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.

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?


Wartime memories feature in WW1 Bath civic event.

Wartime memories feature in WW1 Bath civic event.

The memories of nurses who served during the two world wars is to feature in a  World War One Centenary civic event in Bath.

To commemorate one hundred years since the declaration of World War One, on Monday August 4, Bath & North East Somerset Council is holding a civic event to remember the impact this conflict had on people in our local communities.

90-year-old Heather Mackay, a retired nurse living in Lansdown in Bath, who worked during the Second World War, will be taking part. She will be reading extracts written during the First World War by a nurse at Bath War Hospital, whose account mirrors Heather’s own experience of nursing at a time of conflict.

 Heather Mackay’s aunt’s photograph album from her time as a nurse during World War One at Royaumont in France.  Courtesy of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

Heather Mackay’s aunt’s photograph album from her time as a nurse during World War One at Royaumont in France.
Courtesy of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

Heather said: “I remember when prisoners of war were repatriated; my job at that time was to bed-bath the ones that couldn’t do anything for themselves. I was talking to a lad asked him where he was taken prisoner. He said ‘Arnhem, nurse’. I said my cousin was at Arnhem, he got the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) in the Air Force. I went down the ward a bit further and asked another chap where he was taken prisoner and he also said ‘Arnhem, nurse’.

I told him ‘there’s a fellow up there taken prisoner at Arnhem, I’ll find out his name for you’. They were buddies and they each thought the other had been killed. As soon as we quietened down, we moved their beds next to each other and they were just so thrilled to see each other again. It was wonderful.”

Heather has many personal connections to the First World War too, with various family members having served across the war years. Her aunt, Marjorie Chapman, was an auxiliary nurse working at Royaumont, a Scottish Women’s Hospital Unit set up by pioneering surgeon, Dr Elsie Inglis. The British War Office had refused Doctor Inglis’ offer of help with the words, ‘My good lady, go home, and sit still’. Dr Elsie Inglis did not sit still. Instead she began setting up units abroad, starting with Royaumont, at an abbey north of Paris.

‘Bath War Hospital’ watercolour by E. Horton, 1918 (Credit: Wellcome Library, London)

‘Bath War Hospital’ watercolour by E. Horton, 1918
(Credit: Wellcome Library, London)

Heather says of her aunt’s experience: “It was an old Abbey, and it was nothing but women; the doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers were all women. Apparently they sent them a couple of men to service the ambulances and they said ‘no thank you, no thank you, women only’. And you think of that in 1915, it was very advanced. They were amazing women, way ahead of their time. In fact, someone asked me if my aunt was a suffragette and I said no she wasn’t – she didn’t have to be because my grandfather let his daughters do what they wanted. He was ahead of his time.”

The World War One centenary civic event takes place from 6-7pm at Bath War Memorial in the Royal Victoria Park. It is free, and open to everyone to come together in a shared act of remembrance, to mark the centenary through music, readings, and poetry from people from across the district. Contributions by local young people – who have been writing about the 1914-18 War – will also feature, and it will start with a parade by local cadets.

A commemorative wreath will be laid by the Chairman of Bath & North East Somerset Council and The Mayor of Bath.

Councillor Martin Veal, the Chairman of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “We will gather together 100 years to the day when war was declared. As the years pass it is even more important to tell the stories of the First World War so that each generation learns from history and understands about the impact the War had on everyone – young and old; female and male; those left at home, as well as those who went to the battlefields.”

Councillor Cherry Beath, The Mayor of Bath said: “This free civic event will help us understand how our local citizens were affected by, and reacted to the War. It is fascinating to hear about the work of nurses at Bath War Hospital in Combe Park, where the horrors of the trenches could be witnessed on our doorstep. At this event we honour and remember the contribution of local people during the War years.”

For further information about the World War One Centenary Civic Event please contact the event organiser Jasmine Loveys: jasmineloveys@gmail.com or 07984022426

World War 1 Victory Medal restored to rightful owners

World War 1 Victory Medal restored to rightful owners

A World War One Victory medal found in a field in the 1950s is to be donated to the Somerset Military Museum in Taunton after some genealogical detective work by a Bath & North East Somerset Council employee.

The Victory Medal

The Victory Medal

The medal originally belonged to Private William Wareham, of the Somerset Light Infantry, who was awarded Victory and British medals after taking part in the First World War.

It was found in a field near Green Ore by retired dentist David Boswell in the late 1950s when he and his wife Joan moved to the area. The medal has ‘Private W. Wareham 5117’ etched on the rim.

