Gainsborough to get summer opening.

Gainsborough to get summer opening.

The Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel

The Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel

Bath’s newest 5-star hotel – the Gainsborough Bath Spa – is finally due to open in the summer.

That’s according to Martin Clubbe – the man who has already been appointed General Manager to run it.

The Virtual Museum noticed the hotel now has an impressive web-site up and running.

You can check it out on www.thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk

Behind this Grade 11 listed Georgian facade – in a building originally constructed as a hospital for Bath poor – will be 99 luxury guest rooms and suites and the only natural thermal spa within a hotel in the United Kingdom.

The images on the website – l was not allowed to use any of them at this time – really do give you an idea of just how opulent the interior will be.

The Gainsborough's proposed Spa Village Pool

The Gainsborough’s proposed Spa Village Pool

An artist’s impression of the spa facilities is though already in the public realm. The website says the hotel’s Bath House will allow guests to ‘take the waters in luxury’ – ‘tapping into the original Roman Bath springs.’

Martin Clubbe told the Virtual Museum:  ‘An opening date still has not been set as the hotel is still under construction. The construction company are currently advising us that we will be open in the Summer.’

The luxury hotel joins what is now known as the ‘Spa Quarter’ of Bath and sees an historical building saved for the future.

It’s owned by YTL – a Malaysian-based company that specialises in luxury spa resorts and which now manages the Bath Therma Spa and owns Wessex Water.

The hoard lifted by crane ©Cotswold Archaeology

The hoard lifted by crane ©Cotswold Archaeology

The new Gainsborough is also the site of the discovery of the Beau Street Hoard – a wealth of coinage – covering the whole four hundred years of Roman occupation – found deliberately hidden under the floor of a Roman villa discovered by archaeologists checking out an area scheduled for the hotel’s extension.

Some of the coins are now on display at the Roman Baths nearby.

 

Window on the war.

Window on the war.

A very special anniversary coming up for Bath Abbey later this month. Friday (13th March) marks 60 years since the restoration and rededication of the East Window which was blown out during the Bath Blitz in 1942.

 The east end of Bath Abbey

The east end of Bath Abbey

It was officially unveiled at a special dedication service on Sunday the 13th of March 1955.

Looking up through the chair stall to the East Window. Click on images to enlarge.

Looking up through the chair stall to the East Window. Click on images to enlarge.

Only last year, Bath Abbey launched its Creating Voices audio archive which comprises an audio guide dedicated to the restoration of the East Window.

This includes a clip of Eric Naylor, a member of the Abbey’s congregation at the time, who gives a first-hand account of the rededication ceremony as well as an interview from Clare Cook, the partner of Ron Kirk, who together with his father, Harry Kirk from Clayton and Bell.

Clare talks about what it was like for Ron and Harry to be responsible for the mammoth task of restoring the Abbey’s East Window to its original glory. You can access this via http://www.bathabbey.org/history/creating-voices-oral-history-project/east-window

Following the 1942 blitz, the Abbey could not be used for regular services for some time. Bits of glass were dropping from the broken windows and the wind-swept through them.

It wasn’t until the war ended in 1945 that the Abbey began to think about restoring the window as well as other aspects of the building.

The East Window in all its colourful glory.

The East Window in all its colourful glory.

The glass from the window was so badly damaged that practically every glass maker in England said that it couldn’t be restored. Until the glass-making firm, Clayton and Bell, took up the challenge – sending father-and-son team of “glaziers”, Harry and Ron Kirk.

It wasn’t until April 1952 that the first stained glass lancet window was ready to go back into the window frame.

By 16 April 1953, the first tier of the window was completed and over 17 months later, at the end of October 1954, the bottom tier was in place.

Sixty per cent of the original glass, collected by members of the Abbey congregation, was used in the restored window. An amazing fact – considering that the East Window is made up of 864 square feet (or 80 square metres) of stained glass!

Roman treasures roadshow

Roman treasures roadshow

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Beau Street Hoard Roadshow team is showing off its Roman treasures in Midsomer Norton as the roadshow continues its travels around the region.

Some of the cleaned coins.

Some of the cleaned coins.

On Saturday 7th March, from 11am to 3pm, visitors can discover the mysteries and majesties behind the Beau Street Hoard at the Midsomer Norton Town Hall. Illustrated talks will take place at 11.30am and 2pm. Entry is free.

Visitors will be able to see some of the fabulous Roman coins found during an archaeological excavation in 2007, strike their own Roman coin to take home, learn all about the find and the mystery that shrouds it, take part in all- ages activities, and watch illustrated talks.

The Roadshow project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is one way the Council-run Roman Baths is working to bring these marvellous coins out to communities in Bath, North East Somerset and beyond.

