‘The East of Bath issue.’ Hopes for reducing city’s traffic load.

‘The East of Bath issue.’ Hopes for reducing city’s traffic load.

The Leader of Bath and North Somerset Council wanted to show me something. Cllr Paul Crossley led me down through Green Park Station and along the river bank – and past Sainsbury’s – to point with pride at the newly refurbished Victoria Bridge.

Cllr Crossley showing me the newly refurbished  Victoria Bridge.

Cllr Crossley showing me the newly refurbished Victoria Bridge.

It’s cost the Council 3.4 million to almost completely rebuild it – apart from the stone pylons – but it’s now once more a vital pedestrian and cycle connection between Upper and Lower Bristol Roads.

It is also an historic link with the past for the growing population moving into the new housing springing up on Bath Riverside.

The bridge will get an official re-opening in mid-January.

The bridge will get an official re-opening in mid-January.

If only sorting out the rest of the city’s transport problems and traffic congestion was as easy.

Over coffee at a local café we discussed the issue and events during the year that had both pleased and disappointed him.

But first, the good news about Bath’s own Victorian suspension bridge.







January light show to keep Bath streets sparkling!

January light show to keep Bath streets sparkling!

After all the magic and sparkle of December’s festivities, January can be a dark and dreary time of year.

One of the new illuminations for January 2015

One of the new illuminations for January 2015

However, that is not what’s in store for the centre of Bath next month when – for eight days – Illuminate 2015 will be bathing the city streets in colour and hoping to attract up to 50,000 people to witness a nightly display of art, light and projection.

It will run from the 3rd to the 10th of January and from 5-8pm.

Lighting up the Roman Baths back in 2012

Lighting up the Roman Baths back in 2012

This will be the third such festival in an event that began in 2010 and was repeated two years later.

It’s been organised by Anthony Head who is a Senior Lecturer in Digital Technologies Design at Bath Spa University.

In addition to teaching, Anthony is a practicing artist and interactive designer.

I asked him to explain what Illumination Bath 2015 was all about.




Below is a link to a Vimeo recording made of some of the hi-lights of the Illuminate Bath 2012 show.




Major investment for Royal Victoria Park

Major investment for Royal Victoria Park

New toilets, play equipment and a modernised skate park. All have been promised in a half a million pound investment Bath & North East Somerset Council plan to make on improvements to Bath’s Royal Victoria Park.

 Royal Victoria Park

Royal Victoria Park

The park, which attracts many thousands of visitors every year, features Botanical Gardens, lakes, floral and historical features as well as one of the biggest children’s play areas in the South West.

Councillor David Dixon (Lib-Dem, Oldfield), the Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “Royal Victoria Park is listed as Grade 1 on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens and plays a significant part in the city’s World Heritage Site status.

The Council is committed to improving facilities and the visitor experience for everyone who uses the park.”

Investment includes replacing the play park’s triple slides with a bespoke slide and tower unit. This is part of a total investment of £255,000 into play parks across the area, with 10 other play areas across the district having new play equipment installed before Christmas.victoria park

A major £300,000 refurbishment to modernise and improve the skate park at Royal Victoria Park is also planned for completion in May 2015 subject to planning approval. The proposed new design will continue to accommodate all small-wheeled sports such as skateboarding, BMX-riding and scooter riding.

It will incorporate concrete bowls sunk into the ground which replicate the current large ramps in the park; it will also offer more ‘street’ features and a better ‘flow’ of continuous ride lines.

The public toilets in the pavilion building in the play area will also be improved in early 2015 with eight new, disability-compliant unisex cubicles, an investment of approximately £160,000 subject to planning approval, as part of an overall improvement plan for toilets across Bath and North East Somerset.

Alongside this, space is being created for a new café concession which will offer refreshments for adults and children, including healthy options from local and sustainable sources.

Storm damaged tree in Royal Victoria Park

Storm damaged tree in Royal Victoria Park

The Council plans to advertise the concession opportunities soon in order to let early in 2015 in preparation for the Spring/Summer season.

Planning applications for the toilet cubicles and café space have now been submitted, as well as the full application for the skate park, following public consultation over the summer.


Public 'map' of Botanic Gardens

Public ‘map’ of Botanic Gardens

The investment must be welcomed but there is no mention of things like new trees to replace those lost through storm  damage or disease, and nothing about repairs to the walkway around the Botanic Garden.

The 46 acre park is one of Britain’s earliest and was designed by Edward Davis in 1829 as a public enterprise built on common land to the west of The Circus.

