Reminder of a Queen Square chapel.

Reminder of a Queen Square chapel.

John Wood the Elder ensured that those who moved into his rather exclusive grand enclosure at Queen Square did not have far to go when it came to giving thanks for their own good fortunes! Two thousand pounds was spent in 1732-4 building the Chapel of St Mary in the Chapel Row corner. According to Pevsner’s Architectural Guide to Bath – updated in 2003 by Michael Forsyth – it was modelled on Inigo Jones‘s St Paul Covent Garden and was a fine classical temple with a columned portico.

The Ionic column from St Mary's Chapel that once stood in a corner of Queen Square.

The Ionic column from St Mary’s Chapel that once stood in a corner of Queen Square.

It was demolished in 1875 to improve access to Green Park Station but has not completely disappeared. Turn left from London Road into Cleveland Place and just before crossing Cleveland Bridge look down into the garden on your right.  On the far lawn -nearest the River Avon – is an Ionic column said to be from the Chapel.

Cross the bridge and turn right into St John’s Road and after a small distance look acr0ss the River again to find another column – this time of what appears to be blocks of Bath stone.

Look between the bare branches of the trees at the free standing structure of concrete?

Look between the bare branches of the trees at the free standing structure of concrete?

I   wonder if anyone can help me with this one?  It appears to be a giant chimney stack with a fireplace near the base.

Bath’s Industrial Heritage Day

IMG_2693A date for your post-Easter diary and that’s Bath’s Industrial Heritage Day on Saturday, April 6th between 10 am and 4pm at Bath City Football Club at Twerton. Admission is free.

The event will feature ‘The Way We Were” and celebrate the history of the Great Western Railway. You are invited to come along to enjoy memories of a bygone age including early wireless sets, Dinky toys, old telephones and tinplate Hornby clockwork trains. Plus a fascinating exhibition of early photographs.

Turning ideas into actions!

Turning ideas into actions!

Bath's Guildhall.

Bath’s Guildhall.

An invitation for you to come and let the people who run Bath know what you think about how business, community groups and council are doing and share some ideas of your own on how to improve things for everyone.  

That’s what you are invited to do at the Guildhall on May 1st between 2 and 8p where Bath and North Somerset Council will be organising the second Bath City Conference entitled ‘From Ideas to Actions.’

Everyone is welcome to attend during this free event. People can drop in and take part in a range of workshops and discussions and share their views on how ideas can be turned into actions.

A broad range of local businesses, community groups, charities, social enterprises and B&NES Council departments will be showcasing their services in the Banqueting Room.

The work groups established at the last conference will be reporting back on their progress to date. Workshops and presentations will be taking place in other areas of the Guildhall on topics as varied as transport, leisure, city centre vibrancy and sustainable development.

Towards the end of the day there will be a panel discussion in the Council Chamber Chaired by Henry Brown and including Council Chief Executive Jo Farrar and Leader Councillor Paul Crossley to debate the issues raised during the course of the day, the discussion will be available as a webcast and will also be relayed onto a screen in the Guildhall.

Councillor Crossley (Lib-Dem, Southdown) said, “This is an excellent opportunity for people to engage in the future of their community. Bath & North East Somerset Council is developing an exciting range of talks and presentations that will inform and raise awareness of how we are working with local communities and partners to make our areathe place to live, work, and visit in the UK.”

Councillor David Dixon (Lib-Dem, Oldfield) said, “The event last year was very successful with hundreds of people coming through the doors to get involved in the future of their area. I hope that people can take the time once again to visit the Conference.”

The aim of the day is to engage with the people of Bath whether they live work or visit the City; we want to discover what they think, what they value in the city? What could be improved? And explain what part people can play now and in the future.

To find out more and receive regular updates, join www.bathcityconference.net

The museum in a Bath furniture shop!

The museum in a Bath furniture shop!

TR Hayes at the London Road end of Walcot Street

TR Hayes at the London Road end of Walcot Street

It has to be the most unusual place to look back into Bath’s past but the city’s largest furniture shop in Walcot Street has found room amongst its beds, wardrobes and three-piece suites for a fine display of Roman artefacts.

Pop into T.R.Hayes – at the London Street end  - and head for the coffee shop which is part of the rear extension added to the premises in the early 1990′s. There you will see a professionally-presented cabinet of curiosities. Some fascinating examples of what was found by archaeologists who excavated the site of the planned extension before the foundations were put in.