The hoard lifted by crane ©Cotswold Archaeology

The hoard lifted by crane ©Cotswold Archaeology

Councillor Ben Stevens (Lib-Dem, Widcombe), the Council’s Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, said: “With some coins still in amazing condition, the hoard has given us a better understanding of the lives and politics of Britain 2,000 years ago. The images on the coins are fascinating; they were the easiest way the Roman Emperor had of communicating with his citizens, and therefore represent thousands of mini state broadcasts.”

The Beau Street Hoard was excavated by archaeologists on the site of the Gainsborough Hotel development in Beau Street, Bath, in 2007. The 17,577 Roman coins span the period from 32BC – 275AD and were found in eight separate money bags, which were fused together. No one knows how they got there, why they were put there, or why no-one ever returned for them; the mystery behind them has led to many interesting theories, but no actual fact.

In March 2014, Bath & North East Somerset Council was awarded a grant of £372,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to purchase the hoard, and, from February 2015, it will be on permanent public display in a new interactive exhibit within the Aquae Sulis Gallery at The Roman Baths.

Like us on Facebook at Facebook.com/BeauStHoard or give us a Follow @BeauStHoard. Alternatively, take a look at the http://www.romanbaths.co.uk events section.

Tales of the riverbank.

Tales of the riverbank.

Trees on both sides of the river are going.

Trees on both sides of the river are going.

The look of the river bank alongside Churchill Bridge – in the heart of Bath city centre – is rapidly changing.

Up is going more safety railings to try to prevent people falling into the water and down are coming lines of mature trees – some of which are more than 80 feet tall.

The huge crane that is lifting down the cut branches of these giant poplars.

The huge crane that is lifting down the cut branches of these giant poplars.

Both developments have to be welcomed. One will play a small but significant role in preventing more drowning tragedies, while the other – drastic though it is – will be a means to an end.

The trees have to come down so work can get underway on remodelling the river bank as part of a multi-million pound flood prevention scheme – shared by B&NES and the Environment Agency – that should provide additional protection for nearby commercial and residential property and allow a massive redevelopment of a river bank site in need of regeneration.

The proposed tree-lined terraces

The proposed tree-lined terraces

The re-shaping of the bank to allow for greater capacity during periods when the river is engorged with flood water and also allow planners to re-connect the people of Bath with their river.

The information boards by Churchill Bridge

The information boards by Churchill Bridge

There is an assortment of visual and written information that has sprung up on notice boards by Churchill Bridge and elsewhere explaining what is happening and why.

You can see how proposed  tree-lined riverside terraces will provide a new amenity and route for walkers and cyclists.

More visual information on the riverbank scheme

More visual information on the riverbank scheme

Its hoped wildlife will benefit from the plantings which should provide a corridor through the heart of Bath.

The new development is known as the Bath Quay Waterside Project.

There is going to be a great deal of disruption while building work gets underway but also the prospect of something new and exciting to come.

I watched in amazement this morning as a tree surgeon swung from his harness at least sixty to sixty-five feet above my head.

A tree surgeon at work above the North Quay

A tree surgeon at work above the North Quay

Above his was a swinging crane jib and a cable he was attaching to a giant branch of the poplar he was dismembering.

Once he has cut through – further down the branch – the whole section is then swung out and lowered to the ground.

I hate to see any tree come down but can appreciate the work would be impossible to do without clearing the site first.  Time will tell.

 

 

 

 

 

The work completed. IN time - new plantings will be made on a re-shaped riverbank.

The work completed. Eventually – new plantings will be made on a re-shaped riverbank.

A more recent picture showing the now bare riverbank area where the trees once stood. This whole bank will be re-shaped and eventually replanted.

Community clear-up day for Bath?

Community clear-up day for Bath?

The Virtual Museum wonders whether Bath will be taking part in the Government’s first Community Clear-up Day proposed for today – March 21st.

Rubbish thrown over the wall into Sydney Gardens

Rubbish thrown over the wall into Sydney Gardens

Following comments about chewing gum damage on streets throughout the city, it’s interesting to note that a Communities Minister is calling on companies whose products make up the majority of our litter to take part in this first nationally organised event.

The only publicity l have seen for it was a story on Saturday’s Daily Telegraph newspaper – January 30th, 2015 – which says Communities Minister Kris Hopkins and his ministerial colleague Dan Rogerson have written to George Osborne, the Chancellor, to urge him to force tobacco companies to pay for cleaning up cigarette butts and packets which account for nearly a third of street litter.

Research by Keep Britain Tidy suggests that more than half the population drop litter. The Government is keen to bring about ‘widespread behaviour change’ by making dropping litter as unacceptable as drink-driving.

The first community clear-up day will be held on March 21st – the first day of spring – with the aim of sprucing up city centres, high streets, villages and parks.

It's always somebody else's job to clean up isn't it?

It’s always somebody else’s job to clean up isn’t it? Queen Square.