The Duchess of Kent and her daughter Princess Victoria officially opened the park on October 28th 1830 – hence the name Royal Victoria Park.

Victoria Bridge fully back in action by middle of this month!

Victoria Bridge fully back in action by middle of this month!

victoria bridge

A new approach being created for the refurbished Victoria Bridge. Click on images to enlarge.


Some welcome news for people waiting to hear what the  official opening date for the refurbished Victoria Bridge will be.

Bath’s own suspension bridge across the River Avon was built by local engineer  James Dredge. It opened in 1836 to provide transport access to his brewery and currently it has been undergoing a major refurbishment to ensure a safe and sound future.

The leader of B&NES Council, Cllr Paul Crossley tells me : ‘Victoria bridge will reopen on the 1st December following the successful removal of the Mabey truss.

This will be a partial width opening to allow pedestrian and cycle access but works to the balustrades on each side will continue.

The contract completion to finish all works is the 17th December.’

Victoria Bridge nearing its official  refurbished completion.

Victoria Bridge nearing its official refurbished completion.

Cllr Paul Crossley Leader, B&NES

Cllr Paul Crossley
Leader, B&NES

I think most people will agree the contractors have made a good job of renovating this unusual structure too.

The bridge has been given a new lease of life and is now a central feature for the riverside residential development going on alongside it.

It also brings back a much-needed cross-city link for cyclists and becomes an attraction in its own right for those being encouraged to use the new riverside pathway that passes beneath it on the former industrial side of the river.

Concern grows for future of the “Min”.

One of Bath’s best-loved Georgian buildings could be about to shut up shop.

With a personal view of developments, Professor George Odam, who was Patient Governor of the RNHRD for nine years until his resignation in August last year, raises his concerns for the building’s future and has his own ideas about how the Min could still play a useful role to enhance the city’s reputation as a health spa.

In 1988 there was a move to relocate The Min to the RUH site in Combe Park and the plans and rationale can be viewed at the Guildhall Archive. Merging the administration of the two hospitals makes good sense, but the identity and mission of both are very different and both need preservation so that they can continue to function. This has been achieved in many other English cities.

However, in 1988 the proposal was to sell The Min and make it into a shopping mall, with a Plan B of a hotel. Since the rebuild of Southgate, the loss of The Podium and the new hotel development in Beau Street, the most likely outcome of the sale of The Min would be a boarded up site that would deteriorate and be subject to vandalism.

But money <strong>is</strong> a central issue and a new campaign to save, recondition and modernise the interior of The Min and restore the Grade 2 exterior would have to be found. There are local, national and private funds for this sort of thing once a case has been well made, and I am certain that many patients, families and friends would wish to support such a venture.

Bath is the only significant and active European Spa City without its own Spa Hospital. In the 1960s and 70s The Min’s hydrotherapy pool was fed by the Roman Spring until the amoeba stopped it all. The conduits still lie beneath the streets.”


<strong>EDITOR</strong> Professor Odam mentioned the launch of Dr Roger Roll’s new book describing the rise of mineral water as a therapy and how treatments in Rheumatology have changed. It will be launched in the Chapel at The Min on Monday, November 26th. It’s a ticket only presentation which is complemented by an exhibition of original 18th century patient records and historical medical artefacts.

<a href=”http://virtualmuseumofbath.com/virtual-museum-of-bath-2012/chapel/#main&#8221; rel=”attachment wp-att-481″><img title=”chapel” alt=”” src=”http://richardwyattblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/chapel.jpg?w=280&#8243; height=”168″ width=”224″ /></a> The chapel at The Min

Kate Lane and her helpers at the hospital have been putting it  together and l know she wants to develop the display further and hopefully be able to let school groups in to visit. I have asked her to do her own Virtual Museum piece on the subject in the not too distant future!

However, l have been lucky enough to have a sneak preview of some of the exhibits. I love signatures and have had the fantastic opportunity of gazing down at the names of some of the city’s historical ‘greats’ in their own hand writing – including Richard Nash, William Oliver, Ralph Allen and John Wood the Elder. Also some of the earliest patients records in very clear handwriting.

