Design agency award for Bath Spa student

Design agency award for Bath Spa student

Architectural design practice, MoreySmith, recently launched a competition challenging students to design a particular aspect of the former Carfax Hotel on Great Pulteney Street.

 The four shortlisted students – Georgie Rogers, Francesca Rossi, Emma Buckley and Jamie Devrell-Cameron.

The four shortlisted students – Georgie Rogers, Francesca Rossi, Emma Buckley and Jamie Devrell-Cameron.

Students on the Three Dimensional Design course (Idea Material Object, IMO) at Bath Spa University were shown the design plans for the hotel by the Bath-based design agency  and were challenged to design an element for the reception area of the hotel such as a desk, key fobs, reception bell, lighting, seating elements and umbrella stands.

Francesca Rossi was named the winner at a ceremony on Friday where she was also awarded a £500 grant to create her design, Magnetile, a magnetic key fob and installation.

Francesca Rossi

Francesca Rossi

The students’ design proposals were judged by MoreySmith founder, Linda Morey Smith and design associate, Lesley Kelly, the hotel property developer, GECO Properties UK Ltd and Kate Authers, Editor of Bath Life.

MoreySmith, which celebrates its 21st anniversary this year, launched the award in 2013 in an effort to support the industry’s future talent. Last year, students were asked to design a clothing rail and display solution for major online fashion retailer, ASOS. The 2013 award was jointly won by third year student, Thomas Riddell, and second year student, Josh Ino, now in his final year and taking part in this year’s competition.

Kate Authers, Lesley Kelly, Francesca Rossi, Linda Morey Smith and Glauc Cerri.

Kate Authers, Lesley Kelly, Francesca Rossi, Linda Morey Smith and Glauc Cerri.

Winning student, Francesca Rossi, said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed this live project and am elated to have won. We have all worked so hard, it’s inspiring that MoreySmith and IMO have combined to create this award – giving students unique opportunities and a better understanding of industry.”

Three Dimensional Design Course Leader, Shai Akram commented: “Working on external briefs gives our students an invaluable taste of professional experience. We help them address the delicate balance of answering a client’s needs while maintaining their own voice as creative thinkers of the future.”

Linda Morey Smith added: “We are delighted to align our practice with the city’s upcoming design talent. Last year’s ASOS project was all about designing for a national fashion brand but, this year, we felt it was absolutely relevant that students of Bath Spa University should have the opportunity to influence design in their local city. Engaging them with this project felt appropriate as the Carfax Hotel is situated on one of Bath’s best loved streets, Great Pulteney Street.

“It has been amazing to see the designs and creativity that we can expect from our future generation of designers. It has been an exciting process in finding the winning design which really impressed us and we hope to see Francesca’s design incorporated into our scheme.”

GECO Properties UK Ltd purchased the Grade I listed building, formerly known as the Carfax Hotel, from The Salvation Army in September 2013. The hotel, a trio of Georgian houses, is situated in one of the most historical areas of the city. The developer has commissioned MoreySmith to redesign the property and create an elegant, design-led contemporary boutique hotel, sympathetic to the location’s heritage. Works are expected to commence later this year with completion in late 2015.

The BA (Hons) Three Dimensional Design [Idea Material Object (IMO)] course is an experimental design course that seeks to explore ideas through objects, spaces and experiences. Creativity comes in many different forms and is often separated into categories such as ‘art’, ‘design’, or ‘craft’. IMO looks at all of these areas, and many others, as sources of inspiration – intentionally interlinking and overlapping between them. Over the three-year programme, students hone their design process and develop the skills to turn abstract ideas into physical outcomes.

Bath – the UK’s most walkable city?

Bath – the UK’s most walkable city?

Bath & North East Somerset Council will discuss the draft transport strategy for Bath at its meeting on Thursday November 13.

Traffic congestion on the London Road

Traffic congestion on the London Road

Getting around Bath aims to reduce congestion and allow people to move around more easily to support the long-term economic strategy for the area.

The Council will hear that the strategy has been endorsed by Sir Peter Hendy, Commissioner of Transport for London and President of the International Union of Public Transport, who lives in Bath and chairs the Bath Transport Commission.

He says: “Bringing about transport improvements and ones which support the Council’s spatial and economic development plans will always be a challenge in an historic and beautiful city like Bath, so it is vital to have this blueprint for the future. In delivering this strategy, we can ensure that the city is a great place to live and work, and equally welcoming to all visitors, whether on foot, bike, public transport or in a car.

“I applaud the work which Members of all parties have put into this consensual strategy; because of this, it will stand the test of time and be capable of guiding the Council and supporting the City’s challenging and ambitious strategy for housing and job growth in its Core Strategy.

“I am delighted that in the consultation, a significant majority have endorsed the vision of reducing congestion and increasing walking and cycling in the city centre. You can see how in London we have made significant progress with this approach and I look forward to seeing Bath achieve similar success in the future.”

