Knock, knock.

Knock, knock.

From an Anglo-centric point of view the most famous door in our island realm has got to be the black and shiny one that fronts the Prime Minister’s official London residence at  10 Downing Street.

©Wikipedia

©Wikipedia

When it comes to watching the political comings and goings – during important events in our nation’s history – you may have noticed (as such things are photographed and televised) that it is a lion’s head door knocker that is grasped and used by whoever is announcing their presence and wanting to gain entry.

A lion’s head has got to be a popular subject for such a piece of door furniture . I have spotted many here on the imposing streets of Georgian Bath.

A Bath lion knoxker!

A Bath lion door knocker!

Black iron or shiny brass – they stare out both fiercely and proudly from their lofty perch above each individual threshold.

Door knockers appear in every culture but l was interested to learn that in Ancient Greece slaves were often assigned to answer doors and were chained to the portal in order to prevent them from running away.

The predecessor of door knockers were short iron bars – attached to these chains – which were used as “rappers.”

It appears that the lion’s head design also existed for door knockers in ancient Greece.

In 1942  the late American Professor of Archaeology Sterling Dow – a leading expert on Greek history of the 5th and 4th centuries BC – mentioned some “heavy handsome lion’s-head door knockers…which escaped the sack by Philip in 348 BC.”

So, what’s the significance of lion’s head door knockers? Did they symbolize anything, or were they just decorative?  Well it seems lions held symbolism in lots of ancient cultures, and often embodied power and strength.

The Lions Gate at Mycenae

The Lions Gate at Mycenae

It’s likely that lion’s head door knockers were intended to serve the same symbolic function as the lion statues which decorated the gates of the Mycenaean citadel (Lion Gate at Mycenae, c. 1250 BCE).

These intimidating stone creatures serve as guardian beasts for the city, as well as symbolizing strength and power.

In terms of the more recent British Empire they remain as guardians – and symbols of our now faded imperial power – around such things as  Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square and in front of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

The lions outside the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

The lions outside the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

I think it is fair to see the same purpose being fulfilled by lion’s head door knockers, which rest on the doors (i.e. gates) as guardians of the hearth.

In the Middle Ages they took on gruesome faces such as gargoyles and dogs – as well as lions.

Images it was thought would ward off evil spirits from the home.

Dragon door knockers at Cizre Great Mosque.

Dragon door knockers at Cizre Great Mosque.

East – as well as West – used the same device.

The doors of the Cizre-Great Mosque in Anatolia in Turkey – which was built in 1160 – hold two dragon door knockers.

There are lions and dragons in China and just look at the lion-bodied Sphinx guarding the Great Pyramids of Giza.

The 'Ring of Mercy' on the Cathedral St Maria in Augsburg, Germany.

The ‘Ring of Mercy’ on the Cathedral St Maria in Augsburg, Germany.

There was apparently no need for guardian figures at the door to a church. It was thought the holy water in the baptismal font just inside was enough to ward off evil.

However some church doors had something called the ‘sanctuary knocker’ – a large ornamental hoop found on the door of a cathedral.

A Bath-based descendant of the 'sanctuary' knocker?

A Bath-based descendant of the ‘sanctuary’ knocker?

Under medieval English common law these instruments supposedly afforded the right of asylum to anybody who touched them.

By 1623 the laws permitting church sanctuary had been overturned by parliament.

However, the ‘church knocker’ is another popular contemporary choice – as is a hand-shaped device.

This is something often seen in Muslim countries and was thought to symbolise the hand of Fatima – daughter of the Prophet – which protected the house from evil and was also a way to show that the occupants of that house were followers of the Muslim faith.

'Hand of Fatima'

‘Hand of Fatima’

It was also assumed that there were different hand knockers – one male and one female – as it was considered inappropriate for the woman of the home to open the door to a man.

Therefore visitors would use the knockers according to their gender. Each knocker would make a different sound so the woman of the house would know whether or not she should open the door.

A touch of Art Nouveau

A touch of Art Nouveau.

 

A Victorian love of ornamentation and expression brought forth a plethora of different shapes and subjects for knockers.

The head of a goddess is another popular choice

The head of a goddess is another popular choice in Bath.

Some to bring a smile to the face of the visitor waiting outside and others reckoned to bring good luck inside – every time the door was opened – such as horseshoes, stars, suns and flowers.

Overall a grand setting and a solid door calls for a grand gesture – despite the fact the electric doorbell has been around for quite a while now.

The bell might do the job of announcing your presence but there is no real connection – via metal hitting metal – between the visitor and the householder. No link with the portals of the past.

Is this Jane Austen herself doing he greeting?

Is this Jane Austen herself greeting visitors to this Bath house?

