Richard ‘Beau’ NashBath


The ‘Beau’ Nash name is synonymous with Georgian style and flamboyance. He was a well known man of fashion (a dandy) and built a career on this.

Not a lot is known about his early life but he was born in 1674 in the Welsh town of Swansea and his father was a partner in a glass-blowing business. He was a lively boy and at age 13 he was sent to the ‘Free Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth’ in Carmarthen.

He excelled at sports and academically he must have been quite bright because he went on to Jesus College at Oxford to study Law.

The female attractions of Oxford proved more interesting than Law to young Nash and he was sent down from University. In an effort to get him into some employment his father bought him a commission in the Army as an Ensign.

Army life did not agree with Nash, it was too disciplined and did not provide enough ready cash so he persuaded his father to let him leave and try the Law again. This time he joined a firm in the Inner Temple, London.

Nash a Dandy
Although not well off Nash was a dandy from an early age. Dressed in a beautiful velvet coat, ruffles, a diamond pin and diamond buckles on his shoes, he attracted attention and his personable manner made him a sought after companion. He supplemented his meagre income with gambling at which he was extraordinarily successful. He was welcomed into London Society.
Studying Law had been a means to an end and in 1705 he decided to move to Bath in Somerset to try his luck. Bath’s mineral spas were becoming fashionable again and Society (and would-be Society), were flocking to the city. He made himself known to the Master of the Ceremonies, Captain Webster, and was soon appointed his assistant.
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Master of Ceremonies
The Master of the Ceremonies was a curious appointment peculiar to Spa Towns. Basically it was a position of Social Organizer with the power to enforce rules of behaviour and even charges for attending functions.
The reason it worked so well was because it was important to be seen at the ‘right’ places. It was here that eligible gentlemen could be introduced to young ladies looking for a husband, and impoverished young men could meet wealthy heiresses. Gambling and gaming were favourite activities.
Not long after Nash’s appointment as Assistant, Captain Webster was killed in a sword fighting duel. Nash’s first act as the new Master of the Ceremonies was to ban the wearing of swords and naturally duelling declined.
He also brought about the improvement of visitor lodgings. Three years later he arranged for an Assembly House to be built and charged all visitors to Bath a subscription to attend. He forbade private parties but invited everyone to the Assembly House for dinners, teas, breakfast, concerts and balls. Ever mindful of their clients’ health, the resident doctors insisted on balls starting at 6pm (18:00 hours) ending by 11pm (23:00 hours).
Rules for Fashionable Behavior
Rules were drawn up regulating what was to be considered appropriate and fashionable behavior for both gentleman and ladies. Demonstrations of disappointment were not encouraged, the wearing of riding boots in the Assembly House was ridiculed and swearing was not tolerated. Nash also supplemented his income by taking a percentage of all gambling winnings. The visitors to Bath were happy to abide by these restrictions and even welcomed them.
During Nash’s time in Bath he was inextricably tied up with its expansion and development. He promoted the architect John Wood and the entrepreneur Ralph Allen who between them were responsible for most of the Georgian buildings built in Bath Stone.
Among the people flocking to Bath were writers, artists and even Royalty. Nash made a point of calling on the new arrivals to pay his respects and obtaining subscriptions to his latest philanthropic projects. As well as his social duties he acted as a mediator in disputes and was appointed Master of the Ceremonies in Tunbridge Wells Spa.
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Nash the Gambler
Nash’s main source of income continued to be from gambling although he was careful to never win so much from his opponents that he caused them to go into debt. Nevertheless the British government was concerned about the detrimental effect of rampant gambling and legislated against certain games.
Nash got around this by inventing new games. In 1745 the anti-gambling laws were tightened and Nash’s income instantly declined and he was forced to sell his assets.
He ended his days a pauper and died in 1762, aged 87. He is buried in Bath Abbey.  

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