The transport strategy was commissioned by the Council in April 2013, following extensive research and discussion with stakeholders. In addition there was a period of public consultation in June/July this year.

Getting Around Bath aims to:

· Support and enable economic growth, competitiveness and jobs
· Promote sustainable mobility
· Widen travel choice
· Widen access to jobs / learning / training
· Improve air quality and health, reducing vehicle carbon emissions
· Safeguard and enhancing the unique historic environment and World Heritage Site status
· Improve the quality of life in the city

Key proposals include: developing a walking/cycling strategy to make Bath the UK’s most walkable city; better management of HGVs in the city; continued expansion of Park and Ride sites and a new location for coaches to park after dropping off visitors in the bike

Cllr Caroline Roberts (LibDem, Newbridge), Bath & North East Somerset’s Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed towards this draft strategy. It has been well received and supported by the majority of those who responded to our consultation.

“Bath is an important World Heritage City – it’s vital that we look after the environment of the city whilst ensuring it’s a great place to live and work. This is an exciting time for Bath as we develop plans for the Bath Riverside Enterprise Area which will bring significant housing and jobs. We must get the transport right to allow these developments to work.”

If adopted, the strategy will be delivered through a wide range of projects which will be funded from various sources, including the Integrated Transport Capital grant (received annually from Government) and bids for additional monies from the Single Growth Fund managed by the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership. Having the agreed strategy will also enable the Council to target other funding opportunities.

You can see the strategy at

Canal, rail track and now a ‘ditch’ for Sydney Gardens?

Canal, rail track and now a ‘ditch’ for Sydney Gardens?

The sketch of a ditch approach to safety in Sydney Gardens

The sketch of a ditch approach to safety in Sydney Gardens. Click on all visuals to enlarge.


Here – roughly sketched on a piece of paper by an engineer from Network Rail – is the first indication of how the electrification of the Great Western line from London through to Bristol is going to impact on one of Bath’s much-loved heritage sites.

It’s the way the Company are hoping to satisfy health and safety requirements necessary around the installation of a high voltage power line – without completely destroying the look of its immediate surroundings as it passes through the green heart of Bath.

It was something l was shown at this week’s public consultation session held by Network Rail at Bath’s Guildhall. There are more monthly consultations to come.

People at this week's Network Rail consultation held at Bath Guildhall.

People at this week’s Network Rail consultation held at Bath Guildhall.

I’ll explain what the sketch implies in a moment – but first some background.

One hundred and seventy-five years ago the great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel drove his railway – in a theatrical flourish – through what was left of what had been a popular Georgian pleasure park.

For him it was a mere detail in a colossal undertaking to link Bristol with London in one of the biggest engineering projects of its time.

The existing low wall.

The existing low wall.

However he was keen to ensure that Sydney Gardens was both backdrop and auditorium for his smoke and steam-belching locomotives.

It was where people came to marvel at a new mechanical device that could out-run a horse.

Speed was the new wonder of the age and it could be experienced by those who could watch at close quarters as a combination of vapours and thundering pistons passed by in a whirl.

Network Rail has already started work on the electrification of the Great Western Main Line to enable the Intercity Express Programme which will provide more reliable services, 20 per cent more seats and reduce journey times between Bristol and London by up to 22 minutes.

It’s all part of a 7.5 billion pound modernisation of this historic rail route to the West.

That’ll happen during 2016 – with a continuation to Cardiff – via Bristol Parkway – by December 2017.

Network Rail say: ‘Our services are vital for the economy -1 bn of the 1.3 bn journeys made each year nationally are business trips or commuting. We know that increasing the number and frequency of trains across the region will help economic growth through supporting job creation and investment opportunities.’

Boarded information for those who attended the public consultation.

Boarded information for those who attended the public consultation.

How our electrified train service might look.

How our electrified train service might look.

It’s visionary stuff and more frequent, spacious, cleaner, greener and faster trains is something to look forward to. However there is no gain without pain. Though NR says Bath Spa station will remain open during the electrification  work – the closure of Box Tunnel for around six weeks to lower the track to enable pylons to run through it – will disrupt services.

Passengers will be bussed around the ‘obstacle’ to their continued rail travel – meaning longer journey times and busier roads for those living alongside the Box Tunnel ‘by-pass’ route.

During that period NR will also turn their attention to the section of track passing through Sydney Gardens. It is all that is left of a Georgian pleasure garden – constructed by Charles Harcourt Masters in 1795 – which attracted up to four thousand people a day at the height of its popularity.

Visitors who came to enjoy the waterfalls, thatched pavilions, alcoves, labyrinth, grotto, swings, carriage rides, concerts and outdoor dining that the 6 hectare site offered.

sydney gardens

Youngsters waiting for a passing train in Sydney Gardens.

