Autumn comes for a Hornbeam.

Autumn comes for a Hornbeam.

Workmen in Queen Square continue to lay an improved and newly surfaced pathway around Queen Square. This popular tree-studded mini-park in the middle of a traffic (square) roundabout is currently fenced off while B&NES lavishes £100,000 upon its refurbishment.

Money to pay for new pathways and lawns, improved areas for Petanque, new benches and restored entrance gateways on the east and west sides. The new gates are due to be installed this week.

The threatened tree still standing as work goes on around it.

The threatened tree still standing as work goes on around it.

l have mentioned before the only real casualty of this renovation is a European ‘Fastigiata’ hornbeam which is going to be felled.

B&NES say the loss of this one tree will be made good.

A Council spokesman has now told me : ‘By removing the tree and opening the side gates, the upper area of the square will be lighter, more attractive and better used by the public which will improve vision, public surveillance and policing of the area.

Its removal will also provide more space for events in the park (such as the very successful Petanque event).’

Followers of this Museum will know we have frequently covered the effects of anti social behaviour in the Square and featured the damage that has been done.

It would appear that the same dog has been seen causing serious damage to the bark of many of the trees in Queen Square. The Council tried wrapping fencing around the trunks but this has not deterred the vandalism.

Recent evidence of damage to a tree in Queen Square.

Recent evidence of damage to a tree in Queen Square.

It is understood some form of dog repellent paint will now be tried but the Council spokesman added:

‘We are also exploring a range of options for protecting the tree stock in Queen Square from anti-social behaviour and are keen to develop a permanent solution to this problem as soon as possible.’

One person who will be happy to see a permanent solution to the issue of tree damage is local resident Terry Basson who plays Petanque in Queen Square.

I asked him for his opinion regarding the threatened tree.

Terry said its removal would certainly bring some light to this shaded corner.

‘I think they want to do this because  of the drunks who sit in the darker end hiding away.  This part of the park is mostly in shadow.’

Terry Basson

Terry Basson

Terry has campaigned now for months to get proper fencing erected around each tree in the Square.

‘I would sacrifice one tree if l thought they (B&NES) were going to properly protect the remainder.’

Meanwhile despite signs warning of a £100 fine for letting your dog off the lead this person appears to return frequently and more damage is being done.

I am hearing stories of organised dog fights in the Bath area and it would seem that chewing bark is a good way of strengthening the animal’s jaws.

Why, l wonder do they not ban dogs altogether from this tiny area and maybe even lock the gates at night – as is done at Parade Gardens?

Certainly proper fencing is needed around each tree.

As to the list of reasons for felling the tree, the opening of side gates has nothing to do with letting the tree stay or go. The square used to have a gate on each side.

Of course, originally John Wood did not design this area to be softened and secluded by trees and surrounded by fences and gates. It was a giant promenading space where Bath’s parading spa visitors could deliberately show off and be seen.

Q and Nash's Ray c.1740-1770 by Thomas Robins © Bath in Time

Queen Square and Nash’s Ray c.1740-1770 by Thomas Robins © Bath in Time

The original 70 foot hight obelisk was surrounded by a lovely pool of reflecting water. Bath’s own mini Washington Monument.

We use the area for a different purpose today. It’s a green island in a sea of traffic.

As to opening up the surrounding Georgian architecture l think people are attracted by the fact the Square is screened and shaded and an oasis from reality.

A view of the transforming Queen Square from the first floor of the BRSLI.

A view of the transforming Queen Square from the first floor of the BRSLI.

Every tree affects the grass beneath it.

Go into Abbey Green and see how each year they turf underneath the giant plane tree and then we watch the grass die and be replaced again.

Don’t waste your money B&NES.

I have already called for some sort of Friends of Queen Square.

It would be good to work on something that might make the people who live and work around this historic site more aware of what is in their midst and, hopefully, want to care more about its future.

I am sure B&NES would love some sort of trust to take over its long-term care. More taxpayer’s cash saved!

The notice which says the Lawn was given to the PEOPLE of Bath.

