Playing the fool.

Playing the fool.


The re-displayed head of Minerva

The re-displayed head of Minerva

There is no doubt about it – Bath makes money out of its heritage. It can boast some of the best Roman remains in the country and is also home to the Uk’s only hot springs.

Add to that its assorted streets of breathtaking Georgian architecture and you can see why – in 1987 – UNESCO decided the city had earned a World Heritage status rating.

Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent

It was the internationally-recognised accolade that put the icing on a cultural cake that is greedily consumed annually by more than four million visitors and which generates an estimated 380 million pounds of tourist income a year.

I say Bath but this city does not have its own unitary status as a local authority – it’s part of a politically-created council called Bath and North East Somerset.

Two hundred and twenty square miles of B&NES-governed territory that  came into being in 1996 when another and bigger beast called Avon was put out of its misery. Bath had been a county borough – it’s own boss – from 1889 through to 1974.

While its coat of arms may not often fly from the Guildhall roof flagpole it is still a city very proud of its history and one that appears much keener these days to take care of its heritage.

The Roman Baths – as l have said – are a money-spinner – and help to trim the rates for every citizen. I have heard them described as  ‘a cash cow’ and without that annual bonus income – council tax would be  appreciably higher.

roman bathsI am a member of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides. A bunch of volunteers – well versed in local history – who for 80 years now have been taking visitors around the city to point out and explain the sights – without taking as much as a tip for their troubles.

We have a sense of pride in the place. The local authority knows the World Heritage status is good for business and so is the maintenance and upkeep of all the iconic sites – the Georgian set-pieces – that form the basis for that status being bestowed.

The past has to earn its place in the present these economically-stretched days while state-sponsored gambling helps fund repairs and restorations through the much grander-sounding Heritage Lottery Fund.

Here and there the lack of  public money is beginning to show. Boarding over some of the stone pillars forming the balustrade between the pavement of Grand Parade and Pulteney Weir and Parade Gardens below shows where erosion is making parts of that safety barrier unstable. It may or may not receive attention later this year.

Boarded up section at Pulteney Weir

Boarded up section at Pulteney Weir

Plans to do much-needed restoration work to the fountain in Laura Place are on hold. Restoration work in Sydney Gardens – the last remaining section in this country of a Georgian pleasure garden – will depend on a green light from the Heritage Lottery Fund This cannot be guaranteed.

Major developments depend on private money or state aid. Western Riverside, the old Green Park Station site, the Stotthert and Pitt derelict works – all depend on corporate money for their business futures.

B&NES bangs on a great deal about its historic heart. A garden city with four hundred years of Roman history, a hundred year’s worth of Georgian indulgence, a treasure-house filled with architectural gems. Photo-opportunities at every corner it would seem.

A stencil outside No 1 Royal Crescent

A stencil outside No 1 Royal Crescent

So – imagine my surprise to find outside the entrance to Bath Preservation Trust’s Georgian House – No 1 Royal Crescent – the first of a line of street stencils in a fluorescent light turquoise green – stretching completely around the pennant stone pavement to Marlborough Buildings.

Street stencils are not new. It’s a way of getting noticed – of publicising your event – using a non-permanent marker that eventually disappears under the tread of countless feet or is washed away in a summer downpour or two.

Well, that’s what the supporters of this trendy new way of promoting your business or event say. I cannot pretend to like them. We have enough mess in our streets without the adult chalked version of children’s hopscotch cropping up every few yards on pavements and paving stones. If this was done on a wall it would be graffiti and illegal.

More stencils going around the Crescent paving

More stencils going around the Crescent paving

The pavement markings ARE allowed if you apply to the Council for permission to do them. You will be asked to explain what you are doing and what eco-friendly marking material you intend spraying on your stencils.

This latest marking – evident in Milsom Street as well as Royal Crescent – was to publicise an art event aimed at the family.

A spokesperson for B&NES confirmed that permission had been granted by the Highways Department to use a chalk substance to create markings that would ‘engage visitors to follow the route.’

Hmmm. Well l don’t know if anyone bothered to go out and take a look but they were actually Jester- shaped silhouettes that gave the name of the event and the dates it was running and nothing else. The images were meaningless. They were not clear to read, not leading anywhere in particular and doing nothing for the look of the Royal Crescent.

