King Bladud and his pigs King Bladud City of Bath

The Legend

The year is 863BC. Bladud, King of the Britons and father of the unfortunate King Lear who was immortalised by Shakespeare, had spent much of his youth studying in Athens where he contracted leprosy. Farthing-sized coin depicting King Bladud

Returning home and realising that an imperfect prince could not inherit the throne, he left the royal palace in disguise to take a job as a swineherd in an "untravell'd part of the country".

This was certainly the Avon Valley, and may well have been the area we know today as Keynsham - remembering that this was more than 1,000 years before the Romans built villas in Keynsham and a full 1,500 years before the Saxons came to Bath.

Farthing-sized coin depicting King Bladud

As Bladud drove his pigs in search of acorns he crossed the River Avon at shallows north of Saltford - at a place which subsequently took its name from the legend - Swineford. Statue of King Bladud

The rest of the story is famous. Bladud's pigs also contracted his disease but were cured when they rolled in the hot mud around Bath's springs.

 

Observing the miracle, Bladud also bathed in the hot murky water and he too was cured.
Returning home in triumph he went on to become King. In gratitude for his cure, Bladud founded a city at Bath and dedicated its curative powers to the Celtic goddess Sul and 900 years later the Romans called the city Aquae Sulis - the Waters of Sul.

Coins like the ones above (click coins to see larger image) are in the archives of the Roman Baths they are farthing-size. There is also an interesting display of Bladud images in a side room of the Pump Room.

There is a life-size stone statue of King Bladud - see picture on right - in storage in the Council's care. It is finally to be placed on public display again - in Parade Gardens. And next to it, one of our pigs, carved out of Bath Stone! This is due to happen in Open Heritage Week, at Half Term at the end of October 2009.

Update: We did it! King Bladud's now in Parade Gardens -
and our pig next to him!

Winged-man coinA wonderful book by Moyra Caldecott The Winged Man early in 2008. It's a fictional account of what Bladud's life might have been like, based on thorough research of those times and other works. It has this well-known face from the Roman Baths on the cover which many people believe also pictures Bladud. 

Many places in Bath are named after Bladud there's for example Bladud Buildings, just off Broad Street, and the Bladud's Head, a pub in Larkhall.
 

 

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