The notice which says the Lawn was given to the people of Bath.

In the meantime – returning to the tree facing the axe – how ironic that in this city so proud of its classical past, it would seem the wood from the European Hornbeam is so solid it was reportedly used by the ancient Romans to make chariots, as well as being used by the American pioneers to make yokes for their oxen.

Maybe the timber from this tree – whose only ‘sin’ is being planted in the ‘wrong’ place – could be kept for a useful purpose and used as a memorial to the fact this healthy specimen had to make way for Petanque, ‘peep views’ and surveillance – though by whom exactly l am not sure.

The only people who seem to keep an eye on the Lawn are Martin  ‘Mr Bennet’ Salter – from his pitch outside the Jane Austen Centre – and Terry Basson who is featured above.

There is no escape. If it’s not dog teeth it’s the teeth of a powered saw that is going to end the life of this particular Queen Square tree. This is one ‘Fall’ it won’t recover from.

The tree is STILL there - as of Monday - and still covered in autumnal glory.

The tree is STILL there – as of Monday – and still covered in autumnal glory.

The new pathways.

The new pathways.

As of today – Monday, November 25th – the hornbeam remains in all its glory.

I hear the only thing that prevented it being chopped down last Friday was the path-layers objecting to heavy machinery coming onto the lawn and ruining their work.

Take a look at the view outside your window Queen Square people – and stand up for it.



Victoria Bridge fully back in action by mid December!

Victoria Bridge fully back in action by mid December!

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=”; 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.

London Road misery.

London Road misery.

The sign warning of 31 weeks of misery.

The sign warning of 31 weeks of misery. Click on images to enlarge.


Let’s talk about the London Road pavement improvements shall we. You may have noticed – driving into Bath – that there is a lot of construction work being done to pavements on the left hand side leading up to the turning for Cleveland Bridge and Bathwick Street.

It’s basically the area from Hobson’s Choice – the kitchen people – up to the corner grocery stores.

The 'pavement' ON the London Road.

The ‘pavement’ ON the London Road.

A big yellow sign warns of works from September for 31 weeks – so it’s a sure thing we take this mess into 2015.

You have to feel sorry for the guys working on this strip – in all weathers – and with all manner of abuse coming their way about the effect on traffic flow and the disruption pedestrians and cyclists also face.

It has been one drama after another.

First financial problems for the main contractor, then paving slabs laid in the wrong design having to be taken up. Looks like they’ve settled for tarmac now on that side of the road.

This morning – with most of the main pavement out of bounds – people are walking along a narrow strip alongside the heavy passing traffic – now squeezed into one lane. The only protection is a line of plastic barriers and cones.

The picture of the pushchair wheeling mum and the passing tanker says it all.

The lady with a pushchair says it all.

The lady with a pushchair says it all.

Electricity cables just under the surface are going to make it difficult to get new paving stones flush.

Electricity cables just under the surface are going to make it difficult to get new paving stones flush.

I am hearing now that under-pavement cellars and buried electricity cables are creating further problems in trying to get the new paving block to lie low enough to be flush with the new kerbs.

In some places it’s going to have to be a little up and down.

Talking to staff at Hobson’s Choice – l wondered why their bit of pavement had been finished ahead of all the rest.

Completed section outside of Hobson's Choice

Completed section outside of Hobson’s Choice

Seems persistent inquiries about the effects all this was having on business may have helped and also their section was something of a ‘test bed’ for trying out the new blocks.

However staff there said they are concerned for other businesses further up the  shop-edged strip and the fact that the car park serving them all now looks as if it is closed.

This is where a 'planter' is going!

This is where a ‘planter’ is going!

Thanks to them l had identified the purpose of the square lumps of concrete that have also been installed.

Wait for it – they are for planters! Flowers? Saplings?? What is the point of installing giant cigarette ashtrays for people to also throw empty cans in! What a waste of money.

I hear extra workmen are being taken on to try and speed this project up but this is a sorry tale indeed.