It looked like kids had vandalised the place – just playing the fool. We haven’t had anything like enough rain to put its erasability to the test but l fear it’s not the chalk but the pigment that will promote a more lingering presence.

I don’t care if this is a refreshingly new way of getting attention. What worries me is that in the wonderful world of higher education – which happened to be the source of this event – it would seem there is an educational lacking in any real appreciation and understanding of what history and heritage is all about. No understanding of it’s important role in today’s society.

The image 'Tweeted' to the Virtual Museum.

The image ‘Tweeted’ to the Virtual Museum.

This was not enhancing what is a Grade 1 listed area at all. It was defacing it. Confusing our international visitors and giving out mixed messages to children who we always tell not to scribble on walls!

These boring old buildings – that line our congested streets – will one day be passed onto the next generation to care for. Maybe to some of the very same people who cannot see anything wrong with messing up the pennant stone pavements in front of them.

street banners

Street banners

Ironically for me – no protest from Bath Preservation Trust at No 1 – the very body that has so effectively campaigned for and protected so much of the city’s heritage. No one rushed out to throw water over the ‘jester’ in front of their entrance.

Maybe l am a lone voice but l am disappointed that B&NES could not see that  stencils inRoyal Crescent was not a good idea. That some things have to be treated with respect and managed in a way that does not detract from or diminish their iconic power. Smear a mirror and you diminish its reflection.

How you can boast about your World Heritage status on the one hand and then make insensitive decisions like giving permission for these markings on the other.

Meanwhile, around the Guildhall and Orange Grove bright banners have been erected proclaiming and promoting the architectural and historical glories of  Bath. This is the right way of getting noticed. They are smart, colourful and add something to the street scene.

They also come down at the end of the season – like the spent flower baskets that always bring such vitality and freshness to our tourist town during the summer. A little more thought please.

I applaud and would do all that l can to encourage youthful intervention in this city.  We are blessed with two universities and a city college. Young people adding energy, new ideas, a fresh eye but directed in a more positive and enhancing way. With a bit more guidance from the powers that be.

This is a very personal opinion. What do other Virtual Museum visitors think?







Network Rail announces plans for electrifying rail route through Bath

Network Rail announces plans for electrifying rail route through Bath

Network Rail has announced how it plans to electrify the rail route through the city and onto Swansea via Bristol and – it says – Bath stands to benefit from the 7.5 billion modernisation of the Great Western Railway and promises that ‘huge care will be taken to ensure that the electrified rail route protects the special status of the City of Bath and its listed buildings.’

Artists impression of electrified route through Sydney Gardens

Artists impression of electrified route through Sydney Gardens

The Company has outlined how it plans to ensure that electrification will open the way for a new generation of electric intercity trains serving Bath from 2017, resulting in more seats, more leg room, more tables and a reduction in journey times.

It says the scheme  ‘will also deliver a greener and quieter railway, with fewer emissions released into the atmosphere and a reduction in the noise as electric trains replace the existing diesel ones.

To deliver this, we are doing a package of works in preparation for the electrification of the Bath railway corridor, with the majority of the work completed at night to ensure trains operate as normal for passengers.

Work which cannot be completed at night and which will affect the City of Bath are to be combined during a six week period from mid-July to the end of August 2015 with work completed in two main phases during that time.

sydney gardensThe first three week phase will affect only the immediate Box Tunnel area (near Corsham) but the second three week phase also requires the closure the entire railway immediately east of Bath station and the direct route to Trowbridge.

By maximising work over a six week period it will be completed with the minimum possible level of disruption to passengers. We will also use the closure to complete other work that was due to be undertaken in the Bath area over the coming years.

The work is planned for the summer of 2015 as it has to be sequenced between work at Reading and Bristol and to avoid bat and newt breeding seasons. There will be some further work needed in 2016 west of Bath that will require further changes to train services over some weekends, but on a smaller scale.

The work to be completed in summer 2015 include:

Lowering the track in Box Tunnel and installing electrification equipment.
Aligning the track at Bath Spa station to reduce the stepping gap between the train and the platform, while also extending platforms to make them longer and larger.
Installing specially designed electrification equipment in Sydney Gardens, in recognition of its unique status as a World Heritage Site.