The Kennet and Avon Canal cut it in two in 1799 and the railway sliced through another portion in 1841. In both instances bridges were built to enhance and lessen the impact of the industrial scars on the otherwise green surface.

Today the gardens are a public park but although trains are bigger – and some might say dirtier – it has always been possible to acknowledge them passing through. Many a train driver still responds to a wave from youngsters, held up by their parents, with a blast of their onboard hooter.

Artists impression of electrified route through Sydney Gardens

Artists impression of electrified route through Sydney Gardens

However with a high-voltage power line comes responsibilities. There has to be a barrier constructed between railway line and spectators in the park.

Will it mean ending that human ‘link’ Brunel built into this section? This is where the engineer’s rough sketch comes into play.

Seems the line through Sydney Gardens will be lowered by sixteen inches but the stone balustrade which lines its route will not be touched.

The sketch of a ditch approach to safety in Sydney Gardens

The sketch of a ditch approach to safety in Sydney Gardens

Instead – on the lawn side of this barrier – a moat will be dug to effectively heighten the fence that divides speeding trains from spectators. It just means to get a view of the passing trains you will have to stand further back.

In a way its a bit like the ‘Ha Ha’ John Wood Junior constructed in front of the Royal Crescent. An obstacle that won’t be seen by those in the park. Though – hopefully – there will be some indication of its presence to stop people falling into the pit!

There are still issues to be addressed – like nearby tree roots and how deep the foundations are under Brunel’s original stone balustrade – but it does seem to be an ingenious way of offering protection without destroying the original theatrical idea of viewing the passing traffic.

One of the stone bridges crossing the line in Sydney Gardens.

One of the stone bridges crossing the line in Sydney Gardens.

Dealing with the bridges cross the railway in the park is – l am afraid – not quite so ingenious.

The decorative stonework has apparently been targeted by late-night revellers relieving themselves onto the track below. Not to be recommended with a live power line beneath you.

So screening will have to be installed. Solid up to a point and then some variety of ‘see-through’ above it. The actually ‘look’ of this safety measure remains very much in planning.

Brunel's iron bridge

Brunel’s iron bridge

Network Rail is split into various departments. For example, engineering is a different division to bridge maintenance.

Brunel’s last remaining iron bridge on the Great Western line between Bristol and London happens to cross in Sydney Gardens. It could certainly do with some restoration. It’s all down to money of course but here’s hoping something can be done.

Network Rail have more public consultations lined up at Bath’s Guildhall. There is one on Tuesday, December 2nd and another on the 8th of January next year. There will be more monthly sessions organised all the way through to when work starts in the Bath area next summer.




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.



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.








Threat to Bath spa waters

Threat to Bath spa waters

Bath could lose its spa-water ‘life-blood’ if fracking is allowed around the city – according to the leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, Councillor Paul Crossley.

Cllr Paul Crossley Leader, B&NES

Cllr Paul Crossley
Leader, B&NES

Addressing the Shale Gas Environmental Summit in London, he warned that shale gas operations and hydro fracturing – commonly known as ‘fracking’ – could damage the supply of water to the Hot Springs.

“The World Heritage City of Bath is home to the UK’s only natural Hot Springs. I have deep concerns about the fracking process and the possible damage to the supply of water the springs and the knock-on impact on the city as a major tourist attraction,” says Cllr Crossley.

“The springs are the life blood of this city, which is cherished worldwide. In economic terms, the city and region rely heavily on a tourist industry which is worth an estimated £380m annually to Bath alone and which employs 10,000 people.”

He will tell the conference that:
· The value of Roman Baths alone to the local economy is £92m per annum (based on a Bath University – 2010 Economic Impact Assessment)
· Bath Spa attracted 260,000 visitors in 2013 generating an additional £14m to the local economy
· 61% of visitors to the Spa said it was their main reason for visiting Bath

The Pump Room fountain supplying  spa water for drinking.

The Pump Room fountain supplying spa water for drinking.

Independent research carried out by the British Geological Survey has concluded that extraction of unconventional gas within the zone of influence of the Hot Springs of Bath has the potential to damage the delicate fracture-led delivery system of the hot water.

Cllr Crossley emphasised that Bath & North East Somerset Council is not opposed to the concept of shale gas extraction: “Our concern is wholly focussed on the potential damage to the Hot Springs and is backed by research findings.

“As such, we are not asking that Bath is made an exception in policy terms, but rather that a policy of pursuing shale gas extraction in appropriate areas recognises that for technical reasons it is wholly inappropriate to issue licences within the Bath Hot Springs catchment area.”

The Shale Gas Environmental Summit provides a platform for various industry representatives including operators, environmentalists, campaigners, NGOs, academics and researchers to come together and discuss the environmental aspects of shale gas extraction and production.

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 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.