Spend lunchtime with history

Spend lunchtime with history

Leading experts will deliver a series of free lunchtime talks throughout October organised by Bath & North East Somerset Council on three of the leading history makers connected with the city of Bath.

The Bath Guildhall

The Bath Guildhall

The talks will coincide with the current street exhibition: History Makers of Bath.

All sessions will be held at the Guildhall, from 1.10pm to 1.45pm, and will feature three key figures in the city’s history from the 18th century to the 20th century: George Stothert (8 October), Sidney Horstmann (15 October) and Ralph Allen (22 October).

George Stothert, Sidney Horstmann and Ralph Allen are familiar names to many people in Bath, but why? The answer is they were all significant and innovative entrepreneurs of their times.

Stuart Burroughs, the Curator of the Museum of Bath at Work, will lead talks on George Stothert and Sidney Horstmann, while Dr Amy Frost, the Architectural Curator at the Bath Preservation Trust, will deliver a talk on Ralph Allen.

The outdoor exhibition board featuring Sidney Horstman.

The outdoor exhibition board featuring Sidney Horstman.

history makers of bath

George Stothert’s board on display at Kingston Parade.

Councillor Ben Stevens (Lib-Dem, Widcombe), the Council’s Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, said: “Shining the spotlight again on these history makers will allow residents of modern Bath to appreciate the contributions these figures made to the city we know today.

“All of the lunchtime talks will take place at the Guildhall in the centre of Bath and will therefore fit in easily with trips to other sites of historical and cultural interest in the city. Booking in advance is not required.”

George Stothert co-founded the engineering company Stothert and Pitt in 1785. He was a pioneer in his field, building his business from an ironmongery company to an engineering firm producing goods ranging from household cast iron items to dock cranes.

Sidney Horstmann was a 20th century automotive engineer and businessman; he developed a coil spring suspension system, called the Horstmann bogie, which was used in many Western combative tanks. His suspension bogie system is still used in vehicles and his car manufacturing company is highly regarded to this day.

Ralph Allen’s spirit lives on in the school named after him in commemoration of his contribution to 18th century Bath. A man with an eye for an opportunity, he reformed the British postal system, making it both more efficient and profitable.

In a second career, he acquired the stone quarries at Combe Down and Bathampton. The Bath Stone used in building the Georgian city we know today made his second fortune, enabling him to construct the Palladian mansion at Prior Park which is now home to the Prior Park School. Ralph Allen is still known for his philanthropy.

Award winning Journalist to lecture at Museum of Bath at Work

Award winning Journalist to lecture at Museum of Bath at Work

Mark Palmer with former employees at Wells

Mark Palmer with former employees at Wells

Mark Palmer a writer and editor at the Daily Mail is presenting the prestigious Annual Michael Cross Lecture at the Museum of Bath at Work on Wednesday 10th September on the history of the world famous Clarks Shoe business and the family which established it.

Mr Palmer's latest book on the history of Clarks Shoes

Mr Palmer’s latest book on the history of Clarks Shoes

Author of the definitive study on the company -‘Made to Last-The Story of Clarks Shoes’ Mr Palmer’s lecture, entitled ‘Family Values and Family Business’ will look at the history of firm and the dynamic of business and family relations.

Many Bathonians worked for Clarks either at their large Rush Hill factory or at the shoe making machinery business C & J Clarks in Oldfield Park.

Lecture begins at 7.00 p.m. with light refreshments from 6.30 p.m. and tickets are £7.50 from the Museum of Bath at Work on 01225 318348 or mobaw@hotmail.com.

For more details please contact Stuart Burroughs at the Museum of Bath at Work

Pools Winner!

Pools Winner!

The oldest surviving open-air swimming baths in the UK are set to be fully restored and reopened to the public, thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

 Celebrations indeed! L to R  Adviser Mary Sabina Stacey, Trustees Paul Simon, Ina Harris, Ainslie Ensom, Sally Helvey and Ann Dunlop.

Celebrations indeed! L to R Adviser Mary Sabina Stacey, Trustees Paul Simon, Ina Harris, Ainslie Ensom, Sally Helvey and Ann Dunlop.

