Back in 2021, I discovered that Bath would become home to Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein an immersive museum dedicated to exploring the life of the author, her links with Bath, and the influence of her novel. I finally managed to visit this year and it was well worth the wait.
Whilst many associate Bath with the likes of Jane Austin (1775–1817), Bath was also the temporary home of Mary Shelley (1797–1851). Her affair with married romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822) was at the height of its scandal when she made the excursion to Bath along with Percy. Her step sister Claire Clairmont (1798–1879), who was pregnant with poet Lord Byron’s child at the time, also stayed in Bath. Taking up lodgings above a print shop, Mary fleshed out the story she’d started on a stormy night in Switzerland whilst staying with poet Lord Byron (1788–1824). This would be published in 1818 as Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus and is widely hailed as the first science fiction novel.
Inside the Museum
The first floor is dedicated to Mary Shelley’s early life and key influences on her novel such as galvanism. Further rooms look at the novel’s conception and publication, including the reactions of critics when they discovered that the creator of Frankenstein was in fact a woman since ‘Frankenstein’ was first published anonymously. Call it morbid curiosity but The Mourning Room, which explores Shelley’s relationship with death, is particularly fascinating and shows how it shaped her and future works.
The theatre Room holds an impressive, to-scale, model of Frankenstein’s Monster having been faithfully created according to the brief description offered in Mary Shelley’s book. The top floors are dedicated to the legacy of Frankenstein and its influence on popular culture, starting with the 1910 silent film directed by J Searle. Dawley. Of course, when people think of Frankenstein’s Monster they think of the version played by Boris Karloff in the 1931 film. This green-skinned creation with bolts coming out of its neck is the image immortalised in popular culture and, as the retrospective shows, has been used in various forms around the world.
There is also the opportunity to visit the basement an experience not for the faint-hearted. Additionally, groups may want to try Victor’s Lair an escape room, or The Body in a Suitcase Game.
Each room has fun, interactive elements which encourages the use of multi-sensory learning. Whilst the venue still makes use of more traditional museum aspects, the use of audio and visual effects really works to immerse audiences into the world of Mary Shelley. I found many of the sound effects quite chilling at times. The staff were passionate about bringing this gothic and macabre world to life and gave us some good scares along the way! The museum is quite new so it will be great to see how it develops over the next few years. This is a must see for fans of Mary Shelley and I encourage those visiting the city to take a look!
If you would like to visit, please visit their website for more information.