The display of Roman remains at TR Hayes.

The display of Roman remains at TR Hayes.

People apparently settled in the Walcot area shortly after the Roman invasion of AD43 and before the baths and temple were built around the hot springs. They founded a settlement that grew rapidly in the first two centuries into a bustling small town capitalising on the tourist trade provided by the temple and baths.

Some of the pottery on display.

Some of the pottery on display.

The influx of people from the Roman Empire included highly-skilled stone masons, carpenters, blacksmiths, potters and glass makers. They brought with them new skills in stone carving, metal working and glass blowing.

A photograph of the archaeological dig underway.

A photograph of the archaeological dig underway.

The archaeologists found plenty of evidence of all this activity and you can see displays of pottery, glassware and even jewellery . However, the Romans were not the first to exploit this site. Since the Ice Age the area around Bath has been inhabited for at least seven thousand years.

Brooches and other jewellery.

Brooches and other jewellery.

The evidence for this comes from flint tools – some of which have been discovered on the site of the T.R.Hayes store which was founded here in 1920 and is now into its fourth generation – employing over fifty people. While you are in browsing the furniture don’t miss this display, near the coffee shop, at the rear of the showrooms!

The man who put Orpheus together again!

The man who put Orpheus together again!

The Virtual Museum is carrying several stores about Roman mosaics discovered around Bath.This is the second account of the fabulous Orpheus Pavement found at Newton St Loe in 1837 by Brunel’s railway navvies. Elsewhere the current Curator of Archaeology at Bristol Museums, Gail Boyle, recounts her memories of its ‘journeys’ since being excavated. Meanwhile this story is told by a man who ‘lived’ with that mosaic – and its hundreds of pieces – for some months!
Anthony Beeson is an acknowledged Classical iconographer and an expert on Roman and Greek art and architecture. He is also the Hon Archivist of the Association for Roman Archaeology and a member of the Association for the Study and Preservation of Roman Mosaics.  He is a writer and former Art Librarian at Bristol City Libraries. 
Anthony Beeson

Anthony Beeson

Thirteen years ago he was given the job – in the entrance hall of the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery – of trying to piece together the countless fragments of the Orpheus Mosaic. It is a Roman pavement – discovered near Bath – featuring Orpheus playing his lyre with a fox leaping up towards him and surrounded by a ring of seven animals. Anthony has sent me the following personal account of his involvement with the mosaic. 

Anthony Beeson restoring Orpheus at Bristol Museum. © Anthony Beeson.

Anthony Beeson restoring Orpheus at Bristol Museum. © Anthony Beeson.

The mosaics were transferred in good condition to Bristol from Keynsham Station. The Orpheus Panel was sawn into the same segmental sections it is now conserved in and the geometric pavements into square or rectangular panels. Alas, I have no doubt that space was the problem in Bristol and lack of interest. They seem to have been left outside and collapsed under their own weight as frost got to them.
ASPROM (The Association for the Study and Preservation of Roman Mosaics) had been trying to discover what had happened to the important Orpheus Mosaic from Newton St Loe for a long time. A previous curator told us it had been thrown out and so was lost. In some ways the mosaics had been. Stanton had had great trouble with the Museum authorities in the 1930s as they were not interested in the floor. After he left the pieces he reassembled were removed.  They were sent to a corporation yard at Dovercourt Road.
Some sections were in a shed that burned down, I have been told, and others had had lorries drive over them in the yard. In the 1980s the mosaic was said to be lost and beyond repair. It took some time before we could track it down as, seemingly, nobody wanted to admit to having it.
Fortunately Sue Giles at the Museum said that they had the remains. They had been excavated and rescued by archaeologist John Bryant in the 1980s and they were in the stores at the Industrial Museum (now M-Shed). I have seen photographs of the mosaics looking like a small slag heap in the yard.
ASPROM arranged a Saturday viewing in 1993. We were faced with 10 palletts crammed with many hundreds of pieces. It soon became evident that all of the mosaics from Newton St Loe were present and mixed up in the crates, just jumbled in together.