Huge care will be taken to ensure that the electrified rail route protects the special status of the City of Bath and its listed buildings.
We’re working with First Great Western, Bath & North East Somerset Council and Bath Tourism Plus to ensure that the approach to electrifying the railway through Bath is done in a way that ensures minimum disruption to rail users and visitors to the city.

The overriding objective of all these organisations is to keep passengers on trains, wherever possible, rather than having to use coach services as the railway around Bath is modernised.

Final plans for the programme of works will be announced in autumn 2014 following dialogue with businesses, tourism representatives and rail users over the coming months.

A firm objective of all parties is to ensure that Bath remains open during these works next summer, albeit with a reduced level of service. Service provision measures currently under consideration to manage the impact these works will have on the people living in Bath and its visitors could include:

Ensuring commuters and off peak passengers can travel by train by keeping the rail route west of Bath open throughout the improvement works, so that a reduced service from Bath Spa to London Paddington and Bath Spa to Bristol Temple Meads and Cardiff Central can operate.
Keeping passengers on trains that normally travel through Bath Spa by diverting services where at all possible.
Implementing a high quality coach service between Bath Spa and Chippenham, Trowbridge and Westbury which would operate at the same frequency as rail services, connecting passengers with onward train services at those stations.
Easing ticket restrictions to enable passengers to use alternative rail routes.
Allowing car park season ticket holders to use car parks at alternative train stations.
These proposals will be refined following a review of passenger journeys made at Bath Spa this summer and consultation with user groups.

A number of bridges and structures along this route will be affected by the Great Western electrification programme.

This list is not comprehensive and only includes bridge and structure works approved by the Council.

No closures are scheduled yet.’

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=”; rel=”attachment wp-att-481″><img title=”chapel” alt=”” src=”; 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=”; rel=”attachment wp-att-485″><img title=”ralph allen signature” alt=”” src=”; height=”210″ width=”280″ /></a> Clearly ‘Ralph Allen’

<a href=”; rel=”attachment wp-att-486″><img title=”richard nash” alt=”” src=”; height=”168″ width=”224″ /></a> Look down the list for ‘Jo Wood’

<a href=”; rel=”attachment wp-att-483″><img title=”patients report” alt=”” src=”; 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=”; rel=”attachment wp-att-482″><img title=”hospital badges” alt=”” src=”; 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. 2012.

Wedding bells @ Vicky Park.

Wedding bells @ Vicky Park.

victoria parkThe first open-air wedding ceremony at the historic Royal Victoria Park in Bath will take place on Saturday July 26.

Duncan Pidgeon and Sarah Withers from Peasedown St John will hold their wedding ceremony on the Victorian bandstand off Royal Avenue, in front of 100 guests.

Bath & North East Somerset Council licenced The Bandstand as a wedding / civil ceremony venue earlier this year; Duncan and Sarah heard this and thought it would be the perfect place for their wedding.

“We chose the park as a venue as we had initially intended to go abroad to marry, but wanted our respective grandmothers to be in attendance,” explains Duncan. “As they are both in their 90s, it didn’t seem fair to make them travel half way around the world to see us wed. So we had a look at a couple of local venues who could do both the ceremony and the reception, but nothing really gave us the ‘wow’ factor.

“Sarah’s mum Jackie, printed us a list of registered venues in the area, and the bandstand in the park just jumped out at us. We worked together at the time, for a mental health support organisation, and used to take our service users to the park for walks and activities.

“Having originally intended to have an outside wedding on a beach, or in a remote national park, Royal Victoria Park seemed to be a perfect local equivalent.”

Councillor David Bellotti (Lib-Dem, Lyncombe), Cabinet Member for Community Resources, said: “Bath is extremely lucky to have some unusual venues to hold wedding and civil partnership ceremonies, including Roman Baths, The Little Theatre and now The Bandstand at the Royal Victoria Park.

 Royal Victoria Park

Royal Victoria Park

“We all know that Bath and North Somerset is a popular destination for visitors as well as those looking for a memorable wedding day. If other local venues think they can host weddings or civil partnerships then I hope they will get in contact with the council – it’s never too late to say ‘I do’.”

Cindy Aze, Deputy Superintendent Registrar, said: “We’re very excited to be holding the first wedding in the Royal Victoria Park – it’s such a magnificent backdrop. We will be limiting the number of ceremonies we host in the park each year, so I would encourage people to make their booking enquiries well in advance.”