<a href=”http://virtualmuseumofbath.com/virtual-museum-of-bath-2012/ralph-allen-signature/#main&#8221; rel=”attachment wp-att-485″><img title=”ralph allen signature” alt=”” src=”http://richardwyattblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/ralph-allen-signature.jpg?w=280&#8243; height=”210″ width=”280″ /></a> Clearly ‘Ralph Allen’

<a href=”http://virtualmuseumofbath.com/virtual-museum-of-bath-2012/richard-nash/#main&#8221; rel=”attachment wp-att-486″><img title=”richard nash” alt=”” src=”http://richardwyattblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/richard-nash.jpg?w=280&#8243; height=”168″ width=”224″ /></a> Look down the list for ‘Jo Wood’

<a href=”http://virtualmuseumofbath.com/virtual-museum-of-bath-2012/patients-report/#main&#8221; rel=”attachment wp-att-483″><img title=”patients report” alt=”” src=”http://richardwyattblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/patients-report.jpg?w=195&#8243; height=”260″ width=”195″ /></a> Patient records from 1749!

Remember this was a hospital serving the poor of all England and many of them stayed here for many weeks. At the bottom of each entry is a clear indication of whether they had benefitted from their treatment or died!

I loved the collection of badges which had to be worn by patients to identify them as such. One entry records the fact that a patient was turned out for being caught in a local public house. Landlords could be fined for serving patients from the hospital.

<a href=”http://virtualmuseumofbath.com/virtual-museum-of-bath-2012/hospital-badges/#main&#8221; rel=”attachment wp-att-482″><img title=”hospital badges” alt=”” src=”http://richardwyattblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/hospital-badges.jpg?w=195&#8243; height=”260″ width=”195″ /></a> Collection of ward and patient badges

There is much here that truly deserves to be seen by a wider audience. This ancient institution – England’s first national hospital – is an important part of this city’s history.

virtualmuseumofbath.com 2012.

Coin it in!

Coin it in!

The Beau Street Hoard will be back on display at the Bath & North East Somerset Council-run Roman Baths just after Christmas – and there’s a chance for a lucky visitor to win a top secret prize.

Some of the cleaned coins.

Some of the cleaned coins.

The Beau Street Hoard roadshow has been touring the Bath and North East Somerset area and beyond for several months but every so often the team like to show off some of the 17,577 Roman coins on their own turf.

On Saturday 27 December, the Council’s Beau Street Hoard team presents ‘Silver Silhouettes’ at the Roman Baths. From 11am to 3pm, you can make your own Roman coin to take home and there will be displays, hands-on activities for the kids, and the chance to win prizes.

People paying a post-Christmas visit will be in with a chance of winning a top secret prize – simply by striking a pose next to a giant Roman coin and posting a photograph on social media. All you have to do to enter the competition is to send the Beau Street
Hoard team your photo through Facebook or Twitter – the most creative coin wins!

Councillor Ben Stevens (Lib-Dem, Widcombe), the Council’s Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, said: “The Beau Street Hoard Roadshow has been an enormous success so far. Hundreds of people have already had the opportunity to enjoy looking at these fantastic Roman coins during the roadshow visits.

“Now, we’d encourage anyone who has not yet been to a roadshow to seize this opportunity to come and see and experience this fabulous display – coupled with some post-Christmas activities for both children and adults and a fun competition that everyone can enter.”

Like the coins on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BeauStHoard or follow the coins on Twitter @BeauStHoard. Alternatively, take a look at the http://www.romanbaths.co.uk events section for more information.

The hoard lifted by crane ©Cotswold Archaeology

The hoard lifted by crane ©Cotswold Archaeology

FOR YOUR INFORMATION: The Beau Street Hoard was excavated by archaeologists on the site of the new Gainsborough Hotel in Beau Street, Bath, in 2007. The 17,577 Roman coins span the period from 32BC – 275AD and were found in eight separate money bags, which were fused together.

In March 2014, Bath & North East Somerset Council was awarded a grant of £372,500 from The Heritage Lottery Fund to purchase the hoard, and, from February 2015, it will be on permanent public display in a new interactive exhibit within the Aquae Sulis Gallery at The Roman Baths.

Canaletto, Contemporary Art and some great Brits! Holburne’s 2015 programme.

Canaletto, Contemporary Art and some great Brits! Holburne’s 2015 programme.

The Holburne Museum

The Holburne Museum

Four months to the day after she officially started her new job , the Director of Bath’s  Holburne Museum faced the Virtual Museum’s camera to promise that – alongside the museum’s amazing permanent collection – there would always be something new to see in the coming year.

Jennifer Scott comes to the city  from the Royal Collection where she was Curator of Paintings.

I wanted to find out more about the Holburne’s programme for 2015. Seems it’s a mixture of contemporary takes on the permanent collection, a little known local collection getting a bigger audience and a Summer Canaletto in Britain blockbuster.

