Pulteney Weir from a different angle.

Pulteney Weir from a different angle.


The remains of the East Gate. Click on images to enlarge.

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.

How the Colonnades would look when reopened.

How the Colonnades would look when renovated.

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).

The empty vaults beneath Grand Parade

The empty vaults beneath Grand Parade

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.

One of two proposed 'pods' for Grand Parade

One of two proposed ‘pods’ for Grand Parade

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.

Looking down on the present domed roof of the Indoor Market

Looking down on the present domed roof of the Indoor Market

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.

One of the damaged stone pillars exposed again.

One of the damaged stone pillars exposed again.

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.

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.

The people behind the plaques.

The people behind the plaques.

Click on image to enlarge it.

Click on image to enlarge it.

The Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides is celebrating its 80th birthday with an additional series of free walking tours which celebrates some of the ‘celebrity’ names behind the bronze wall plaques dotted around the city.

Discover the secrets of some of Bath’s most famous former residents and why they deserved bronze wall plaques.

I have copied in their giveaway leaflet which has all the details.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

My dear people

My dear people

Bath Abbey archives hold various records from the First World War period – including the monthly newsletters written by the Rector at the time, Prebendary Sydney Boyd.

The monthly notice from August 1914.

The monthly notice from August 1914. Click on image to enlarge.

One of them – dating from August 1st 1914 – is reproduced on the front cover of this month’s newsletter from Bath’s parish church!

War was declared just three days later and just weeks afterwards fifteen members of the Abbey Congregation had already voluntarily enlisted in the Army and Navy.

Along with other newsletters written during 1914-1918 the letter gives a better understanding of the impact of the war on the Abbey community, the city of Bath and society as a whole.

It also helps commemorate the First World War by allowing parishioners to find out more about those who lost their lives or whose lives were changed forever.

A sculpture on display in the Gethsemane Chapel.

A sculpture on display in the Gethsemane Chapel.

The Abbey’s Norman chapel was reordered as a war memorial chapel and dedicated in 1922.

It is now known as the Gethsemane Chapel and also includes a Book of Remembrance which records the names of all civilians and military personnel who died between 1939 and 1945.

The Abbey's book and gift shop - housed in part of the South Cloister War Memorial.

The Abbey’s book and gift shop – housed in part of the South Cloister War Memorial.

During the Bath air raids of 1942 the blast from a bomb falling on the Recreation Ground nearby blew out the Great East window and all the windows on the north side of the Abbey.

Did you know the Abbey’s gift and bookshop is also housed in part of another war memorial.

It’s within the new south cloister which was dedicated as a war memorial on Armistice Day in 1927.

 In the meantime, the Abbey is appealing for people to come forward with photos, memories passed on from grandparents etc about the Abbey during the First World War period.

More details on their website http://www.bathabbey.org/history/first-world-war-centenary

Are we a winner say Pools?

Are we a winner say Pools?

L to R  Adviser Mary Sabina Stacey, Trustees Paul Simon, Ina Harris, Ainslie Ensom, Sally Helvey and Ann Dunlop.

L to R Adviser Mary Sabina Stacey, Trustees Paul Simon, Ina Harris, Ainslie Ensom, Sally Helvey and Ann Dunlop. Click on images to enlarge.

Months of waiting are coming to an end for supporters and trustees of the Cleveland Pools – Bath’s unique Georgian open-air public lido.

By the end of next week they should be hearing if they have been successful in their bid to win financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund to enable them to go ahead with the restoration of what is the oldest open-air swimming facility in the country.

Inspecting the site of the planned floating pontoon.

Inspecting the site of the planned floating pontoon.

Up to four million pounds may be needed to restore and re-open the Cleveland Pools to swimming.

It is a semi-circular lido – tucked behind Hampton Row in Bathwick – and built by John Pinch the Elder in 1815.

Whether HLF money is forthcoming or not supporters and trustees are determined to get a floating pontoon in place on the adjoining bank of the River Avon so that – in 2015 – the lido can benefit from cruisers being able to land visitors. Next year is the lido’s bi-centenary.


It’s a long way to Tipperary

It’s a long way to Tipperary

Cllr Bryan Chalker.

Cllr Bryan Chalker.

North East Somerset community broadcaster, Somer Valley FM, is airing a special show on 4th August presented by Bryan Chalker and Dom Chambers. Timed to the exact date of the 100th anniversary of Britain’s entry into the war the show features stories and memorabilia from the front around the theme of music from the era.

Mr Chalker, a former Mayor of Bath and Chairman of Bath & NE Somerset Council, came to the west country in the early 1980s to work for the regions first commercial radio station, Radio West. T

he veteran DJ brought his considerable knowledge of music to community broadcasting when he launched his popular show Same Roots, Different Fruits on Somer Valley FM two years ago.

Mr Chambers came to the area six years ago to launch Somer Valley FM. Previously he shared his passion for history with the listeners of BBC Solent and has made a life study of Imperial Germany.