Doorways from public to private. Brass and iron guardians of gateways linking people and different worlds.

Do look out for unusual door knockers and let the Virtual Museum know what you have found.

This Museum is also grateful to anyone who wants to add to this brief look at the history of the humble door knocker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bit of theatre at Cleveland Pools

A bit of theatre at Cleveland Pools

Performing Arts students have had the honour of taking centre stage at Bath’s beautiful 200-year-old Georgian lido.

University of Bath Spa students at Cleveland Pools.

City of Bath College students at Cleveland Pools.

The students from City of Bath College were invited to perform their own work in the first theatrical performance at Cleveland Pools.

The Grade II listed waterside retreat, which is believed to be the oldest surviving open-air swimming baths in the UK, proved to be the perfect setting for the production by candlelight.

Students explored their thoughts on dying and experiences of bereavement through a series of short stories called ‘A Life Through Death’s Eyes.’

The 11 BTEC Level 3 students put on the public performance next to the main swimming pool and in the original changing rooms on Friday evening.

Members of the audience carried lanterns as students performed the piece of physical theatre, which incorporated singing, dancing, movement and monologue.

Performing Arts lecturer Dominique Fester said Cleveland Pools was one of Bath’s best kept secrets.

Another night-time performance shot.

Another night-time performance shot.

She said: “It was a lovely, intimate setting and everyone was really excited to be performing there. It was an honour to be the first performance, an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“The theatre piece lends itself to a surreal and abstract site. There was certainly a sinister side to the piece so it was all very atmospheric.

“We have been learning about physical theatre, in particular how you can use the body and movement to tell stories and share ideas.

“This piece of theatre was all the students own work, they were inspired by graveyards and had full control over the piece. They decided on the stories and how they were put together.

“I’m very pleased with how they did, I’m proud of them.”

The site, which is in the shape of a miniature Georgian crescent, is to be restored to its former glory after The Cleveland Pools Trust secured £4.1 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The restoration project will conserve the Georgian features and upgrade the facilities to allow for year-round swimming.

Students were invited to perform at Cleveland Pools after staff and students visited the site last month as part of the Heritage Open Days.

Student Bryony Blyth, 19, hopes to go on to study directing at university and said performing in such a historic venue was “a great experience.”

She said: “It was very exciting to perform in such a setting. We had worked so hard on everything and it all came together so well.

“It was about death but it wasn’t all doom and gloom. It was cleverly done so that people would learn new things. For example, it looked at suicide and touched upon the issues of forgiveness and letting go of guilt.”

To find out more about Performing Arts courses offered at City of Bath College, visit http://www.citybathcoll.ac.uk or call 01225 312191.

Improved pathway link for Beechen Cliff

Improved pathway link for Beechen Cliff

The city view from the top of Beechen Cliff.

The city view from the top of Beechen Cliff.

Bath & North East Somerset Council has started work to improve a path for walkers through the lower slopes of Beechen Cliff in Bath.

There is currently a well-trodden track through the woods that has been used for many years but it gets very muddy and slippery during wet weather, particularly the steep slope down to Alexandra Road, which often prevents people from using it.

The new path was the idea of the Beechen Cliff Steering Group, which includes local ward members, representatives of the National Trust and local residents’ groups.

A view down to Bath Spa station from the top of Beechen Cliff.

A view down to Bath Spa station from the top of Beechen Cliff.

Bath & North East Somerset Council agreed to fund the installation of a natural path made from crushed limestone with timber edges.

This will improve access through the woodland, though in some places there will have to be steps where it is too steep for a slope.

Cllr David Dixon (Lib Dem, Oldfield), Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “This is a great example of working with the local community to open up our beautiful woodlands, so that more people can use them. It will be similar to the paths that the National Trust has installed at Combe Down. There will be no excavations carried out in close proximity to trees so no tree roots will be damaged or severed.”

The path is due to be completed by December.

Keynsham history taking pride of place.

Keynsham history taking pride of place.

Looking down on the flooring taking shape.

Looking down on the flooring taking shape.

An exclusive look at an important ‘chunk’ of Keynsham’s heritage – finding a permanent home at

The mosaic panels being carefully shaped at Pixash Lane

The mosaic panels being carefully shaped at Pixash Lane

last after being installed – with pride of place – in the town’s new 34 million pound Civic Centre.

These panels of Roman mosaic came from the floor of a high-status villa – regarded by experts ‘as a minor Roman palace’- discovered on Durley Hill when the town cemetery was extended in the 1920’s.

They are certainly beautiful and have basically been in storage since being first lifted.

Having been moved to the Pixash Lane archaeological store the panels – which had been originally lifted from the ground and mounted on concrete with stone borders – were reshaped.