Mr Hopkins said: ‘This is a call to arms for communities great and small to help us end this litter scourge by taking greater pride in our neighbourhoods…..’

‘….I also urge the manufacturers of items commonly associated with littering, such as soft drinks, chewing gum, crisps, confectionery and fast food, to join us in this day and contribute to the clear-up of our streets and public places.’

Gum splattered around pedestrian benches on Stall Street

Gum splattered around pedestrian benches on Stall Street

Councils in England spend more than £800 million every year on street cleansing.

The Virtual Museum has already pointed out that Australia holds a national Clean Up Australia Day and wonders why Bath could not lead the way over here.

Ridding our World Heritage streets of gum blotches and cans and take away plastic boxed would certainly improve the look of the place and something we could all contribute to.

Memories of Lambridge Mill

Memories of Lambridge Mill

The old Harvester Inn on the Gloucester Road

The old Harvester Inn on the Gloucester Road

The redevelopment of the old Harvester site just off the London Road by the turning onto Gloucester Road at Lambridge will have water power incorporated into it – if the views of local B&NES Councillor and Heritage champion Bryan Chalker have anything to do with it.

Cllr Bryan Chalker.

Cllr Bryan Chalker.

Cllr Chalker has said he welcomes a new planning application that will see the now derelict 1998 building re-modelled as retirement homes.

It stands near the site of a former mill that was powered by water and Bryan hopes a water wheel could be incubated into the new design to provide at least some of the electrical power for the new development.

He’s written an overview of his thoughts and the Virtual Museum reproduces it in full.

AN OVERVIEW OF THE FORMER HARVESTER PUB/RESTAURANT AND ITS SITE by Cllr. Bryan Chalker (Heritage Champion)

I have always been interested in old mills and the Harvester caught my attention when I first became a Bath City councillor for Lambridge and realised that this modern building, erected in 1998, mirrored the design of Lambridge Mill, which once stood on land now occupied by nearby Pitman Court. This was an old watermill and there is precious little to mark its passing than a few scant stone footings and traces of the sluice (on the Lam Brook) which once turned the wheel to power the machinery.

The old Harvester Inn

The old Harvester Inn

Watermills were the lifeblood of Bath during its great industrial period but the vast majority have vanished with the passage of time and are remembered in name only.

Lambridge had two mills, one still standing but minus its wheel, the Dead Mill, and, of course, the aforementioned Lambridge Mill. A careful study of the modern Harvester building reveals a pleasing external facsimile of an early 19th century water-mill, complete with imitation vents, timber lucarne (winch-housing) and west extensions vaulted over a mock tailrace, diverted from the fast-flowing Lam Brook, which only lacks a waterwheel to complete the impression of rustic tranquillity.

In his excellent book ‘Bath At Work’ (Millstream Books 1989), author Duncan Harper wrote: “The tributaries of the Avon turned many waterwheels; there were extensive gunpowder mills at Woolley, paper and silk mills at Batheaston, leather at St. Catherine’s, flock at Monkton Combe”. One of those tributaries is, of course, the Lam Brook and the Lam is mentioned in a Saxon boundary charter for Charlcombe under the name of ‘Lambroc’; ‘lam’ possibly meaning either ‘loam’, ‘lamb’ or ‘land’ and the latter, in turn, might have implied ‘boundary brook’.

The Lam Brook begins its life in Cold Ashton, slightly five miles north of Bath, and once served as a common boundary to Tadwick, Langridge, Woolley, Charlcombe, Swainswick and Walcot, before flowing into the Avon. The Lam actually joins the Walcot ward boundary at the bottom of Valley View Road, a short distance from where the Dead Mill’s tail-race once re-joined the main stream next to the stone arch bridge beneath Dead Mill Lane.

A photo of the former Harvester from the website of www.bathpubs.co.uk

A photo of the former Harvester from the website of http://www.bathpubs.co.uk

There was a time when the Lam Brook served the Lambridge Mill, erected in the first half of the 19th century, and serving the local community and beyond with leather dressing, glue making and, latterly, as a flour mill.

A map of 1830 shows the Harvester site as meadows and depicts for the first time the newly built Lambridge Mill to the north, owned by the Sturge family. By the 1840s, the southern end of the site had merged into the land bounding Lambridge House, with the northern section held by the Sturge family and its watermill complex.

According to an estate map of Swainswick dating from 1729, the Harvester site formed part of a parcel of land known as ‘Licker’s Mead’, a meadow in the owner-ship of the Clark family and a mill had stood on this land since 1275.

Lambridge Mill fell into decay after its working life ended in 1951 and it became little more than a builder’s yard until demolition in 1966. It is interesting to note that one of its smaller mill stones may well survive in nearby Alice Park, where it served to cap a well and form the base for a flag-pole.