The Grade II* listed Cleveland Pools, a 200-year-old Georgian lido in the historic city of Bath, has secured earmarked funding of £4.1million including a development grant of £366,200, it was announced today.

Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies, who has been a long-time supporter and ambassador for the project, said: “This is such good news. After hard work and sheer perseverance by the Trust and its advisers it’s looking like we will have a magnificent and unique pool in Bath that we can all enjoy for a proper outdoor swim.”

Heritage regeneration specialists, The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, provided the Trust with expert advice and guidance on making the application to the HLF. Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, said:
“We’re absolutely delighted with this news. It’s a momentous step forward for Cleveland Pools after years of hard work by everyone involved. In the current hot weather the cooling waters of the Cleveland Pools would be a popular and attractive asset for everyone in Bath.  We are now finally close to making that happen.

Cllr David Bellotti, Cabinet member for Community Resources

Cllr David Bellotti, Cabinet member for Community Resources

Meanwhile, Cllr David Bellotti (LibDem, Lyncombe), B&NES Cabinet Member for Community Resources, said: “This is excellent news. The Council had previously earmarked £200,000 to match fund the restoration of the Cleveland Pools – we will now meet with the Trust to discuss the next steps.”

The pools first opened in 1815 following the Bathwick Water Act which prohibited nude bathing in the river. Laid out in the shape of a miniature Georgian crescent, the site includes two bathing pools, the original changing rooms and a private ladies pool.

They are one of only a small number of pre-Victorian sporting buildings to survive nationally and it is believed that the Cleveland Pools could be the oldest swimming baths of its type in Western Europe.IMG_2159

The site closed to the public in 1978 and after finally closing altogether in 1984 was briefly used as a trout farm. It has since deteriorated but although on English Heritage’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ register, the main features remain remarkably intact.

The restoration project, run by community group The Cleveland Pools Trust, will conserve the Georgian features and upgrade the facilities to allow for year-round swimming and other activities. Expert advice has been provided by English Heritage and the Prince’s Regeneration Trust.

When complete, the site will include a 25-metre swimming pool, children’s splash area, pavilion and café. The pools will be naturally treated and heated using the latest technology.

Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: “There’s nothing quite like swimming in the great outdoors, and it’s something which so many of us really enjoy, whatever our age. Cleveland Pools are believed to be the oldest surviving example of a public swimming pool in England. They have a fantastic story behind them that provides a glimpse into how our ancestors spent their leisure time, and we’re delighted to support this important project.’P1090568

Ann Dunlop, Chairman of the Cleveland Pools Trust, said: “The trust and its many supporters will be over the moon that our campaign to keep the pools in the public eye, while developing a sustainable plan working with experts from both English Heritage and The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, has finally got the green light from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Huge thanks go to the Prince’s Regeneration Trust for their expert advice and support in helping make this happen.”

The HLF grant will cover 85% of the total costs. The Trust are now looking to secure the remaining money and are hoping that people will be moved to donate to make the project a reality.

Ann told the Virtual Museum that they had recently discovered some amazing history about the characters and events which have taken place over the Pools long history and that – along with its unique architecture, the tranquil setting and the soon-to-be-reinstated river pontoon allowing people to arrive by boat – they at last felt they were really on to an all-round winner.lido

“The HLF grant is, of course, the icing on the cake and we feel so proud that they have finally shown their faith in us.

We cannot be complacent about what happens next and we shall begin straight away to activate our working groups and to approach businesses, foundations and philanthropists for sponsorship so that we can get stuck into the development stage.

We will be interviewing for a Project Director in September to get the ball rolling on governance during this process.

We all hope you will continue your support in whatever way you can so that we finally realise the dream of bringing open-air swimming back to everyone in Bath and beyond.”

New Keynsham Civic Centre to include solar power

New Keynsham Civic Centre to include solar power


Bath & North East Somerset Council is on track to complete its £34 million redevelopment of Keynsham by the Autumn.

The Council is working with the local community to revitalise the town with new jobs, new homes, and a revamped town centre. Plans include making better use of the existing town hall site to improve the town centre and encourage more private sector investment into Keynsham.