The two broadcasters from different generations, who have combined radio experience of 75 years, share the fact that both their grandfathers fought in the Royal Flying Corps over the Western Front. The programme includes a letter sent home by Dom’s grandfather requesting music to be sent out to entertain the troops.

Dom says’ “Working with Bryan on this project was an absolute joy given his knowledge and passion for music. We didn’t want just to do another broadcast on ‘somewhere in this land there is a piece that is forever England ‘ type thing.

Somehow focusing on the musical hits of the day brings home to us that these were real people who needed to be entertained and laugh whilst being put in conditions that are unimaginable to most of us 100 years on.”

It’s a long way to Tipperary can be heard, 2pm on Monday 4th August online at SomerValleyFM.co.uk or on 97.5fm.

For more information contact Dom Chambers on 01761 568 004.

Naming of new Keynsham centre back on the market!

Naming of new Keynsham centre back on the market!

Councillors have voted to uphold an official challenge to the proposed naming of the streets within Keynsham town centre development.

The new Keynsham Civic Centre

The new Keynsham Civic Centre

The outcome means B&NES inner Cabinet must now reconsider its original decision  to name all the streets within the development ‘Market Walk’ and report back within ten working days.

The reasons for the call-in, which was led by Keynsham’s Conservative councillors, included:

· That the information provided to the decision maker was factually incorrect, in that the area did not have ‘historical links to the market’, as Keynsham Market was on Bath Road, not Temple Street.

· That the Council undertook detailed consultation with residents, but chose to ignore the outcome of this consultation and rejected alternative name proposals put forward by Keynsham Town Council.

· That the rationale for rejecting the alternative proposals is inadequate, with the Cabinet report stating them only to be ‘unacceptable’ with no further explanation.

· That the Council, as developer, and Cabinet, as decision maker, should take greater heed of the views expressed in the consultation with residents and the Town Council.

During the meeting, the panel of councillors received a range of written and verbal evidence, interviewed the Cabinet Member responsible for the decision, and received a representation from Councillor Brian Simmons on behalf of those Councillors who had signed the Call-In request.

Following the meeting, Cllr Brian Simmons (Cons, Keynsham North), who led the call-in, said:

“We’re naturally delighted with this outcome, which will mean that the Cabinet is forced to review its original decision, having previously ignored the consultation carried out with residents and the Town Council.

“Our hope is that the Lib Dems will now actually listen to what residents and others have to say about the proposed names before reaching a final decision on the naming of the town centre. Preferably, they ought to put the various proposed names to a public vote, as they have done with the Town Clock design.”

Friedrich Ludwig Bartelt Founder of Keynsham's Polysulphin Works.

Friedrich Ludwig Bartelt
Founder of Keynsham’s Polysulphin Works.

Meanwhile Cllr Dave Laming –  who is an Independent councillor in the Lambridge ward- has come up with one suggestion for a more ‘local’ feel to a new street name.

He’s Freidrick Ludwig Bartelt – born in Prussia in 1852 – who – as an industrial chemist – developed a revolutionary product from soda ash for the de-hairing of leather hides.

He founded the Polysulphin Company and built a factory to use the process in Broadmead Lane, Keynsham in 1881. It is locally known as ‘the old soap factory.’

Leather was an extremely important product in those days for things like military boots, horse harnesses, gun carriages and military informs.

The Virtual Museum is also keen to see other local connections like Keynsham Abbey, the Frys/Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory and the buried Roman town of Trajectus getting a look in too!


Upping the score at Larkhall FC

Upping the score at Larkhall FC

A little reminder of how community spirit and local pride – wrapped up with sport – is very much a  part of our shared city heritage.

Larkhall Football Club is celebrating its centenary this year – 2014 – and currently running twelve football teams – with youngsters starting at the age of six.

Larkhall football club

From left to right. Matty Byrne Project 28, Cllr Dave Laming, Liz Ball manager of Project 28, Wayne Thorne manager of Larkhall FC, Scott Lye captain of Larkhall 1st team, Cllr Martin Veal Chairman of B&NES and Jessica Elmer from Project 28. Regards

Local Independent councillor Dave Laming has now provided sponsorship to allow the Club to get involved with Project 28 – a small charitable association that apparently truly cares for youngsters between the ages of seven and seventeen who have lost their way through substance or alcohol abuse – either directly or through third party influence.

Cllr Laming is pictured here with Larkhall Football Club and Project 28 officials, the Chairman of B&NES, Cllr Martin Veal, and the Project 28 stripe – to celebrate the new connection. The team won 3 – 1 in their first game too!


Bath’s Fashion Museum break out?

Bath’s Fashion Museum break out?

bath fashion museumA generous grant from Arts Council England has enabled Bath’s Fashion Museum to create a research and consultation programme to work out its future direction.

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

But, l wanted to know, if the public is being asked for ideas doesn’t that suggest the Museum has run out of them itself?