The Royal Victoria Park Bandstand was created for the park in 1880, designed by Charles Edward Davis, son of Edward Davis who originally designed the park in the 1820s. It is a recently refurbished listed building.

To find out more about where you can get married in Bath & North East Somerset please contact, 01225 396056.

To see a full list of all of the venues that you can hold your marriage ceremony in Bath and North East Somerset please visit our marriages page at or

Bath Abbey’s summer music school!

Bath Abbey’s summer music school!

Local children will have the opportunity to sing, dance, play the drums and perform in a concert at Bath Abbey during the school summer holidays.

bath abbeyA five-day long ‘Summer Music School’ offering 7 to 11 year olds a combination of music-making, vocal development and fun activities will take place in the Abbey from Monday 4 to Friday 8 August and from Monday 11 to Friday 15 August.

Children who have signed up for either of the two weeks will get to attend a workshop each morning, learning a different style of music or instrument including choral singing, African drumming and dancing and Gamelan, a percussion-based style of music originating in Indonesia. Activities in the afternoon will range from singing rhythm and rounds to an outdoor picnic.

At the end of the five days, the budding musicians will be able to showcase their new skills by performing in a concert in the Abbey on Friday afternoon at 2.15pm. Everyone is invited to attend, no tickets are required for the concert.Bath Abbey

Shean Bowers, Bath Abbey’s Assistant Director of Music and Choral Director for Schools, said: “The children will be sure to have a fantastic time, and even learn a different musical style or pick up a new instrument for the first time. Our first ever Summer Music School last year proved so popular, we had far more people applying than we were able to accommodate. This is why we’re really pleased that this year, we’ve been able to increase it to two weeks and the number of children taking part to 80. So, if your child loves music and you’re looking for something fun for them to do this summer, get in touch.”

The Abbey’s Summer Music School costs £150 per child. There are still a limited number of spaces available. For more information or to book a place, contact Shean Bowers at Bath Abbey on 01225 422 462 or email: before Monday 28 July.

Honouring our volunteers!

Honouring our volunteers!

The Chairman of Bath & North East Somerset Council, Councillor Martin Veal has launched his Community Awards and has plans to make a Special Award to one of the nominations received.

Cllr Martin Veal, Chairman of B&NES

Cllr Martin Veal, Chairman of B&NES

The aim of the awards are to recognise volunteers, community leaders, community organisations and local businesses who work tirelessly in the community to make a positive difference. The Awards highlight the contributions made by local people, their efforts to involve others and impact they make on their communities.

The Awards are organised annually in partnership with, the Volunteer Centre Bath and North East Somerset, social housing provider CURO, and the Student Community Partnership. Last year, there were 114 nominations.

Cllr Martin Veal, Chairman of Council, said: “I am delighted to be hosting the Community Awards this year, along with our partners the Volunteer Centre, Curo and the Student Community Partnership. It is important that we recognise the contributions made by such fantastic people who work tirelessly for the benefit of others. I hope as many people can take the time to nominate for an award as possible.”

Cllr Paul Crossley (Lib Dem, Southdown), Leader of the Council and Chair of the Student Community Partnership, said: “Young people’s efforts are often overlooked and it is important that we have the opportunity to recognise the contribution they make in the local community.”

Vanessa Collier, Community Engagement Manager at CURO, said: “Many of our tenants are key volunteer leaders who play an important role in their local community every day. We are hoping to see lots of nominations arriving from CURO residents, and we are delighted to be able to support the awards again this year.”

Mike Plows, Manager of the Volunteer Centre Bath & North East Somerset, said: “We are honoured once again to be a partner for these awards which allow everyone to recognise and celebrate the fantastic voluntary contribution of both teams and individuals in our communities. We are keen increase the nominations for local businesses who often work behind the scenes for their local community without any recognition.”
The award categories are:

Category 1 – Volunteering Awards

· Volunteer of the Year / Young Volunteer of the Year
· Volunteer Leader of the Year / Young Volunteer Leader of the Year
· Volunteer Team or Organisation of the Year/ Young Volunteer Team or Organisation of the Year
· Good Neighbour of the Year / Neighbourhood Team of the Year
· Lifetime Achievement

Category 2 – Business in the Community Award

· This Award will recognise a socially responsible business which actively supports its local community in positive activities.

