Jane Austen record breaker!

Jane Austen record breaker!

Filing into the Assembly Rooms. Click on images to enlarge!

Filing into the Assembly Rooms


It was touch and go for a while and a bit of a long wait – wearing hot costumes and in a cramped and crowded Concert Room – but Bath’s annual Jane Austen Festival – which begins this weekend – has  reclaimed its own world record for ‘The Largest Gathering of People Dressed in Regency Costumes’.

The winning 550 people - all in Regency dress!

The winning 550 people – all in Regency dress!

The Guinness World Record was originally set in 2009 by the Festival – held each September in Bath –  when 409 people gathered in the Assembly Rooms – making it the biggest event of its kind in the world.

This July, however, that number was surpassed by 491 American Austen festival-goers in Greater Louisville, as part of an event organised by the Jane Austen Society of North America.

austen festival 2014

Some Austen fans!

Although this figure has yet to be officially recognised by Guinness, the UK Jane Austen Festival aimed to beat the number achieved by their American counterpart.

And this was the build up today – September 13th – to finding out if they had done it.

People had to register their number and then spend five minutes together in the Concert Room.

Here’s when the count down to the end began.





The record attempt, and the Victory Grand Regency Promenade through Bath to the Parade Gardens was just one of the highlights of what organisers are calling the biggest festival yet in the event’s fourteen year history.

austen festival 2014

Waiting to hear if the record has been broken.

The rest of the festival programme, which runs between 12th – 21st September, includes more than eighty events, starting with Jo Baker – acclaimed author of Longbourn, soon to be made into a film – and ending ten days later with a performance by the hugely popular and widely acclaimed Austentatious.

In between these two events, there are walks, talks, performances and readings, along with many more events celebrating and reflecting both the famous writer herself – who stayed in the city between 1801 and 1806 – and the period in which she lived.

Scan 2One of the musical highlights is a concert in Bath Abbey, also on the first Saturday. ‘Exsultate Jubilate – An evening with Rauzzini’, is a rare opportunity not only to experience a performance straight out of the early 1800s, but also to hear a male soprano, the internationally renowned Robert Crowe, performing the works of Mozart, Haydn and Handel.

austen festival 2014

That will do nicely sir!

The event in this iconic building reflects the repertoire that the great ‘superstar’ castrato Venanzio Rauzzini presented in Bath during the time Jane Austen was there.

Other highlights are a series of performances at the Mission Theatre, Corn Street. These include: ‘Austen – a musical’; Pride & Promiscuity!’ performed by New Zealander Penny Ashton as part of a world tour; and a unique version of ‘Northanger Abbey’ by the Box Tale Soup Theatre Company.

This year also marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Austen’s most contentious book – Mansfield Park – and this is celebrated by the reading of the entire text over the course of eight days at Bath Central library, a talk and discussion by Professor John Mullan and a rare outing for ‘Lover’s Vows’, the controversial play that appears within the book.

austen festival 2014

Very smart too!

austen festival 2014

Fans all the way from Sweden!

Another character from Mansfield Park, the busybody widow Mrs Norris, also makes an appearance in ‘Austen’s Women’, as one of thirteen female characters brought to life by Rebecca Vaughan during a performance at the Holbourne Museum.

The final weekend of the festival will include a Regency Costumed Masked Ball (Sept 19) which will be held in another iconic Bath building, the Pump Rooms.

Jackie Herring, director of the Jane Austen Festival said: “It is absolutely marvelous we have reclaimed the record with 550 people and such a wonderful round figure, as well. It was touch and go for a while but then we had a rush at the end. It a fantastic way to start the festival and bring the record back to the city Jane Austen called home for several years of her life.”

Find out more on the Festival website: http://www.janeaustenfestivalbath.co.uk/festival-programme/

Bath’s history makers on display.

Bath’s history makers on display.

Some of the panels in the display.

Some of the panels in the display.


The paved corridor between Bath Abbey and Kingston Buildings is the site chosen for a special outdoor exhibition celebrating the great men and women of the city.

A spot of promotional work for the exhibition at Bath's Tourist Information Centre

A spot of promotional work for the exhibition at Bath’s Tourist Information Centre

It’s called The History Makers of Bath and there are 30 large and colourful display panels which display a series of creative and inspiring images – together with information relating to famous or infamous characters of Bath.

