonehenge
and Stanton Drew. The acorns on top of the Circus are highly
unusual; oaks were sacred to the Druids. Wood was probably also a Freemason and many of
the symbols on the frieze come from Freemasonry.