The Award categories differ from previous years. The key change is that the Education Award will take place separately rather than as part of the Community Awards.

The Chairman will presenting at ‘Special Award’ to an individual who has improved the lives of those around them through their voluntary efforts in the local community, neighbourhood, church or local organisation. The Chairman will choose a winner of this award from all the nominations received.

How to nominate

The full details about the criteria for nominating people or organisations and nomination forms are available from the Council:

· Website:

· By email to:

· In writing to: Sara Banks, Policy & Partnerships, Bath & North East Somerset Council, Lewis House, Manvers Street, Bath, BA1 1JG.

Not so Grand Parade

Not so Grand Parade

Preliminary repairs on Grand Parade.

Preliminary repairs on Grand Parade.

The Virtual Museum was pleased to witness some ‘preliminary repairs’ underway on a section of the stone balustrade which overlooks Parade Gardens and the River Avon.

Your Director has been critical of the erosion that has taken hold along this decorative Bath stone wall which was put there as part of improvements introduced by C E Davis – the man who also designed the Empire Hotel alongside – in 1889 – 1901.grand parade

Many of the stone balusters – the ornamental uprights along this wall – are badly worn and have been boarded over to perhaps prevent young children falling through or someone inadvertently kicking and dislodging one of these stone supports that could fall and hurt an unsuspecting passer-by in the gardens below.

The plinth outside the east end of Bath Abbey which is minus a pig!

The plinth outside the east end of Bath Abbey which is minus a pig!

The hoardings look horrible along the length of one of the city’s most iconic spots and where thousands of tourists top to take pictures.

I was told by a stonemason l witness doing some small-scale filling that this was preliminary stuff and it was hoped a full programme of repairs would get underway in the autumn.

Sorry to see the Bladud decorative pig has disappeared from his plinth outside the east end of Bath Abbey. A notice informs those interested enough to read it that the pig was vandalised and taken away for repairs.

Notices about adopting footpaths - but it's a hell of a read!

Notices about adopting footpaths – but it’s a hell of a read!

Good to see evidence of the local authority taking legal steps to adopt new sections of footpath around the area. I know you have to post official notices of your intentions and to be legal it has to be done in a certain way – but these things cry out for another posting in plain simple English just telling people what the intention is and how they might benefit.

Very few bother to stop and read these notices and often it is something people might like to get involved in and maybe voice an opinion. Can local government be made more simple please.


Is Network Rail on the right track through Bath?

Is Network Rail on the right track through Bath?

Network Rail’s plans for the electrification of the line from London through to Bristol and beyond will bring special problems for those designing the passage of a power cable through Bath’s Sydney Gardens. The rail company has already gone public with its plans for being as unobtrusive as they can while still safeguarding public safety.

Details of the scheme have already been published on the Virtual Museum of Bath website and have brought a response from Mr John Dalton of Cumbria who has been following this story.

The Virtual Museum is happy to publish his thoughts on the issue and let him express his personal point of view.

“I came to Bath in 1987 to work on the MoD site at Foxhill. I had property in Batheaston until 2003. For a time I ran to work along the canal adjacent to the railway in Sydney Gardens. I am also a lifelong proponent of railway electrification and view the Great Western scheme  as an exciting and long-overdue development.

sydney gardensSince my first visit to the city – arriving by rail from Paddington – I marvelled at the approach to the station through Sydney Gardens with its fine view of the city’s Georgian splendour.

As with the approach to Edinburgh through Princes Street Gardens or the approach to Venice across the Lagoon it is one of the few approaches to a city by rail in which you don’t feel you are arriving through the back door.

During my time in Bath I had the opportunity to explore Sydney Gardens themselves and view Brunel’s legacy at close quarters. The view of the railway from the Gardens is every bit as fine as the view of the City from the railway. It is unique in Britain to be able to approach the railway separated only by an ornamental wall and not an ugly tall fence.

the existing low wall.

The existing low wall.

Then there are of course the over-bridges which add to the ornament of the railway. These also are unique along with being arguably a health and safety nightmare.

I will declare my hand in viewing Overhead Line Electrification (OLE) not as an eyesore but something potentially elegant, without which no railway appears complete.

