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