The legacy of quarry owner Ralph Allen.

The legacy of quarry owner Ralph Allen.

Each history maker has made a lasting impression on Bath and its surroundings.

The exhibition images feature their legacies and also link visitors to Bath’s multitude of museums, art galleries, architecture and more.

You can go along and choose your favourite or let the Virtual Museum know if you think someone has been left out!

The Stothert that joined up with a Pitt.

The Stothert that joined up with a Pitt.

The public display is also supporting the Forever Friends Appeal to help create a pioneering new Cancer Centre at the Royal United Hospital.

The Virtual Museum went along to ask organiser Angela Calvert-Jones to tell us more about the display.




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.

Art books with a difference!

Art books with a difference!

bath libraryJust a couple of days left to pop along to Bath bath libraryCentral Library and vote for your favourites in each of the categories relating to the annual  ‘Re-cycle an ex-Library Book Competition

bath libraryYoungsters of various ages have come up with very bath librarycreative uses for the un-wanted books. They have been re-binding, cutting, painting, folding and even chopping them into pieces.

There is a great display at the Central Library. Voting closes on Thursday the 18th of September with a prize giving ceremony to the lucky winners on Saturday the 20th.

Final calls for Bath bingo hall.

Final calls for Bath bingo hall.

The old facade of the Palace Theatre - tucked away in the corner.

The old facade of the Palace Theatre – tucked away in the corner.

The Gala Bingo hall in Bath’s Sawclose will be shutting up shop in less than a fortnight.

It brings to an end the most recent of many transformations for a Grade 11 building that dates back to the late 19th century.

Apart from what is left of the original facade, the building is due to be demolished as part of plans to bring Casino-style gambling back to Bath for the first time since the Georgian card playing days of Beau Nash.

The go ahead has been given for a 14 million pound re-development involving a casino, hotel and two restaurants.

An illustration of the new Bath Casino and other commercial units.

An illustration of the new Bath Casino and other commercial units.

Gala Bingo have been calling ‘house’ since 1986  but the building pre-dates them by a hundred years.

It had opened originally as The Pavilion Music Hall –  constructed by Frank Kirk on the site of what was Bath’s hay and straw market.

Then began a whole series of transformations and alterations.

The following information came via www.cinematreasures.org/theatres/34945

The Lyric Theatre from 1897. © Bath in Time

The Lyric Theatre from 1897. © Bath in Time . Click on the image to go through to the website.

“It was re-constructed by architectural firm Wylson & Long in 1895, and re-opened as a live theatre re-named Lyric Theatre.

Taken over by the MacNaghten Vaudeville Circuit of variety theatres in 1905, it was re-named Palace Theatre of Varieties.

A closer view of what would have been the circle seats

A closer view of what would have been the circle seats. Click on images to enlarge.

Palace Theatre Programme from 1906. © Bath in Time

Palace Theatre Programme from 1906. © Bath in Time. Click on the image to go through to the website.

Films were screened as part of the variety programme in the early days, projected from a Bioscope machine.

Films were screened until 1919, when it reverted back to variety theatre use – although occasional films were still screened in the 1920’s.

Looking down on the old auditorium towards where the stage would have been.

Looking down on the old auditorium towards where the stage would have been.

The Palace Theatre was altered in the 1930’s, and was given a single straight balcony.

It was closed as a variety theatre in 1955.

In 1956, it was converted into the Regency Ballroom, which removed the stage and side boxes in the auditorium.

In around 1968, the ballroom closed and was converted into a bingo club.

The entrance to Gala Bingo

The entrance to Gala Bingo

In 1976, while the bingo club was being operated by Zetters, they converted the former upstairs theatre bar into a 53 seat cinema, which was named the President Cinema.

This was a 16mm operation, having one show per evening, and operated until the mid-1980’s.

Today, Gala Bingo Club operates in the former Palace Theatre, which is a Grade II Listed building.”

The old Palace Theatre had a thousand seats, a stage with orchestra pit and eight dressing rooms. Rumour has it that Charlie Chaplin trod the boards here but – according to author and local historian Kirsten Elliott – it was his father taking a bow. “Charlie was only seven at the time,” says Kirsten.

However – she continued – “Gracie Fields made her name here in a show called Mr Tower of London (1921) which was a success here , went on to London and projected her to fame. She visited Bath on other occasions.”

