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.

Letters into leaves  – Bath Spa’s response to nation’s memorial project.

Letters into leaves – Bath Spa’s response to nation’s memorial project.


A collaborative artwork has been created by Bath Spa University in response to the national WWI commemoration project ‘Letter to an Unknown Soldier’.

OAK is a seven metre high digital artwork that provides a powerful representation of the total contribution from the thousands of people who have written letters for ‘Letter to an Unknown Soldier’ http://www.1418now.org.uk/letter/

Co-creator of ‘Letter to an Unknown Soldier’ and Bath Spa Professor of Creative Writing and Digital Media, Kate Pullinger teamed up with Bath Spa colleagues Anthony Head, Neil Glen and Tim Vyner to create the stunning typographic and visual artwork. bath spa

OAK takes the form of a 200 year old wintering oak tree, its bare branches symbolising strength and endurance. Every minute, a new letter, written by a member of the public is displayed below the roots of OAK.

It is at this point that the words from the letter are transformed onto the tree, into growing word-leaves. A minute later a new letter arrives, adding more word-leaves and growing leaves where words have been reused.

The word-leaves become larger and older, until they reach a point where they have turned from a spring green to an autumnal brown and fall to the ground, forming abstract sentences before re-forming as new shoots, to grow again.

This process will continue every two minutes of every day continually growing and evolving, representing the mass of sentiment and feeling stirred by the thoughts and opinions of the many thousands of contributors.

L. to R. Anthony Head and Neil Glen.

L. to R.  Digital artist and Senior Lecturer in Digital Technologies Design Anthony Head and and Designer and technologist  Neil Glen in front of the giant medial wall.

Digital artist and Senior Lecturer in Digital Technologies Design Anthony Head was responsible for the computer coding of OAK, taking letters directly from the ‘Letter to an Unknown Soldier’ website and analysing them for word frequency. The coding then displays the words in a natural formation on the boughs of a water-colour of an oak tree at Bath Spa University’s Newton Park campus, painted by illustrator and Senior Lecturer in Illustration Tim Vyner.

Designer and technologist Neil Glen designed the text layout of the work making reference to memorial walls in which the names of those honoured are listed as a series of columns, creating a visual mass which upon close inspection reveals the details of those being remembered. The text of each letter is laid out in a single column, moving to the right every minute to reveal a new letter.

This unique scalable artwork is currently on display on the University’s 30 screen, seven metre high Media Wall in the new academic building ‘Commons’ at Newton Park. The artwork is free to view and all are welcome. OAK is also being broadcast live via webcam between 7:00am and 3:00am daily at http://artdesign.bathspa.ac.uk/mediawall/

A short video of the artwork’s collaborators discussing their respective contributions to OAK can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeFOJNB2oQo.

Letter to an Unknown Soldier is a new kind of war memorial that invites the public to write a letter to a soldier. Not just any soldier, but the soldier who inspired the famous Charles Jagger war memorial on Platform One of Paddington Station in London.Oak_1 Bath Spa

Over 4,700 letters have been received having been submitted from schools, groups and individuals, by writers including Stephen Fry, Andrew Motion, Sheila Hancock, Andy McNab, Lee Child, Lesley Pearce and Malorie Blackman, and by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Sajid Javid.

The project was created by Professor Kate Pullinger and Novelist and Theatre Director, Neil Bartlett. It was commissioned by 14-18 NOW, as part of the official cultural programme for the First World War centenary commemorations.

Letters are being published on the website now and until the anniversary of the declaration of war on 4 August. Everyone can contribute their letter before 11:00pm on 4 August by submitting it to the website http://www.1418NOW.org.uk/letter or posting it to LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER, PO Box 73102, London EC1P 1TY.

The artwork is being display on the portrait shaped digital Media Wall which is part of the recently built Commons Building at Bath Spa University’s Newton Park Campus. The Media Wall is an exciting digital portal heralding a new era of possibility for research into digitally mediated artworks both within and beyond the University.

It was developed as an experiential learning, teaching and research space, supporting intradisciplinary and interdisciplinary projects involving staff, researchers and students. Keep up to date with the latest Media Wall projects by following @MediaWallBSU

Knowing Your Place – Bath public plan own museum gallery

Knowing Your Place – Bath public plan own museum gallery

Local people have been involved in determining the form and content for a new permanent gallery at the city’s Museum of Bath at Work. The first time the public has been asked in to do the work normally done by a curator.