Typical pieces during the sorting of hundreds of such artefacts. © Anthony Beeson

Typical pieces during the sorting of hundreds of such artefacts. © Anthony Beeson

Many of the pieces were literally quite black as they had been in a fire at Dovercourt Road. They had deteriorated seriously since Stanton laid out the main Orpheus Panel. The bull’s torso had been one very large piece in his day. Now it is in many pieces and some without any tesserae left. I later identified these pieces by the colour of the mortar.
I arranged two work party sessions with ASPROM members. First we had to clean the pieces. We had a couple of cleaning days with  members to get the really filthy pieces clean. It was no good trying to identify pieces when one just had a totally black surfaces. As we cleaned them anything that looked like it was figurative work went on one side. One gets to know what is geometric and figurative work by the shape of the tesselation.
After that, because I was based in Bristol, I started working on my own sorting out and identifying figurative work from geometric work. Some pieces were only about three tesserae across. Others had lost all tesserae but the mortar gave the game away.

The border to the Orpheus panel. © Anthony Beeson

The border to the Orpheus panel. © Anthony Beeson

I would photograph pieces that looked interesting and then at home pour over copies of the black and white photographs  Stanton took of the animals. By chasing  oddly shaped tesserae with a jeweller’s eyeglass, I could often identify where a small piece had come from on a figure, and could identify where bits fitted in the jigsaw.
I worked a lot at home as it was sometimes a palarver to arrange a visit at first. Unfortunately I was not allowed to use the coloured Marsh tracing  made before the pavement was lifted as it was too fragile, so my aids were all black and white.
The Museum had had a project getting the Marsh tracing copied in black and white by young people some time before but unfortunately when I came to try and use it it was too inaccurate in detail and scale to be of any use. It would have been better had they spent the money on a detailed coloured photographic copy. To my astonishment they didn’t have any coloured photographs of it at all when I asked and they took one of mine that I had made of part of it during the tracing.
The coloured postcard.

The coloured postcard. © Anthony Beeson

Fortunately I also had a coloured postcard of the central figure that was issued in the 1930s. Then I started to identify which figures the figurative bits came from and sorted out pieces from the other floors. I managed to find most pieces of the bear and the stag early on and these were exhibited in the 1990s when we had a conference in Bristol from the British Archaeological Association.

In 1999 the Museum contacted ASPROM to ask for me to put the Orpheus Mosaic together for the Millenium, and liased with our Hon Secretary, Steve Cosh . Unfortunately Steve did not tell them about the geometric borders to this mosaic so, although I had these, they could not be shown. I gladly agreed to do the project when I was assured that the mosaic would be treasured afterwards and that it was not just an “event”.
I got transfered from the library for a couple of days a week to work on the pieces in the Industrial Museum. The Museum kindly made some wooden pallets with rough drawings of the animals inked on them so I could lay the bits out and then they could be transferred to the sandpit at the Museum when I went there in May. Thus l started to lay out the pieces on boards the Museum had had made.

Identifying pieces in the old Industrial Museum store. © Anthony Beeson

Identifying pieces in the old Industrial Museum store. © Anthony Beeson

In May the pieces were transfered to the Museum and I continued the work in public, first removing the pieces from the boards on to the sand. Unfortunately there were more pieces of the mosaics still at the Industrial Museum and just before the project closed in November I learned of more pieces in one of the Bond warehouses. Whether the pieces are still in these locations I am unsure. My chum Sheena Stoddard who was curator of Fine art arranged for some of the pieces still in the Industrial museum to be brought up for me by carrier.
As feared, the sand pit was not big enough to show the decorative border unfortunately, but this nearly all of this remains and certainly should be attached if the floor is ever seen again in public. My first great problem was that the museum had not provided a walkway to get to the centre of the sandpit. Fortunately Roger Vaughan from the  Geology department arranged for a long ramp that I had seen hanging on the wall in the stores to be transferrred and it was ideal.

The mosaic taking shape. © Anthony Beeson

The mosaic taking shape. © Anthony Beeson

 At the end of the season I discovered that Stanton had reversed the guilloche border by mistake, and following his photographs so had I. The border should be turned 180 degrees so the corner that is now at top left should actually be bottom right. The clue was in a couple of red tesserae but not having colour images of the tracing to work with I just did not spot it.
Anthony Beeson showing Steve Cosh pieces that he had sorted.

Anthony Beeson showing Steve Cosh pieces that he had sorted.

Most of the other mosaic floors from the villa also remain. I sorted the pieces out and labelled them and boxed them so that future workers will know what goes with what. I think that I placed between 85-90% of the main floor. I suspect that more pieces exist in the museum store but have come adrift from their fellows. The Museum dismantled the floor in November which was a pity but they needed the space for another do.

