I have just taken a walk down one of Bath’s few remaining medieval pathways. It is the one that leads to the last surviving city gate on the east side of this once-walled city and out onto the River Avon. It lies – almost hidden – alongside the Empire Hotel and from it l stepped through a locked doorway into a little bit of Bath’s hidden history.
I was in the company of the leader of B&NES Council Cllr Paul Crossley and the Council’s Senior Project Manager Mike Gray.
We were on our way to view the spaces beneath Grand Parade and the roadway in front of the former hotel. It’s all part of the Colonnades that line the riverbank immediately to one side of Pulteney Bridge and Weir.
It’s an area the Council is close to getting an Ok to start redeveloping. It will open up this riverside walk at such an iconic point and also ‘rejuvenate’ them with new restaurants.
Fusing together – says the Council’s on-line proposal details as ‘ an attraction made up of a truly historic location with some of the most iconic landmarks – the River Avon and Pulteney Weir’……….’The restoration of Grand Parade Colonnades will provide public access to the historic Colonnades and Vaults below Grand Parade.’
The original river weir at this point once had fulling and corn mills on either bank. On the town centre side Newmarket Row was widened in 1890-95 to create Grand Parade and its long Tuscan colonnade of thirteen bays below next to the weir and extending around into Parade Gardens.
It was designed by the city council’s architect Charles Edward Davies – who also put up the old Empire Hotel nearby (1899-1901).
There are empty vaults below Grand Parade – from Parade Gardens to the Victoria Art Gallery and beyond. Finding a commercial use for them will hep revitalise the area and open up an amazing viewing point for one of the city’s most iconic locations.
A developer has apparently been found and – if planning permission is given – work could start on a transformation this autumn.
One contentious point are the ‘pods’ that will be positioned on Grand Parade.
Two glass boxes given lift and stair access to the restaurants and walkways below.
The latest revision makes them look less like bus shelters. Glass has done its bit to help other bigger contemporary installations in the city.
Both the Holburne Museum extension and the Thermae Spa is coated with that reflective and light changing material.
Phase two of this development will consider extending the existing Indoor Market into the Guildhall car park and will examine ‘the possibilities and opportunities of providing themed and weekend markets on the High Street, and other locations within the city centre.’
Phase three will be what probably pays for all of this. Redeveloping Newmarket Row with retail and residential development. Probably the most contentious of all the phases!
Do click on the link below now to hear Cllr Paul Crossley telling me more about their plans for what most certainly is an amazing space.
The Council also wants your help with memories and hopeful photographs to prove a little bit of wartime history involving these underground vaults.
Meanwhile l bumped into some stone conservation experts starting repairs along the balustrade fronting Grand Parade.
Apparently as many as 70 of the stone pillars supporting the balustrade are in need of re-setting to prevent any being dislodged and crash through into the river or park.
The balustrade has come in for criticism just recently with boarding being erected to make the area safe. It is one of the most popular locations for visitors to stop and take pictures.
I am hearing that a proper restoration of the balustrade may be underway later in the year.