And there was a special reason why she had chosen the museum’s Davidson Gallery to talk about the new year ahead.


New look at the Nativity.

New look at the Nativity.

Bath Abbey has taken a contemporary approach to the traditional nativity scene this Christmas.

Artist, Annette Smith in the Birde Chapel. Photos © DeborahJColeman/BathAbbey.

Artist, Annette Smith in the Birde Chapel.
Photos © DeborahJColeman/BathAbbey.

An installation by artist and Bath Spa University graduate, Annette Smith, reinterprets the scene of the birth of Jesus using a 3-D photographic urban landscape instead of the usual crib and figurines.

Commenting on the installation, Edward Mason, Rector of Bath Abbey, said: “Traditional nativity scenes have a special place in our Christmas celebrations and worship. However, from time to time it’s good to be reminded that the first Christmas was an ordinary birth to an ordinary couple. In Annette Smith’s crib we see the ordinary scenes of Bath. These are buildings we know and the people are those who live and work here.

This modern and beautifully-made Crib reminds us that at the first Christmas extraordinary things happened to those ordinary people and if we visit the crib in the Abbey the same thing might happen to us!”

 The ‘Bath Abbey crib’ will be on display in the Abbey’s Birde Chapel throughout December until Monday 5 January. Photos © DeborahJColeman/BathAbbey.

The ‘Bath Abbey crib’ will be on display in the Abbey’s Birde Chapel throughout December until Monday 5 January. Photos © DeborahJColeman/BathAbbey.

The artist, Annette Smith, who also is a part-time member of staff at the Abbey, said: “I first made this nativity Crib for Bath Abbey in 2009 where it was placed in one of the side chapels. I’m pleased to say after a few years’ absence, it is now back in the Abbey – this time in the beautiful Birde Chapel where it is particularly fitting as people can get right up close to it.

Based on the 17th century Neapolitan tradition, my version of the crib shows a distinctly urban scene. People are going about their daily activities and can be found talking on a mobile, eating burgers, and shopping. But, some people have noticed something extraordinary is going on. As the viewer, you are invited to go on a journey through the scene, to look for and discover the holy family for yourself.”

The ‘Bath Abbey crib’ will be on display in the Abbey’s Birde Chapel throughout December until Monday 5 January.

Bath-based artist Annette Smith works across the boundaries of paint, print and photography and is interested in the passage of time and its relationship to lived experience.

One of her long-term projects is in response to the several old faded shop signs around Bath, where the narrative of the city is being slowly erased or eroded.

She has a first in Fine Art from Bath Spa University and has exhibited in London, Bristol and locally. Her web-site is www.annettesmith.weebly.com

USA link to Soldier’s Prayer Book.

USA link to Soldier’s Prayer Book.

The year now drawing to a close marked one hundred years since the outbreak of the First World War. A conflict that I came face to face back in the summer. Not in a clipped and cared-for cemetery, embracing war graves of the fallen, but on a book-stall at a car boot sale held near Castle Combe in Wiltshire.

My attention was drawn to a little embossed and leather-bound book with the Royal Crest and words ‘Official Copy’ barely readable on its age-darkened cover.

The Book of Common Prayer

The Book of Common Prayer

It was a pocket-sized copy of ‘The Book of Common Prayer’ and – inside its cover and alongside ‘A Soldier’s Prayer’ – was the name ‘Private Leonard Davis, Coldstream Guards No 12410.’

In different ink beneath was written ‘Caterham, Surrey, September 7th, 1914.’ Where this soldier had joined his regiment.

Did he survive the war to end all wars? Well he was not killed in action. Nor was he sent home from the Front with an obvious war wound.prayer book

It appears Private Davis was given an honourable discharge in 1917 and a Silver War Badge – issued to all service personnel forced to retire from action through wounds or sickness. In Leonard’s case his discharge was put down on his record as ‘valvular disease-heart’.

I subsequently discovered that Leonard lived into old age and was able to send on his prayer-book to relations down in Devon.


MaryJo Hayden and her copy of a First World War issued Book of Common Prayer.

MaryJo Hayden and her copy of a First World War issued Book of Common Prayer.

Imagine my surprise when the Virtual Museum receives an email from an American ‘visitor’ who lives in Granger in Indiana

MaryJo Hayden tells me: ‘With reference to your article  ‘A Soldier’s Story’  – I purchased an identical “Official Copy – The Book of Common Prayer” at a flea market in South Bend, Indiana, USA a few yrs ago.