A photograph of the medal is one of the highlights of WW1 Remembered, a major exhibition opening in Bath on Friday, 1 August to mark the centenary of the start of the 1914-18 war. The exhibition commemorates those who lost their lives in the conflict and tells the stories of local people affected by the war.

The medal was restored to descendants of Private Wareham thanks to the efforts of amateur genealogist Graham Winter, who works in Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Health & Safety Team.

He was able to help trace the family of the World War One veteran after inspecting local parish records and service records for Somerset Light Infantry held in the National Archive.

Graham conducted a search of the Census returns for 1890, 1901 and 1911 before tracking down Private Wareham’s descendants via local parish marriage registers. He found that Private Wareham had married Eveline M Veasey in the first quarter of 1935.

Graham said: “At this point, I spoke to a member of the council’s staff with the surname Veasey. He confirmed that he had an Uncle Bill and Aunt Eve, with three children, John, Kathleen and Doug.
“He contacted Kathleen’s daughter and she spoke to her Uncle John about the medal. The family have since made contact with the finders and have decided that the Council can feature a photograph of the medal as part of their exhibition display.”

Following agreement with the Wareham family, David Boswell plans to donate the medal to the Somerset Military Museum, which holds the regimental archives and collections for the Somerset Light Infantry.

The ‘WW1 Remembered’ exhibition will run at Bath Central Library from August 1 – 11. It coincides with the date that war broke out in August 1914. To mark the centenary of the First World War, the exhibition will feature memorabilia from local people and stories from the conflict.
Cllr Ben Stevens, Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development (Lib Dem, Widcombe), said: “We are delighted that the rightful owners of William Wareham’s Victory medal have been found and that it will be donated to the Somerset Military Museum.”
The WW1 Remembered exhibition opens on Friday August 1, from 3:30pm – 5pm; then from Saturday 2 August, it will be available during the library’s regular opening times. These are: Monday 9:30am – 6pm; Tuesday – Thursday 9:30am – 7pm; Friday & Saturday 9:30am – 5pm; Sunday 1pm – 4pm.
It is a collection of memories and artefacts that brings to light some of the unique histories of local residents who served in uniform and on the home front. With no living survivors to share their stories and experiences, the exhibition will consist of materials donated by residents, archives, collections and the descendants of local people, and will include photographs, letters from the front, newspaper cuttings, audio visual material and much more.”

Bath Central Library

Bath Central Library

The exhibition will tell a range of stories relating to the period, such as letters from the front penned by William Young, who is remembered on the Royal Victoria Park War Memorial in Bath; diary entries detailing a soldier’s journey to Gosport; and memorabilia of Oliver Brooks from Paulton who received the Victoria Cross; as well as a digital portrait of Harry Patch, who lived at Combe Down near Bath, and who was longest surviving British veteran to have fought in the First World War trenches. Harry passed away in 2009 aged 111.

Bath Central Library is at 19 The Podium, Northgate St, City Centre, Bath BA1 5AL. The entrance to the library can be found by taking the escalator, stair or lift in Waitrose to the first floor.

People who are unable to attend can also see many of the artefacts on the exhibition blog which can be found at http://ww1remembered.wordpress.com

If you would like further information, contact Exhibition Organiser, Claire Sharpe, by email at WW1CentenaryBath@gmail.com or on 07730 594 345.

No 1 needs volunteers!

No 1 needs volunteers!

It’s a pleasure to reproduce an email received from Anna White at No 1 Royal Crescent.No 1 Royal Crescent

‘Dear Virtual Museum, we’d be very grateful if you could find place for this on your site / social networking

No. 1 Royal Crescent, Winner of the Best Large Visitor Attraction in Bath is looking for Volunteers!

Now open 7 days a week and with visitor numbers increasing since the £5 million ‘Whole Story’ renovation project, which saw No. 1 ‘reunited’ with No. 1a the museum is calling on local residents, with an interest in the history of Bath to join their team, as volunteer Room Guides.

Full training and some travel expenses are covered. For more information contact Anna White on 01225 428 126 or email annawhitebpt@gmail.com’

Wedding bells @ Vicky Park.

Wedding bells @ Vicky Park.


Duncan and Sarah

Duncan and Sarah. Do click on images to enlarge.

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

victoria park

The bandstand in Royal Victoria Park

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 register_office@bathnes.gov.uk, 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 http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/births-marriages-and-deaths or http://www.bathweddings.co.uk