Another big name at the time was Little Tich – alias Harry Relph – who at 4 feet and 6 inches – was an internationally famous music hall comedian and dancer. He’d come down from London in 1895 as the star turn for the opening of the re-named Lyric.

Love to hear your memories of this building and – if you have them – see photographs of programmes. Just leave your comments with the Virtual Museum.

Was enjoying reading up on British bingo slang including ‘Was she worth it – 5 and 6 – 56.’ Apparent five shillings and six pence was the price of a marriage licence years ago. Bingo players are required to call out ‘Yes she was!’ in reply.



Lively week-end at the lido!

Lively week-end at the lido!

The towpath poster showing a way into the Cleveland Pools.

The towpath poster showing a way into the Cleveland Pools. Click on all images to enlarge.

Look what l spotted while l was cycling home from Bath city centre – along the towpath beside the Kennet and Avon Canal.

It’s a sign that has been erected by the trustees of Cleveland Pools to show visitors a quick way across the railway line and up Hampton Row to the entrance to this wonder surviving Georgian lido.

'Captain Evans' will be on hand to talk about his remarkable feats!

‘Captain Evans’ will be on hand to talk about his remarkable feats!

If you come up onto the Kennet and Avon Canal via Grosvenor Bridge – and the little path that leads up the side of the canal bank – you will quickly come across it.

The reason the sign has been erected is that these hidden-away pools are going to be accessible during the up-coming Heritage Open Days week-end.

Meet the trustees and learn more about the fascinating history of the pools.

Meet the trustees and learn more about the fascinating history of the pools.

Cleveland Pools are actually open from tomorrow – Friday, September 12th and on Sat and Sun (13th-14th) from 2pm til 5pm only.

Don’t forget supporters are still jubilant from the news that the Heritage Lottery Fund is going to back their efforts to restore this amazing little gem! Weighty financial support but still lots of money to be raised within the community.

Former Bath swimming instructor John Dagger

Former Bath swimming instructor John Dagger

It’s hoped lots of people who may have swum there in the past might share their memories with supporters who will be on duty to welcome you.

The Mayor of Bath, Cllr Cherry Beath will also be visiting tomorrow – Friday, September 12th – at 3pm.

You will get a chance to meet legendary Bath swimming instructor John Dagger who well remembers when people enjoyed open air swimming here beside the River Avon.

You can find more details  at http://clevelandpools.org.uk/en/left/upcoming-events/ and they’ve also now got a link to their Green Travel Plan up on the Information page, which shows people coming what the bus routes are etc.



Keynsham Civic Centre opens in October

Keynsham Civic Centre opens in October

With Keynsham’s new Civic Centre due to open next month, Bath & North East Somerset Council is inviting the Town Council to consider managing the new outdoor public space being provided within it.

They are hoping local councillors will see it as an area that could be used for events like farmers’ markets, community activities and other promotional gatherings.

The new Keynsham Civic Centre

The new Keynsham Civic Centre

Councillor David Bellotti (Lib-Dem, Lyncombe), Cabinet Member for Community Resources, said: “Bath & North East Somerset Council wants the outdoor public space at the new Keynsham Civic Centre to be used for community activities.

“We see this public space as providing a focus of activity for residents which creates opportunities for local farmers, businesses and voluntary organisations to promote and sell their products and services. We are making an offer to Keynsham Town Council to manage this opportunity because they are in the best position to know their local organisations and work up the best offer for residents.”

Keynsham Town Council is considered to be well placed to manage the local events calendar as it has a clear understanding of the needs of the local community and local economy. This opportunity will also allow greater flexibility for the local community to develop new ideas for future events.

Bath & North East Somerset Council is asking Keynsham Town Council to provisionally accept the proposal in principle – on the shared understanding that further discussion and negotiation needs to take place regarding the management and potential expenditure and income generation for the Town Council.

Bath’s last gas holder will be gone by Christmas

Bath’s last gas holder will be gone by Christmas

 The framework to Bath's last gas holder.

The framework to Bath’s last gas holder.

Bath’s last big industrial relic – the solitary framework of a gas holder – will be gone from the city’s skyline by Christmas.

This long-standing landmark was all that was left of the old Windsor Gas Works. Two of the three gas holders on the site have already been removed to ground level.