The panels arriving at the new Civic Centre

The panels arriving at the new Civic Centre

They have now been carefully transported to the new development where one by one they were carried through to be re-laid on the floor – like a giant jigsaw puzzle – coming together as a whole for the first time in nearly two thousand years.

The hoist being used to lower the mosaics into their final resting place.

The hoist being used to lower the mosaics into their final resting place.

The mosaics will be displayed in a specially constructed pit created in the floor and with a transparent covering.

The floor taking shape again for the first time in nearly two thousand years.

The floor taking shape again for the first time in nearly two thousand years.

Other artefacts from Keynsham’s past will also be displayed in an area that forms part of the new town library complex – opening on October 20th.

My thanks to Stephen Clews – Manager of the Roman Baths – for taking these images of the transporting and installation of the mosaic panels.

New trees for Bath commemorate Great War.

New trees for Bath commemorate Great War.

Two tree-planting events will take place in Bath and North East Somerset next month to commemorate the start of the Great War and local residents who died in it.

Cllr Sarah Bevan

Cllr Sarah Bevan

They have both been organised by Councillor Sarah Bevan with funding from Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Ward Councillors Initiative Fund, with arboricultural expertise from Adam Gretton at the charity More Trees for Bath and North East Somerset.

Cllr Bevan (Lib-Dem, Peasedown) said: “I am so pleased that I have been able to secure Ward Councillors Initiative funding for these two commemoration events for the Great War.

“It’s important to remember that local residents from Bath and North East Somerset, including the Peasedown area, fought and died for their country during the Great War and, during this centenary year, their loss should be commemorated with lasting memorials.”

The first ceremony takes place on Sunday, 2 November from 9 am to 12 noon at Eckweek Gardens in Peasedown St John, with permission from the landowner (Curo) and will involve local residents, Cllr Bevan, Adam Gretton and Steven Atkinson from Curo.

The second event takes place on Saturday 22 November, 9 am to 12 noon, at Orchard Way, Peasedown St John, and will see the planting of a replacement community orchard to commemorate the outbreak of The Great War and those who died. It will involve residents, Cllr Bevan, Adam Gretton and landowners Persimmon Homes West.

Heritage Open Week

Heritage Open Week

bath at work

Museum of Bath at Work.

Get set for 9 days of fun-filled activities at heritage sites across the district as Bath & North East Somerset Council co-ordinates another Heritage Open Week this October.

Heritage Open Week starts on Saturday 25 October and runs until Sunday 2 November with 20 organisations offering activities for all to enjoy.

Most activities you just turn up but there are some which you need to book in advance so pick up a brochure at your local Council Connect or search for “Heritage Open Week” on the Council website (www.bathnes.gov.uk) to find out more.

There’s a whole variety of things for families and people of all ages in the 2014 special celebration of Heritage in Bath and North East Somerset.

Councillor Ben Stevens (Lib-Dem, Widcombe), Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, said: “Bath & North East Somerset Council is proud to organise Heritage Open Week and celebrate the area’s distinctive array of heritage sites with this special programme of activities.

“These events can be a thoroughly rewarding experience as you can find out a lot about Bath and North East Somerset’s rich heritage – which might have otherwise been taken for granted. On top of that, there are lots of fun things to do and plenty of great ways to keep the kids entertained over the half term holidays.”
The Council’s Victoria Art Gallery opens with The Big Draw: Rhymn-ing Saturday 25 October (11am-3pm) which is an activity for all to get drawing and creating rhythmic patterns inspired by our city’s streets and landscape.

roman bathsFamily activities start at the Roman Baths on Monday 28 October and run every weekday from 10am – 1pm & 2pm – 4pm. We are creating pop up characters from our special hoard of 17,577 coins. This activity is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The fun continues at the Roman Baths on the afternoon of Tuesday 29 October and early evening from 4pm to 7pm with a special torch-lit event investigating treasure!

We will be hosting members of the British Museum and Wiltshire Conservation Unit who will be explaining how they look after archeological objects, including coins. You can also take the chance to get up close using one of the special microscopes to see Roman treasure in detail.

Dress of the Year 2013 is revealed at the Fashion Museum. April 2014. Photographer Freia Turland e:info@ftphotography.co.uk

Dress of the Year 2013 is revealed at the Fashion Museum. April 2014. Photographer Freia Turland e:info@ftphotography.co.uk

Family activities at the Fashion Museum run Tuesday 29, Wednesday 30 and Thursday 31 October in the afternoons (2pm-4pm) when we are creating figures with fashion flare. Make life-sized creations in the latest fashions.

New organisations taking part for 2014 are The Institute of Interdisciplinary Arts from the University of Bath who will be hosting ‘The Tour of all Tours’ book a place at their box office on 01225 386777 or try the Visit Bath visitor information centre.