It’s signed Church of England, Rev Husband, Vicar, July 1918.’

Thanks for sharing that with us MaryJo and – who knows – someone might just recognise that clergyman’s name!


History Makers display aids charity

History Makers display aids charity

Bath’s ‘History Makers’ open-air display – back in the summer – has also turned out to be an impressive money-maker for an important local charity.

Organiser, Angela Calvert Jones and Sue Tucker, from Forever Friends, with that bumper cheque!

Organiser, Angela Calvert Jones and Sue Tucker, from Forever Friends, with that bumper cheque!

A cheque for £9,188.64 – from the exhibition proceeds – has been presented to Sue Tucker of the Forever Friends Appeal – at her retirement party –  for the proposed new Cancer Centre at the Royal United Hospital. P1010112 Oliver 3.11.14

The ‘History Markers of Bath’ exhibition was set up by organiser Angela Calvert Jones on thirty large display panels along the paved corridor between Bath Abbey and Kingston Buildings.

They featured the famous – and infamous – characters who had all made a lasting Beckford & Smith P1000162  AAAimpression on Bath and elsewhere.

Angela said:  “When I first told Sue about my idea to hold a Bath outdoor street exhibition to celebrate history makers of the city and raise money for the cancer unit, she was not only incredibly positive and encouraging, but she suggested she should come on board and help, which is just what she did.P1000007 Fitzjocelyn, Oliver Plus AAA (a) (4)

I am thrilled that we have been able to mark her retirement with the surprise presentation of a significant donation from this project”

Bath to help celebrate West art collections.

Bath to help celebrate West art collections.

An exciting new project named ‘Modern Art in Britain’ is set to launch in the West this month with exhibitions running in Bath, Bristol,  Swindon and Cheltenham through till autumn 2015.

The Holburne Museum

The Holburne Museum

It is the latest offering from a collaboration of five of the region’s Museums called ‘Frameworks; Great Art in the West’ which is a working partnership between Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, the Holburne Museum and the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath, The Wilson in Cheltenham and Swindon Museum & Art Gallery.

Individual exhibitions launching at each of the museums will show the quality and diversity of art collections in the West. Modern Art in Britain will highlight modern gems in each museum’s collection by featuring over 50 artists including many household names such as Barbara Hepworth, Alfred Wallis, Richard Hamilton, Lucian Freud and Howard Hodgkin.

All of the exhibitions will include loans from the significant Swindon Collection; between them spanning 100 years of British painting and works on paper. *(Further information on dates, times, venues can be found in notes to editor).

Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives played a leading role in setting up the partnership which was developed last year with funding from Arts Council England as part of a Major Partner Museum agreement to help strengthen relationships between arts organisations.

Bristol Councillor Simon Cook, Assistant Mayor for the Arts, said: “This is a great achievement for museums in the West and goes to show how our organisations can work together to create something diverse and exciting.

The Rotunda at the top of the staircase in the Victoria Art Gallery.

The Rotunda at the top of the staircase in the Victoria Art Gallery.

“I’m very proud of Bristol Museum & Art Gallery who played a key role in initiating the Frameworks collaboration. I hope that this partnership can be continued in the future in order to make the most of our combined resources.”

Karen MacDonald, Creative Partnerships Officer for Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives said: “This is all within an hour’s drive time or a forty-minute train ride.
“We are looking at how we can join forces and work collaboratively to research our collections and make them more available to the public. Curators across the museums have been inspired by visiting each other’s collections.

We started with an intimate touring show of watercolours by JMW Turner, which can still be seen in Bath and Cheltenham in spring 2015.

‘Modern Art in Britain’ celebrates Swindon’s wonderful collection and sheds new light on British approaches to modernism through all the museums’ holdings.”

Each individual exhibition will be running from the following dates:

The Wilson, Cheltenham: 13 Dec 2014 – 8 March 2015
An Open Window

Swindon Museum and Art Gallery: 14 Jan – 18 April 2015
Present Tense

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery: 17 Jan 2015 – 31 Aug 2015
Reality Questioned

The Holburne Museum, Bath: 28 Feb – 7 June 2015
Gwen John to Lucian Freud. Home and the World: Dexter Dalwood selects from the Swindon Collection

Victoria Art Gallery, Bath: 7 March – Nov 2015
Beryl Cook: Intimate Relations (until 3 May) plus The Human Clay (until Nov)

For more details and links to all the partners’ sites, see: www.bristolmuseums.org.uk/frameworks