The new Keynsham Civic Centre

The new Keynsham Civic Centre

A Sainsbury’s Local was last month confirmed as the first letting for the development, and will create 20 to 25 full and part job opportunities. The Council has confirmed that Loungers cafe has agreed to take the unit behind Sainsbury’s, overlooking the park and a further unnamed occupier is relocating from Riverside. The Council is proactively marketing the remaining units and negotiations are underway on a number of these.

The new buildings will be known as the Keynsham Civic Centre, and will incorporate Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Offices, the One Stop Shop and retail units. The Council has also confirmed that a new street being created between the buildings will be called Market Walk, which links to the history of this part of the town, as well as looking to the future when there will be market stalls at this location.

Keynsham Civic Centre will be amongst the most energy-efficient in the country, with work to install one of the largest council-owned solar panel systems in the UK now completed.

Solar panels being installed at Keynsham.

Solar panels being installed at Keynsham.

The 750 solar panels – which cover an area equivalent to more than four tennis courts – will generate over 230,000 units of electricity each year, equivalent to the annual energy use of almost 70 homes. This will benefit the Council by around £50,000 every year, and reduce annual CO2 emissions by 125 tonnes. Over 20 years the benefits are expected to reach almost £1.5 million, and avoid CO2 emissions of 2,355 tonnes.

Cllr David Bellotti (LibDem, Lyncombe), the Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Resources, said: “This is a very exciting time for Keynsham and I have no doubt that this development will provide a real boost to the local economy with the creation of new jobs, better shopping facilities and a more attractive town centre.

“It is also a key part of the Council’s contribution to the district-wide carbon emission reduction target of 45% by 2026. Our Council office will be an ultra-low carbon building that has virtually no heating and cooling requirement because it will have natural ventilation and high levels of insulation. By generating our own solar energy on-site we will drastically reduce the building’s running costs and will also generate a stable income through the feed-in tariff.

“Not only will this benefit the environment, it will also save the Council and local taxpayers money which can be used to support essential frontline services.”

The development work is being carried out by Willmott Dixon while the solar installation was designed and installed by Solarsense.

For more information on Bath & North East Somerset Council’s regeneration of Keynsham town Centre, visit: http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/keynshamregen.

The people behind the plaques.

The people behind the plaques.

Click on image to enlarge it.

Click on image to enlarge it.

The Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides is celebrating its 80th birthday with an additional series of free walking tours which celebrates some of the ‘celebrity’ names behind the bronze wall plaques dotted around the city.

Discover the secrets of some of Bath’s most famous former residents and why they deserved bronze wall plaques.

I have copied in their giveaway leaflet which has all the details.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Pulteney Weir from a different angle.

Pulteney Weir from a different angle.


The remains of the East Gate. Click on images to enlarge.

I have just taken a walk down one of Bath’s few remaining medieval pathways. It is the one that leads to the last surviving city gate on the east side of this once-walled city and out onto the River Avon. It lies – almost hidden – alongside the Empire Hotel and from it l stepped through a locked doorway into a little bit of Bath’s hidden history.

I was in the company of the leader of B&NES Council Cllr Paul Crossley and the Council’s Senior Project Manager Mike Gray.

We were on our way to view the spaces beneath Grand Parade and the roadway in front of the former hotel. It’s all part of the Colonnades that line the riverbank immediately to one side of Pulteney Bridge and Weir.

How the Colonnades would look when reopened.

How the Colonnades would look when renovated.

It’s an area the Council is close to getting an Ok to start redeveloping. It will open up this riverside walk at such an iconic point and also ‘rejuvenate’ them with new restaurants.

Fusing together – says the Council’s on-line proposal details as ‘ an attraction made up of a truly historic location with some of the most iconic landmarks – the River Avon and Pulteney Weir’……….’The restoration of Grand Parade Colonnades will provide public access to the historic Colonnades and Vaults below Grand Parade.’

The original river weir at this point once had fulling and corn mills on either bank. On the town centre side Newmarket Row was widened in 1890-95 to create Grand Parade and its long Tuscan colonnade of thirteen bays below next to the weir and extending around into Parade Gardens.

It was designed by the city council’s architect Charles Edward Davies – who also put up the old Empire Hotel nearby (1899-1901).