Entry to the Council-run museums for their Heritage Open Week events is free of charge to Bath & North East Somerset Council residents upon production of a Discovery Card. Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. Please note that not all of the other museums are open free of charge for the whole week and admission charges apply to non-residents.
Other events to consider include:

· Museum of Bath at Work – Monday 27 October at 11am there will be a short film for all those steam-heads in the area. See Enginemen a film from 1959 on steam locomotive drivers.

· Radstock Museum – Monday 27 October 1.30pm are hosting a fossil hunt on a coal spoil heap. Meet at the museum.

· Back for a second year is the popular Falconry Demonstration at the American Museum in Britain on Tuesday 28th at 12.30pm.

A Hussar and a park called Henrietta.

A Hussar and a park called Henrietta.

pulteney bridge

Pulteney Bridge and Weir.

Pulteney Bridge – one of Bath’s most iconic architectural set-pieces – was apparently designed to lead to even greater glories.

Its construction across the River Avon opened up the Bathwick estate for the building of what was planned to be one of the most impressive Neoclassical urban set pieces in Britain.

The Laura Place fountain looking down Great Pulteney Street to the Holburne Museum.

The Laura Place fountain looking down Great Pulteney Street to the Holburne Museum.

Great Pulteney Street was intended to form the central spine of a vast geometrical layout of grand streets, squares and circuses.

However, the scheme by Thomas Baldwin to create a whole new town south of the river was hit by financial panic as a result of the French Revolution and the collapse of many banks – including the one funding Baldwin’s grand plans.

Today stubby little side roads like Sunderland and Johnstone Streets indicate where work was brought to a halt.

Peace and solitude in Henrietta Park

Peace and solitude in Henrietta Park

The project had been instigated in the late 18th century by Sir William Johnstone Pulteney on behalf of his heiress wife Frances and then, after her death, on behalf of their daughter, Henrietta Laura Pulteney –  the first Countess of Bath.

Laura’s name lives on in Laura Place – with its centrally place and summer-gushing fountain.

Her mother was due to be immortalised with a vast square named after her – leading off from Sunderland Street. Instead – with bankruptcy cutting off  funds – the land was not built upon.

Water and spectacular plantings.

Water and spectacular plantings.

Instead Henrietta’s name lives on as a much-love seven acre park  laid out and opened to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria of 1897.

Architectural historians may also love it for being a fine example of the original level of the Bathwick estate land before the likes of Baldwin arrived to change the contours.

The terraces of Great Pulteney Street nearby were raised up on extensive vaults above the meadows that once sloped down to the river to form a level surface for the monumental layout.

The park also contains the King George V Memorial Garden with lovely planting arranged around a central pool and fountain.

The memorial stone.

The memorial stone.

A marble inscription – mounted on stone – says Henrietta Park was presented to the City of Bath by Captain Francis Williams Forester of the 3rd Kings Own Hussars.

Henrietta Park

The badly faded park sign.

Apparently, Captain Forester inherited the vast Bathwick Estate in 1891, because he was the great-nephew of Harry George Vane Powlett, 4th Duke of Cleveland (1803-1891).

He was also President of the Bath Association Cricket Club at some time between 1891 and his death in 1944 and he passed some of the Bathwick Estate on to the club, and to other sports clubs in the area.

Another view of the creeper on the fence in front of the memorial stone  in Henrietta Park

The creeper on the fence in front of the memorial stone in Henrietta Park

His gift is recorded on a memorial stone which is badly in need of cleaning and it’s further obstructed from view behind a climber that has spread out on the fence in front of it.

The grounds are beautifully cared for by the Parks Department staff but it is sad to see – as it is elsewhere in the city – the main park sign looking faded and unloved.

The Alice Park sign.

The Alice Park sign.

It’s the same thing at Alice Park – further along the London Road.

A memorial plaque giving the history of Pulteney Bridge and subsequent restorations. Now difficult to read.

A memorial plaque giving the history of Pulteney Bridge and subsequent restorations. Now difficult to read.

I have just become aware recently of so many examples of signs relating to Bath’s history and heritage which are in need of cleaning and restoration.

The Beazer Garden Maze sign down by Pulteney Weir.

The Beazer Garden Maze sign down by Pulteney Weir.

Surely there is nothing wrong with feeling proud about where one lives and the efforts both now and in the past that have gone into delivering and maintaining something which benefits the city and its people.

The fades sign telling the Beau Nash story on what was Popjoy's Restaurant.

The faded sign telling the Beau Nash story on what was Popjoy’s Restaurant.

These signs have lost their ‘pride of place’ – their special prominence in our lives.

Don’t let them fade away.