Fortunately the pieces of the Orpheus Pavement are now safe. The Museum arranged for special shelving for them. They are kept in the same sawn sections that they were originally brought from Keynsham in. The other mosaics from the site will one day pay for reassembling. Bristol has several mosaics in store including two still rolled up from Cirencester. One is a splendid mosaic from Brislington but only the central Cantharus panel is ever shown.
Pulteney Weir to power Christmas lights?

Pulteney Weir to power Christmas lights?

 

Well it’s a novel way of making a point – about how we’ve ignored the River Avon’s potential – but sustainable energy experts on the newly-formed River Regeneration Trust  reckon the waters flowing over Pulteney Weir could be used to illuminate the Bath Christmas lights. Its a source of hydro-electric power which could do the festive job if local people like the idea, and planning permission can be granted in time.

The waters of the River Avon in full winter flood at Pulteney Bridge.

The waters of the River Avon in full winter flood at Pulteney Bridge.

The device is almost silent, and can be produced in appropriate colours for a World Heritage Site and conservation area such as Bath.

A working example at Freshford has proved so successful that it produces above projected levels of electricity and requires minimal running costs and maintenance.

One of the River Regeneration Trust experts, Philip Challinor, said:

‘The aim is to position the micro hydro electric power turbines and generators within the existing concrete and steel structure at Pulteney Weir in a way that minimises their visual impact’.

The flood defence scheme and sluice gate would be retained, whilst providing visual improvements to the existing 1970s flood defence system.

Cllr Sarah Bevan, also involved with the Trust, added:

‘With a lot of work on the visual impact, and widespread community engagement, this clean energy-creating screw could power the Recreation Ground, the Christmas lights and still feed into the National Grid.’

Local ward Councillor Manda Rigby concluded

‘I welcome the Trust floating this idea as a potentially good example of awareness of climate change and the need to harness natural sources of energy with minimal impact on the city’s heritage charm’.

Mr Bowler’s lost eggs!

Mr Bowler’s lost eggs!

The Museum of Bath at Work.

The Museum of Bath at Work.

 

The Museum of Bath at Work is organising an Easter Fair of its own next Saturday – March 30th – from 10.30 am through to 4pm. There will be craft and vintage stalls, cakes and books, guided tours and talks AND  you can let the children go off on the trail of Mr Bowler’s lost easter eggs.  Fun for all l would say!

For more information contact Stuart Burroughs at

Museum of bath at work julian road bath ba1 2rh 01225 318348 or mobaw@hotmail.com

 

 

 

Orpheus – the full story!

Orpheus – the full story!

Elsewhere within the Virtual Museum is a lengthy piece about Keynsham and its Roman past. I mentioned a wonderful mosaic ‘pavement’ discovered at Newton St Loe during the construction of Brunel’s Great Western Railway. After being displayed at Keynsham Railway Station for some time it ended up in the care of the City Museum and Art Gallery at Bristol.

Anthony Beeson restoring Orpheus at Bristol Museum. © Anthony Beeson.

Anthony Beeson restoring Orpheus at Bristol Museum. © Anthony Beeson.

In fact my good friend Anthony Beeson spent a lengthy period putting this giant jig-saw-like puzzle together in the Museum and Art Gallery some years ago. I wondered what had happened to it since. I am grateful to Gail Boyle – who is Senior Curator of Archaeology at Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives for sending me a detailed history.

“A large Roman villa was discovered during the construction of the Great Western Railway in 1837 at Newton St. Low near Bath. One of these (mosaics discovered within the villa) shows Orpheus charming a circle of wild animals and may be the earliest of only nine such illustrations identified as such in Britain – dating from the late third to early fourth century AD.

The story of the mosaic discovery and recovery is as beguiling as the floor itself. Brunel entrusted a young trainee civil engineer, T.E.M.March, with the recording and lifting of two of the mosaics for a museum he had in mind – but which never materialised. The pavement was subsequently lifted and re-laid at Keynsham Railway Station.

It remained there until 1851 when, for some unknown reason, it was decided an unsuitable place for Roman relics and offered to the Bristol Institution, a forerunner of Bristol City Museum.

So began a series of events that led to the mosaic’s almost complete fragmentation. It’s possible that once collected the mosaic remained stored away. Museum premises changed several times and repeated moves to different stores may well have taken their toll. By 1899, the museum was full and much kept in store – especially antiquities. By 1906 it was thought completely lost. We have no idea as to the method used to lift the mosaic from the station but it appears to have been done without finesse!