The empty vaults beneath Grand Parade

The empty vaults beneath Grand Parade

There are empty vaults below Grand Parade – from Parade Gardens to the Victoria Art Gallery and  beyond. Finding a commercial use for them will hep revitalise the area and open up an amazing viewing point for one of the city’s most iconic locations.

One of two proposed 'pods' for Grand Parade

One of two proposed ‘pods’ for Grand Parade

A developer has apparently been found and – if planning permission is given – work could start on a transformation this autumn.

One contentious point are the ‘pods’ that will be positioned on Grand Parade.

Two glass boxes given lift and stair access to the restaurants and walkways below.

The latest revision makes them look less like bus shelters. Glass has done its bit to help other bigger contemporary installations in the city.

Both the Holburne Museum extension and the Thermae Spa is coated with that reflective and light changing material.

Looking down on the present domed roof of the Indoor Market

Looking down on the present domed roof of the Indoor Market

Phase two of this development will consider extending the existing Indoor Market into the Guildhall car park and will examine ‘the possibilities and opportunities of providing themed and weekend markets on the High Street, and other locations within the city centre.’

Phase three will be what probably pays for all of this. Redeveloping Newmarket Row with retail and residential development. Probably the most contentious of all the phases!

Do click on the link below now to hear Cllr Paul Crossley telling me more about their plans for what most certainly is an amazing space.

The Council also wants your help with memories and hopeful photographs to prove a little bit of wartime history involving these underground vaults.





Meanwhile l bumped into some stone conservation experts starting repairs along the balustrade fronting Grand Parade.

Apparently as many as 70 of the stone pillars supporting the balustrade are in need of re-setting to prevent any being dislodged and crash through into the river or park.

One of the damaged stone pillars exposed again.

One of the damaged stone pillars exposed again.

The balustrade has come in for criticism just recently with boarding being erected to make the area safe. It is one of the most popular locations for visitors to stop and take pictures.

I am hearing that a proper restoration of the balustrade may be underway later in the year.

Playing the fool.

Playing the fool.


The re-displayed head of Minerva

The re-displayed head of Minerva

There is no doubt about it – Bath makes money out of its heritage. It can boast some of the best Roman remains in the country and is also home to the Uk’s only hot springs.

Add to that its assorted streets of breathtaking Georgian architecture and you can see why – in 1987 – UNESCO decided the city had earned a World Heritage status rating.

Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent

It was the internationally-recognised accolade that put the icing on a cultural cake that is greedily consumed annually by more than four million visitors and which generates an estimated 380 million pounds of tourist income a year.

I say Bath but this city does not have its own unitary status as a local authority – it’s part of a politically-created council called Bath and North East Somerset.

Two hundred and twenty square miles of B&NES-governed territory that  came into being in 1996 when another and bigger beast called Avon was put out of its misery. Bath had been a county borough – it’s own boss – from 1889 through to 1974.

While its coat of arms may not often fly from the Guildhall roof flagpole it is still a city very proud of its history and one that appears much keener these days to take care of its heritage.

The Roman Baths – as l have said – are a money-spinner – and help to trim the rates for every citizen. I have heard them described as  ‘a cash cow’ and without that annual bonus income – council tax would be  appreciably higher.

roman bathsI am a member of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides. A bunch of volunteers – well versed in local history – who for 80 years now have been taking visitors around the city to point out and explain the sights – without taking as much as a tip for their troubles.

We have a sense of pride in the place. The local authority knows the World Heritage status is good for business and so is the maintenance and upkeep of all the iconic sites – the Georgian set-pieces – that form the basis for that status being bestowed.

The past has to earn its place in the present these economically-stretched days while state-sponsored gambling helps fund repairs and restorations through the much grander-sounding Heritage Lottery Fund.

Here and there the lack of  public money is beginning to show. Boarding over some of the stone pillars forming the balustrade between the pavement of Grand Parade and Pulteney Weir and Parade Gardens below shows where erosion is making parts of that safety barrier unstable. It may or may not receive attention later this year.

Boarded up section at Pulteney Weir

Boarded up section at Pulteney Weir

Plans to do much-needed restoration work to the fountain in Laura Place are on hold. Restoration work in Sydney Gardens – the last remaining section in this country of a Georgian pleasure garden – will depend on a green light from the Heritage Lottery Fund This cannot be guaranteed.

