With its winding streets, classic Georgian architecture and literary connections, Bath has a reputation as one of the UK’s most romantic cities. So it’s no surprise that it features as a central character in so many of your romances – from the first couple to marry on campus through to the salsa partners who found love on the dance floor.
Read on to hear from four alumni couples...
The first campus wedding
Don (BSc Economics & Administration 1973) and Kris Cole (BSc Sociology 1974) were married at the newly opened Chaplaincy on 3 March 1973 – the first couple to do so. Kris is a leading business author in Australia, and Don spent his career in business across the globe. They now live on 28 acres in the Adelaide Hills near the top of Mt Lofty, and recently celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.
Kris: “Don’s two flatmates were dating my two flatmates and they said, ‘Well, we should make it three and three’! I think our first date was the pyjama ball in RAG Week. Not terribly romantic, but it went from there. Don was in his second year and I was in my first.”
Don: “And then we married in my final year, 1973. Kris had another year to go because she was a year behind, as it were.”
Kris: “We decided to get married on campus because it was just handy, I suppose. It seemed like a good idea at the time!"
Don: “The Chaplaincy had recently opened, and we weren't big churchgoers so we had no particular church in mind. We spoke to Hugh Fairlie, the University Chaplain at the time, and he was very happy for us to get married there.”
Kris: “In terms of being the first couple to do so, I think when you're that young, things just wash over you and you don't understand the significance of them.”
Don: "We had no idea, during the service itself, that all these Morris dancers would suddenly appear at the end. They were jingling away when we came out; it was planned by Hugh. He also had the nation’s newspapers and television there, so it all came as a tremendous surprise to both of us as we stepped out.”
Kris: “We went to the George Inn at Bathampton for our reception, which was gorgeous. The publican there took the cork from the first bottle of champagne, split it and put in a couple of shillings with the Queen's head and King George’s head facing out. He said, 'This represents your marriage, the male and the female, so take really good care of it, don't ever lose it and don't ever let the coins fall out. He was so serious about the whole thing. We've moved all over the place since then and we've guarded it with our lives. That's probably why we've hit 50 years!
“One of our favourite date spots was the Hole in the Wall, we used to eat there but sadly the restaurant no longer exists. We also used to go to the Saracens Head, and we went to the odd function at the University, too. We probably hung around in the student bar too much!
“When we last visited the city, I was astonished that I couldn't find my way around Bath. The city has grown so much and it looks like the campus has grown tremendously, too.”
“I met my now-husband on my first day of university in Bath. He then proposed to me there years later! Always a special place in my heart for Bath.”
– Caroline Davis (BSc Psychology 2006)
The Sham Castle proposal
Soumyadip Rakshit (PhD Electrical & Electronic Engineering 2007) and Shanshan Xu (BSc Sociology with Human Resource Management 2008) met on campus during their studies, and now run a business together. They have frequently visited Bath since graduating, and Soumyadip proposed at one of their favourite spots.
Soumyadip: “We didn’t meet in the most typical of ways: I was running a study in the University library, collecting images of people’s eyes for my PhD in iris recognition. Shanshan volunteered to have her eye pictures taken and that was our first encounter. We became friends at Bath and then got together a few years later.
“After university, we created a medical devices company together, which we both still work at. It’s called MysteryVibe and our goal is to help people improve their sexual health after major life events such as childbirth, menopause and cancer. We got married at Luton Hoo Hotel in July 2014 – after I proposed to Shanshan in Bath.
“We come back to the city regularly, every few months. In fact, because we go to Bath so often, Shanshan didn’t suspect I was going to propose when I planned a weekend away there! One of our favourite things to do is walking around the city, along the canals and in the meadows. As always, we went out for a walk and reached the Sham Castle – the best views by far. And that’s where I got on my knee, got the ring out (preciously carried in my pocket the whole time) and proposed to her!”