In the 1930s, the assistant Curator of Archaeology, G.R.Stanton, recognised what he had found in store and laid it out in the basement. The mosaic was already highly fragmented. Stanton took record shots which, along with Marsh’s archive given to thew museum by a relative in 1936, proved invaluable to our project.

There is scant evidence as to what happened next. The war intervened and the mosaic appears to have been packed away…. again! During the 1960s its transfer to Bath was suggested but, at that time, Bristol was to have a brand new museum and the idea was refused. Orpheus was sent to several secondary stores eventually ending up in L-shed – stored in a far from ideal series of pallets and crates.

In 1992, members of the Association for the Study and Preservation of Roman Mosaics (ASPROM), began the painstaking process of identifying fragments of the mosaic. Their work proved that more of it survived intact than anyone realised. The first opportunity to display one small part of the mosaic came in the mid 1990s when The British Archaeological Association held their meeting in Bristol. Two of the animal figures and some of Marsh’s archive was put on display.

In 1999, l suggested we try to display the whole mosaic providing we could get ASPROM to help us! This resulted in the mosaic being re-assembled in the public eye between July and December of 2000. The mosaic literally grew before everyone’s eyes.

(NB. This was the task Mr Anthony Beeson carried out!)

At the end of the display period it was easy to split the mosaic up into its constituent panels and they were transferred to a new permanent home, on shelves, in the basement. This now allows for continued easy access for all whilst keeping the individual pieces in their relative positions.

At some point we would obviously like to get the floor consolidated and on permanent display but, given the demands on our current resources, this will not be for the forseeable future (although it is possible that we will be able to display it as an adjunct to a major exhibition we are working on which opens this September.)

The mosaic is so fragmentary it would be impossible for us to send it anywhere without a huge and very expensive conservation programme but,if one could be found, we might be open to suggestions.’

Thanks for that Gail. Maybe B&NES would like to get a ‘developer’ to pay for it to be conserved and brought back and installed – with the other stored mosaics found in the Keynsham area – in the space being allocated alongside the new town Library!

Puzzle in Parsonage Lane

Puzzle in Parsonage Lane

Spring not exactly busting out all over - as yet!

Spring not exactly busting out all over – as yet!

There’s a real feeling today of Spring being held back by this cold and literally blasted weather. A real seasonal tension being played out here on the lawns of the Macdonald Bath Spa Hotel. In Pulteney Street l saw a woman clutching a little pot of sunshine, between her hands,  to take home and brighten her grey day. Tiny narcissus bulbs with flowers glowing yellow on this dark and winter-gripped day.

What does 'B.C' mean?

What does ‘B.C’ mean?

Enough poetics. While l was there l noticed someone had carved initials above the house number over the front door at number 48. Who or what was ‘B.C.’ l wonder?

The muddy way in to the Holburne Museum from Sydney Gardens.

The muddy way in to the Holburne Museum from Sydney Gardens.

Have to say l wonder why the Holburne Museum continues to keep its gate into Sydney Gardens unlocked. The entrance to the museum’s grounds is an almost impassable giant patch of mud.

The ornate windows and doorway in Parsonage Lane.

The ornate windows and doorway in Parsonage Lane.

Walking down Cheap Street – which means market by the way – l glanced into Parsonage Lane and noticed – for the first time ever –  a beautifully carved window and doorway  with two cherubs holding up a wreath above on the left hand side of this narrow street. An architectural mixture of classical and baroque. Does anyone know its history?

A closer view of the cherubs!

A closer view of the cherubs!

Heading up Lansdown Hill another example of faded Victorian street advertising. What exactly was the Old Red House? This building on River’s Street is not that colour, but it does seem to have been the local branch of a business established in 1798! Another puzzle that – hopefully – someone can help me with.

The Old Red House?

The Old Red House?

Abbey Green-er!

Abbey Green-er!

New turf beneath the Abbey Green tree.

New turf beneath the Abbey Green tree.

Out in a rather wet and cold Bath today but cheered by the new turf that has been laid underneath the still leafless tree in the middle of the little square that is Abbey Green.  It was originally the site of the monks’ bowling green and is one of the more secluded urban spaces in Bath.

A dedicated Cheap Street route for cyclists!

A dedicated Cheap Street route for cyclists!

Elsewhere at the High Street end of Cheap Street the new pedestrian paving is also including a route for cyclists it seems. The newly laid stones have  bike symbols showing a designated space.