Called ‘Knowing Your Place: Bath and Local Distinctiveness’ it has involved them working with museum staff to make the exhibition which will be officially opened on Saturday, August 9th at 11.30 am.

A spokesperson for the Museum said: ‘Bath is a city, it would be fair to say, that has been much written about. Bookcases creak under the weight of histories of the city, many written by non-residents and repeating the same old stories of elegance and heritage that we are all familiar with.

At the Museum of Bath at Work we felt there was a need to provide a way in which residents of the city could have their say about the city – to present a guide to Bath written by those who know it best of all.

Alberto Simprini - Famous pianist, composer and conductor. Born in Oldfield Park

Alberto Semprini – Famous pianist, composer and conductor. Born in Oldfield Park

To this end the Museum applied, successfully for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant for the ‘Knowing Your Place: Bath and Local Distinctiveness’ project in the autumn of last year.

On October 28 1941 a Westland Whirlwind twin engine aircraft (pictured) from RAF Charmy Down was involved in a mid-air collision. The plane crashed near Manor Farm in Englishcombe and the pilot John Sample, was killed when his parachute didn't open in time.

On October 28 1941 a Westland Whirlwind twin engine aircraft (pictured) from RAF Charmy Down was involved in a mid-air collision. The plane crashed near Manor Farm in Englishcombe and the pilot John Sample, was killed when his parachute didn’t open in time.

We divided the city- and its immediate surroundings-into twelve distinct districts: Bathwick, Bathampton, Bathford, Batheaston, Combe Down& Odd Down, Twerton & Newton St Loe, Weston & Lansdown, Larkhall, The City Centre, Southdown & Englishcombe, Oldfield Park and Widcombe.

We held meetings to introduce the scheme asking local people to submit an alphabetical list of what they considered to be locally important and significant features.

These could be architectural, historical, contemporary, they could be stories, personalities, customs and traditions or natural features.

The one proviso was that only one feature could be used to represent each of the twenty six letters of the alphabet.

Weight Limit sign on road bridge on Weston High Street.

Weight Limit sign on road bridge on Weston High Street.

The suggestions were collected from each of the areas and images provided to fit with each and every alphabetical suggestions.

Arts and Crafts Angel over entrance to old St Michael's Church Hall in Walcot Street.

Arts and Crafts Angel over entrance to old St Michael’s Church Hall in Walcot Street.

With twelve areas and twenty six letters there are 312 locally distinctive features which have been identified by local people and which will be featured in this permanent exhibition.

This is a new venture for the museum as for the first time, the content of an exhibition on the city has been entirely chosen, not by the museum, but by those who know much more about where they live than anyone – the city’s own residents.

If you are interested in seeing how the city really appears – not from the perspective of a guide book- but from the people who live here- then come along to the Museum of Bath at Work from August 10th when the exhibition will be open – indefinitely.
Admission to the exhibition is free with admission to the museum.

Floral judges in Bath!

Floral judges in Bath!

Parade Gardens.

Parade Gardens.

Lots of activity in Parade Gardens today in tidying up borders and dead-heading flowers before Britain in Bloom judges descend on the award-winning location.IMG_2225

The fine weather and regular watering is making the city’s floral displays particularly ravishing this year.

It’s a year in which the Bath in Bloom organisation is celebrating its 50th anniversary and a long list of previous awards.

Here’s hoping they will be pocketing a few more this year!

New stone spindles appearing along the balustrade.

New stone spindles appearing along the balustrade.

Also nice to see some new stone spindles along the length of the balustrade bordering Grand Parade.

Many of the originals are suffering extreme erosion problems and urgent repairs are underway to secure many of them and renew others.

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.

Meanwhile Bryan’s own 2-hour show – ‘Same Roots, Different Troops’ will air later on the same day. You can catch it between 7pm and 9pm and it will feature a song Bryan wrote called ‘Do You Recall The War To End All War’?

Bryan Chalker's grandfather.

Bryan Chalker’s grandfather.

The song, recorded by Cumbrian Tony Renney , was first written as a poem in 1984 and later read out at the unveiling in 2010 of a plaque to commemorate the life of 111-year old Harry Patch, ‘The Last Fighting Tommy’, in the Guildhall.

It has evolved into a song and from that an entire 2-hour programme on Somer Valley FM devoted to the music of WW1 and other conflicts.

Bryan’s grandfather served with the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War.