Bass Taverns were responsible for building the Harvester in 1998 but due to dwindling trade it closed for business in 2007/8 and has stood derelict ever since. Various applications have been to redevelop the land there and one such scheme proposed to demolish the structure and begin afresh. Now, it seems, a fresh application has been submitted to B&NES by McCarthy & Stone to retain the shell of the Harvester and transform its interior into retirement apartments for the over-70s, with 33 two bedroom apartments and 17 one bedroom apartments and 33 on-site parking spaces for residents and visitors.

One can only hope that B&NES planners will give the go-ahead for this development and ensure that the outward appearance of this pleasing modern building remains intact. My personal view is that the vaulted west wing could be adapted for the installation of a working waterwheel to provide electricity for the complex.

Prior to the erection of the Harvester pub, all that occupied the site previously was a modest nursery garden, with timber huts and glasshouses. There is precious little evidence of archaeological remains in or around this land, although an official survey of 1990 did find small quantities of Roman and medieval pottery along the proposed course of the Batheaston By-Pass near the Elms, Bailbrook.

The new sign at the old Harvester

The new sign at the old Harvester

It is high time the Harvester building was brought back to life and reflects some of the proud industrial heritage of Lambridge and a functioning waterwheel would be a wonderful way of welcoming visitors to this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I do hope that McCarthy & Stone will see fit to erect sympathetic and informative signage and/or plaques to highlight the architectural relationship between the Harvester and Lambridge Mill.

Austen anniversary treat.

Austen anniversary treat.

Jane Austen fans are in for another anniversary treat this year. Hot on the successful heels of Pride and Prejudice’s bicentennial anniversary in 2013 comes that of Emma, the story of the young, genteel Emma Woodhouse setting herself up as a matchmaker. Published in December 1815, it’s a lively comedy of manners that looks at the concerns and trials of refined women in early 19th-century England.

The novel’s anniversary means it’s a good time for Austen fans to visit Jane Austen’s house, Chawton, near Alton in Hampshire, south England – around an hour by train from London. The charming house was where she spent the last eight years of her life and it’s where she did the majority of her mature writing. She wrote Emma here, as well as Mansfield Park and Persuasion, in addition to revising Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey.

Now called the Jane Austen’s House Museum, it runs a programme of events throughout the year to keep even the most ardent of Austen aficionados happy! Every year the museum celebrates the author’s birthday on 16 December with free entry, hot drinks and mince pies for visitors. And although the full programme for 2015 has yet to be announced, going on Austen’s birthday is a rather nice time to visit, especially for Emma fans, which itself was published in December. 2015 will see the museum running book-making workshops, historic food workshops and writing workshops. Since it’s 200 years since the publication of Emma, one of the workshops in May, ‘Building the Village of your Story’, will look at how the village of a story can help with plotting, managing a cast of characters, building tension and creating a sense of place – much like was done in Emma. www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk

Emma, like most heroines in Jane Austen novels, adored a ball. And what better way to celebrate the novel’s publication then donning your finest Regency outfit and heading to the beautiful city of Bath in west England for the Regency costumed Summer Ball. It plays a fun part in the city’s annual Jane Austen Festival.

In 2015, the festival will run between 11-20 September. Empire-line gowns and bonnets at the ready! www.janeaustenfestivalbath.co.uk

Filing into the Assembly Rooms

Filing into the Assembly Rooms

Bath is certainly the place to visit if you want to embroil yourself in all things Austen – the author lived there between 1801 and 1805, and features regularly in her writings. Head to the city’s Jane Austen Centre for exclusive films, costumes, temporary and permanent exhibits, maps and books all dedicated to the life and times of Austen. Plus you can channel your inner Emma as the centre offers visitors the chance to dress up in Regency bonnets, top hats, shawls, fans and parasols! Bath is around 90 minutes by train from London. www.janeausten.co.uk

A 'bronze' of Jane Austen.

A ‘bronze’ of Jane Austen in Bath.

The picturesque village of Evershot in Dorset, south-west England, a village of thatched cottages and charming 400-year old inns, played the role of Highbury Village in the film. Explore the area and then stay in the luxury country house hotel Summer Lodge, a Grade II-listed building set in four acres of land; it’s easy to imagine yourself stepping back in time in these atmospheric surroundings. (www.summerlodgehotel.co.uk).

Evershot is around 3.5 hours drive from London.

Claydon House.

Clayton House in Buckinghamshire.

And, if you loved the film’s elegant ball scenes, visit Claydon House in Buckinghamshire, where the Crown ball interiors scene was filmed. Cared for by the National Trust, this idyllic country estate, just under two hours’ drive from London, is packed with ornate and lavish 18th-century English interiors that the original owner Sir Ralph Verney intended to wow his neighbours and political rivals with. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/claydon