Pieroni’s Fountain

Pieroni’s Fountain

Readers looking for something local and original as gifts should check out the website of Bath-based publisher Akeman Press. Run by writers and historians Andrew Swift and Kirsten Elliott, the company has two new books out in time for Christmas, as well as a fine backlist of books of local interest.
SEVERN BEACH LINE WALKS001The first new book, by Andrew Swift, is called Walks from Bristol’s Severn Beach Line. If you want to explore our neighbouring city and its surrounding countryside, this is the way to do it.

No need to worry about parking – just jump on a train to Temple Meads and walk over to find the Severn Beach Line train (usually on Platform 1). Then, with book in hand, you are ready to undertake a series of walks.

They range from shorter city walks, taking in such varied delights as Clifton and Stokes Croft, the industrial past of Lawrence Hill and the mysterious, monumental tombs of Arnos’ Vale cemetery, as well as lost spas and gardens.

Those who prefer the countryside have a choice of much longer walks – one even ventures into Wales as you cross the Severn Bridge on foot – an experience only to be undertaken in fine weather, as Andrew Swift tells us.
There are visits to nature reserves and some of Bristol’s secret places and, as you might expect from a writer who also blogs about beer, plenty of pubs to visit. One of these is the Seven Stars near Temple Meads, which Andrew Swift calls ‘The pub which changed the world’. A double page spread in the book tells us why. By using the train, you can even enjoy a drink or two without worrying about whether you should be driving.
There is also a chapter on the story of the Severn Beach Line itself – once rated by Thomas Cook as one of Britain’s top scenic rail routes, it became known as the Cinderella Line as the operator ran fewer and fewer trains. It looked set to be replaced by buses but a vigorous local campaign saved it, and it is now used by more people than ever before. If you have never used this line, and/or want to discover some of the quirkier aspects of Bristol’s history, this is the book for you.

Those familiar with Andrew Swift’s style will know he wears his academic qualifications lightly – the book is meticulously researched but will appeal to all readers. The book, which is paperback and in full colour, costs £15.
Another author from Bath, Colin Fisher, also combines academic rigour with lightness of touch, as shown by the second book published by Akeman Press this month. With the intriguing title Pieroni’s Fountain, it tells how Italian immigrant Stefano Pieroni struggled to find respectability in Victorian Bath. He managed to participate in some public-spirited developments, including designing the fountain which now stands on Bog Island (from which the book gets its title).PIERONIS FOUNTAIN001

Another of his works is the large vase which stands in the garden below Royal Crescent and every summer forms one of Bath’s most spectacular floral displays. He also restored the coat of arms on Bellott’s Hospital – now part of the new Gainsborough Hotel.
The book not only relates Pieroni’s history, it gives a glimpse into the everyday workings of the city in the mid-Victorian period – the burning issues of the day that featured in the local paper, the heated political campaigns, and above all the efforts of ordinary people to establish themselves. Sadly, it also shows how hard life could be without the Welfare State to protect them as they aged and could no longer work.

The book includes the curious story of Speke’s missing bust and an interesting discussion of how radium was used to promote Bath’s healing waters – and why it abruptly stopped.
Illustrated in full colour, this paperback is entertainingly written but well annotated for the serious historian, and retails at £10. Both books are available from all good bookshops as well as the Akeman Press Website, where you will also find a list of their other publications.


Have your say on how the district looks!

Have your say on how the district looks!

Bath & North East Somerset Council is offering local residents and businesses the opportunity to comment on the draft Placemaking Plan, which looks at options and alternatives for key development sites in the area.

bath abbeyCllr Tim Ball, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Homes and Planning, said: “This is such an important plan for our area and it’s important that as many people as possible take a look at it and give us their views.

Once adopted, the Placemaking Plan, together with the Core Strategy, will help shape what development takes place and where and will be used for determining planning applications in Bath and North East Somerset up to 2029.”

The purpose of the Placemaking Plan is to:
• allocate sites for development for housing, employment and other uses to help meet development needs identified in the adopted Core Strategy
• review and update the policies used in the determination of planning applications
• facilitate the delivery of key development sites
• safeguard and enhance the quality of places in Bath and North East Somerset including the protection of valued assets such as wildlife, green space, historic buildings
• provide an opportunity to work with local communities to update Housing Development Boundaries.