Major developments depend on private money or state aid. Western Riverside, the old Green Park Station site, the Stotthert and Pitt derelict works – all depend on corporate money for their business futures.

B&NES bangs on a great deal about its historic heart. A garden city with four hundred years of Roman history, a hundred year’s worth of Georgian indulgence, a treasure-house filled with architectural gems. Photo-opportunities at every corner it would seem.

A stencil outside No 1 Royal Crescent

A stencil outside No 1 Royal Crescent

So – imagine my surprise to find outside the entrance to Bath Preservation Trust’s Georgian House – No 1 Royal Crescent – the first of a line of street stencils in a fluorescent light turquoise green – stretching completely around the pennant stone pavement to Marlborough Buildings.

Street stencils are not new. It’s a way of getting noticed – of publicising your event – using a non-permanent marker that eventually disappears under the tread of countless feet or is washed away in a summer downpour or two.

Well, that’s what the supporters of this trendy new way of promoting your business or event say. I cannot pretend to like them. We have enough mess in our streets without the adult chalked version of children’s hopscotch cropping up every few yards on pavements and paving stones. If this was done on a wall it would be graffiti and illegal.

More stencils going around the Crescent paving

More stencils going around the Crescent paving

The pavement markings ARE allowed if you apply to the Council for permission to do them. You will be asked to explain what you are doing and what eco-friendly marking material you intend spraying on your stencils.

This latest marking – evident in Milsom Street as well as Royal Crescent – was to publicise an art event aimed at the family.

A spokesperson for B&NES confirmed that permission had been granted by the Highways Department to use a chalk substance to create markings that would ‘engage visitors to follow the route.’

Hmmm. Well l don’t know if anyone bothered to go out and take a look but they were actually Jester- shaped silhouettes that gave the name of the event and the dates it was running and nothing else. The images were meaningless. They were not clear to read, not leading anywhere in particular and doing nothing for the look of the Royal Crescent.

It looked like kids had vandalised the place – just playing the fool. We haven’t had anything like enough rain to put its erasability to the test but l fear it’s not the chalk but the pigment that will promote a more lingering presence.

I don’t care if this is a refreshingly new way of getting attention. What worries me is that in the wonderful world of higher education – which happened to be the source of this event – it would seem there is an educational lacking in any real appreciation and understanding of what history and heritage is all about. No understanding of it’s important role in today’s society.

The image 'Tweeted' to the Virtual Museum.

The image ‘Tweeted’ to the Virtual Museum.

This was not enhancing what is a Grade 1 listed area at all. It was defacing it. Confusing our international visitors and giving out mixed messages to children who we always tell not to scribble on walls!

These boring old buildings – that line our congested streets – will one day be passed onto the next generation to care for. Maybe to some of the very same people who cannot see anything wrong with messing up the pennant stone pavements in front of them.

street banners

Street banners

Ironically for me – no protest from Bath Preservation Trust at No 1 – the very body that has so effectively campaigned for and protected so much of the city’s heritage. No one rushed out to throw water over the ‘jester’ in front of their entrance.

Maybe l am a lone voice but l am disappointed that B&NES could not see that  stencils inRoyal Crescent was not a good idea. That some things have to be treated with respect and managed in a way that does not detract from or diminish their iconic power. Smear a mirror and you diminish its reflection.

How you can boast about your World Heritage status on the one hand and then make insensitive decisions like giving permission for these markings on the other.

Meanwhile, around the Guildhall and Orange Grove bright banners have been erected proclaiming and promoting the architectural and historical glories of  Bath. This is the right way of getting noticed. They are smart, colourful and add something to the street scene.

They also come down at the end of the season – like the spent flower baskets that always bring such vitality and freshness to our tourist town during the summer. A little more thought please.

I applaud and would do all that l can to encourage youthful intervention in this city.  We are blessed with two universities and a city college. Young people adding energy, new ideas, a fresh eye but directed in a more positive and enhancing way. With a bit more guidance from the powers that be.

This is a very personal opinion. What do other Virtual Museum visitors think?