"I met my future husband at Swamp – not exactly the most romantic of venues, though! There’s now a restaurant where the nightclub used to be – went there for our 20th anniversary for old times’ sake! Lots of happy memories of Bath.”
– Angela Clothier (BPharm Pharmacy 1994)
The family of Bath grads
Geoffrey Austen (BSc Building Technology 1974) and Carolyn Austen were the second couple to marry at the Chaplaincy, on 31 March 1973 – and revisited campus as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations. Geoffrey has spent his career working as an engineer across a wide range of projects, and two of the couple’s four children have since graduated from the University.
Geoffrey: “We met at school in Bexhill-on-Sea and then I came to Bath. Once a week, I'd find a red telephone box, put in four pennies and phone Carolyn. I used to come and sit in the Chaplaincy on occasions, as well, because I was on my own and away from home. In the second year, Carolyn came down and joined me here and worked in local hotels.
“We got married in my third year, March 1973. We decided to have the wedding on campus because we were just loving Bath – we were the second couple to do so.”
Carolyn: “It was also the only world we knew. We had the reception at the Southbourne Hotel on South Parade in town, which is where I was working at the time. It cost £40.”
Geoffrey: “We negotiated with the manager who she worked for, for £2 per head for 20 people... I think we actually had 40 people! All the students came down, the head chef and the head waiter. Everybody wanted us to have nice memories.
“Just after we'd come back for the third year and we knew we were getting married, we found out that the top-floor flat at the end of South Parade was becoming available for rent. The local agent told us we were 20th or 30th on the list, so Carolyn mentioned it to the manager of the hotel. It turned out that they owned the flat, so we got lucky! We lived overlooking the river and the city cricket ground, and it was fantastic.
“We loved going to the Italian restaurant down by Pulteney Bridge, Franco’s, for pizza. We also loved the Coeur de Lion – Bath’s smallest pub – the Volunteer Rifleman's Arms and the Belvedere Wine Vaults. The University had two squash courts up on the hill near where we lived, too, and because they were away from the campus, they were never used, so we'd go and play squash all evening.
“We’ve come back to Bath quite a few times since I graduated – our eldest son, George, did natural sciences and graduated in 2000 and then our youngest daughter, Lizzie, came and did sports engineering and graduated in 2003.”
“October 2009: a few days into the master’s course, my new friend and I decided to walk down the hill after class instead of taking the bus. We’ve now been married seven years, and our daughter has just turned two.”
– Gemma Brown (MA Interpreting & Translating 2010)
The society sweethearts
James Whitehead (BSc Mathematical Sciences 2000; PhD Mechanical Engineering 2005) and Joanna Kucia-Whitehead (BSc Psychology 2009) were both members of the SU’s Latin and Ballroom Club and now run their own dance company in Bath. They recently received a lifetime achievement award for services to Intervarsity Dance in the UK. James is also Program Director within the NHS and is currently studying for an Executive MBA at the University.
Joanna: “In my first year I joined the Latin and Ballroom Club and competed for the team. That’s when I met James, but we didn’t dance together at first. In my second year, he asked if I would like to teach dancing with him for P&O Cruises. We went together two, sometimes three times a year and had an amazing time. The following year, we started our company, Viva La Dance, and began to teach in the local area.
“James lived in Bath for many years before I moved there from Bournemouth (I’m originally from Poland), and so took me to various places in the city and wider area. Some memorable trips were walks by the canal to the George Inn at Bathampton, watching butterflies at Folly Farm, or looking for the white horses around Wiltshire one February day when the snow fell unexpectedly and covered the ground – not easy when they blended into the snow!
“We attended many great dance balls and salsa parties together and watched fireworks from Widcombe Hill, Alexandra Park or our window on Widcombe Crescent. I have really fond memories from the time when we were students.
“These days we’re really busy with our dance school – before the pandemic we were both teaching six days per week, including Sundays teaching students at the University – and when we're not teaching, we’re with our three daughters.”