I hope that Network Rail do not throw out the baby with the ‘Bath-water’ by adopting an “aesthetic” design rather than one of the more elegant existing designs such as BR Mk3a/b.

Artists impression of electrified route through Sydney Gardens

Artists impression of electrified route through Sydney Gardens

I have to say that the design appearing in a Network Rail artist’s impression fills me with horror.
What concerns me more however is the potential for aesthetic damage to the other railway structures in the area.

The Brunel cast-iron bridge would potentially be ruined by the addition of the high parapets which, for reasons best known to themselves, Network Rail feel the need to add when lines are electrified.

Surely nobody is daft enough to dangle metal poles or wires over the bridge? If they are, could they not be deterred by warning notices?

network rail

Headspan wires.

I also fail to see why the wall separating the track from the Gardens need be made higher. No new electrical hazards will be introduced at ground level.

As regards the danger from the trains themselves, surely a wall which has been adequate for this long will surely still suffice after electrification?

Returning to the OLE, my preference would be for a simple mast on the Gardens side of the line, perhaps painted a sympathetic colour, with a “headspan wire” linking to the Retaining wall opposite.
While headspan wires are out of favour with Network Rail, they are unobtrusive and, given the relatively low speed of trains at this location, should be sufficiently reliable.”

John Dalton

What future for Bath’s Fashion Museum?

What future for Bath’s Fashion Museum?

Consultation—1+cropsSeems Bath’s Fashion Museum is considering its future direction and wants to know what the people of Bath think.

Bath and North East Somerset Council is holding a free public meeting when people will be invited to have their say on what this world-famous collection should be doing in the next ten to fifteen years.

The public consultation is being held on Tuesday, July 22nd 2014 between 6 and 8 pm. Doors open at 5.30. You will find the Fashion Museum at the Assembly Rooms in Bennett Street.

You can email for details of how to book your place.

Coffee and a coat of arms

Coffee and a coat of arms


Northumberland Place.

Northumberland Place. Click on images to enlarge.

I love being able to solve a mystery. My coffee hangout is Roscoff Deli in Northumberland Place – a charming narrow paved street with 18th century buildings – erected on land owned by the Duke of Northumberland.

I often gaze out of the window and take in the assortment of traditional-style late 20th century hanging shop signs which the local authority actually encourages in this atmospheric alleyway.

One ornate metal double bracket has lost its sign and l have often wondered what was there. What trade did that frame once promote above the heads of those passing by.

Could this hold a new Bath Lanes Quarter sign?

Could this hold a new Bath Lanes Quarter sign?

I have often said how this delightful shopping street – along with other narrow passageways in the area – should be collectively promoted as the Bath Lanes – just like the Lanes in Brighton!

That empty bracket arrangement could hold a new sign saying just that – ‘Welcome to the Bath Lanes!’

Imagine my delight in coming across a book called Sketches of Georgian Bath by J Raymond Little – with a Preface by T Sturge Cotterell – the local civic leader who effectively created the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides – which has been running for 80 years!

The pencil sketch of Northumberland Place by J Raymond Little.

The pencil sketch of Northumberland Place by J Raymond Little.

Amongst all the artwork in this publication of 1932 was this pencil sketch of Northumberland Place – described by the author as ‘delightful not only because of their quaintness, but also because they offer a sanctuary to the harried pedestrian – you can’t possible get run over.’

There in the top right hand corner was my ornate bracket and attached to it a sign saying ‘Millinery’ – so now l know – and next door evidence of a tobacconist shop too!

Close up of the millinery sign.

Close up of the millinery sign.

One other point that illustration helped me with was the Coat of Arms above the archway connecting with the High Street.

In his Pevsner Architectural Guide to Bath,  Michael Forsyth tells us they are the arms of Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany (1763-1827) who attended the opening of the new Pump Room in 1795 and was presented with the Freedom of the City.

The coat of arms in Northumberland Place.

The coat of arms in Northumberland Place.

J Raymond Little told a different story. That this was a model for the coat of arms of Frederick, Prince of Wales and his wife – parents of George the Third – which were planned to embellish the obelisk erected in his honour in the centre of Queen Square.

Michael Forsyth – l think – wins this one. You can clearly see the black winged bird of Prussia on the right hand shield. The Duke of York’s bride was his Prussian cousin Frederica Charlotte – daughter of King Frederick the Second of Prussia.