Bath was one of the first cities in the Uk to manufacture its own town gas.

The site is part of the 400 million pound residential and retail re-development of former industrial land by the River Avon – now referred to as Bath Riverside.

Some of the first new homes at Bath Riverside

Some of the first new homes at Bath Riverside

 Decontamination associated with this will take around 18 months, before construction work in the west of the site can begin.

In addition to the 300 homes completed to date, a further 1,700 are due to be built by 2025.

R to l Mayor of Bath, Cllr Cherry Beath cutting the ribbon and watched by Deborah Aplin, Managing Director of Crest Nicholson and Jeremy Bungey who is Head of Community Energy for E-on

R to l Mayor of Bath, Cllr Cherry Beath cutting the ribbon and watched by Deborah Aplin, Managing Director of Crest Nicholson and Jeremy Bungey who is Head of Community Energy for E-on

The development is being undertaken by  Crest Nicholson who invited the Mayor of Mayor, Cllr Cherry Beath, along today to officially open an Energy Centre to provide heat and hot water to serve the needs of the site’s residents.

In partnership with energy company E-on UK the new unit has involved the conversion of a former Wessex Water pumping station on Midland Road.

I asked Neil Dawtrey – who is Senior Projects Director for Crest – to explain how the Energy Centre will function.




E-on’s Head of Community Energy, Jeremy Bungey told invited guests that district heating units were common in mainland Europe but were now starting to catch on in the UK.

When the new centre at Bath Riverside really gets going it will save up to 1,000 tons of C02 a year – that’s equivalent to taking 400 cars off the road.

It’s hoped to arrange educational visits for schools – and other parties – in the near future.

Seven Dials makeover

Seven Dials makeover

Bath & North East Somerset Council is holding a public exhibition about improvement plans for the Seven Dials area of Bath at the Guildhall on Tuesday, September 16.

A £1.2 million grant from the Department for Transport’s Cycle City Ambition programme is being used to improve the area for walking and cycling.

The Seven Dials improvement scheme

The Seven Dials improvement scheme

Benefits will include:

· More space and better facilities for pedestrians. Flush surfaces across the area rather than kerbs thereby improving accessibility, particularly for people with disabilities or those using pushchairs.
· Increased access for cyclists allowing them to cross Seven Dials to take advantage of new contraflow routes being created on surrounding streets.
· Investment in high-quality surface materials that will improve the look of the area which, alongside the forthcoming regeneration of Saw Close, will make it a much more pleasant environment for local people, businesses and visitors.

Seven Dials, incorporating Kingsmead Square and Saw Close, is the historic west gate of Bath the city where seven routes met and lies to the west of the city’s main thoroughfare.

This project aims to improve the area as a public space with more focus on the needs of people walking and cycling through the delivery of a ‘shared space’. At the moment far more pedestrians than cars use the area around Seven Dials but, because they don’t have sufficient space on the footway, often have to step into the road, putting them at risk. Removing the notion of motor vehicles automatically having priority by removing distinctions between road and footway will require all users to have more awareness of others and co-operate to move around safely. Taking such steps to make the area more walkable and cycle-friendly is also an opportunity to invest in the city’s urban fabric.

Councillor Caroline Roberts, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “This investment is a key element of our strategy which aims to make Bath the UK’s most walkable city. It links to the priorities of the emerging wider transport strategy Getting Around Bath which will emphasise sustainable travel to reduce congestion and support the long-term economic strategy for the area.

“The expanding route network will also support the nextbike scheme, launched in July, which is proving extremely popular with visitors and local people.”

In designing this, the Council has listened to a variety of stakeholders on the designs including the RNIB, Guidedogs for the Blind, The Cycling Forum and local ward Councillors.

Work is expected to start in the new year, after the Christmas embargo (November 25 – January 5), which is put in place across all road projects to avoid any disruption to local businesses over the busy Christmas period.

The exhibition at The Guildhall will be open to the public from midday to 6pm and will be an opportunity view the plans and ask questions.
Those who can’t attend but who are interested should visit the Council’s web pages – http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/sevendials

Residents and businesses around Seven Dials will shortly receive a leaflet about the plans. Anyone else without access to the internet who would like this written information should contact: Strategic Transport Projects, First Floor South Block, Riverside, Temple Street, Keynsham BS31 1LA or phone 01225 395419