The Placemaking Plan Options document will be published for comment between November 27, 2014 and January 30, 2015.

All consultation documents, comments form and background evidence are available on the Council’s website at

The Placemaking Plan can also be viewed at the following locations during opening hours:
• Council offices
– The One Stop Shop, Manvers Street, Bath, BA1 1JG
– The Hollies, Midsomer Norton, Bath, BA3 2DP
– Civic Centre One Stop Shop, Temple Street, Keynsham, Bristol, BS31 1LA
• At all public libraries in the district, including the mobile libraries
People are encouraged to make comments on-line via the Placemaking Plan webpage. Alternatively you can e-mail the comments form to or send the form or a letter to Planning Policy, Bath & North East Somerset Council, PO Box 5006, Bath BA1 1JG. If you have any queries about the consultation, you can call 01225 477548.

The Council is holding a series of drop-in events about the plan during December and January:

Midsomer Norton Town Hall
Friday November 28 – 4pm-8pm
Saturday December 6 – 9am – 1pm (display only)

Methodist Church Hall, Radstock
Thursday December 4 – 4 – 8pm

Civic Centre, Keynsham – library
Monday December 8 – 4pm – 8pm

Millennium Hall, Chew Magna
Wednesday December 10 – 4pm – 8pm

Village Hall, Temple Cloud
Monday January 12 – 4-8 pm

Radstock College
Thursday January 15 – 4 – 8pm

Further events in Batheaston or Bathampton and central Bath are also being organised – details will be communicated as soon as these are finalised.

Christmas with the classics at American Museum

Christmas with the classics at American Museum

Last year's gigantic Christmas tree

Last year’s gigantic Christmas tree

The American Museum in Britain at Claverton Manor in Bath re-opens tomorrow at noon for its bumper Christmas season. Tonight friends and helpers get a preview of this year’s festive theme.

It’s quite an undertaking for Collections Manager Kate Herbert who has to come up with a different seasonal spin for the museum’s 12 period rooms.

She’s plumped for a celebration of American literature so each room will illustrate a scene from popular fiction – set in America.

Stand by for everything from Washington Irving’s The Legend Of Sleep Hollow to Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone With The Wind.

This week-end – November 22-23 – it’s also the annual Christmas Craft Fair from 12 noon to 4.30 pm. More information via

Magic night of lanterns and light.

Magic night of lanterns and light.

lantern procession 2014Hundreds of people have taken part in what surely must be the biggest lanternlantern procession 2014 procession through Bath that the Holburne Museum has got together in the eight years this magical event has been running.

Hundreds more lined the streets to experience a night of lanterns, lights and music.

This year’s theme was On the High Seas and there was an assortment of things big and small – from jelly fish and minnows to submarines, galleons and even an elephant!

Virtual Museum fans can watch some of the event by clicking on the link below.


What future for Bath museums?

What future for Bath museums?

Bath & North East Somerset Council is developing Forward Plans for two of Bath’s most important museums – the Victoria Art Gallery and the Roman Baths.

The Roman Baths.

The Roman Baths.

Bath's Victoria Art Gallery.

Bath’s Victoria Art Gallery.

The Forward Plans are required to enable both museums to re-apply for Arts Council England accreditation.

This is the Government’s scheme which shows that museums meet acceptable standards of governance, collections care, financial sustainability and public services.

Members of the public are invited to attend a consultation event about the plans at which they can hear about proposals and contribute their thoughts and ideas.

The event will take place at the Victoria Art Gallery on Wednesday 26 November from 6pm – 7.30pm.

When completed, the forward plans will provide a blueprint for work and development over the next three years.

Councillor Ben Stevens (Lib-Dem, Widcombe), the Council’s Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, said: “I hope local people will take this opportunity to hear about and contribute to thinking and ideas for the future of the Victoria Art Gallery and the Roman Baths. It promises to be a good evening.”