Farewell to the tennis court trees

Farewell to the tennis court trees

There’s a lot to be said about the ‘shock of the new’ and l suppose – as an old codger – the panic that sets in when something regarded as being so permanent – disappears.

I am talking about the felling this week of a line of conifers in front of the upper tennis courts in Sydney Gardens.


Down comes another conifer lining the upper tennis courts.

Just recently Heritage Lottery money has been thrown at cutting down laurel and opening up dodgy spots in this historic public space where undesirables are alleged to do undesirable things.

It’s a fair excuse for letting in some light. Laurel will regenerate and in the meantime other parts of this much-loved park will benefit from some extra sunshine!


Pruned laurel opens up views and lets in more light.

However, I don’t know why the ‘felling disease’ has spread to the conifers. There is no notice saying why they are coming down.

Meanwhile, a much larger tree to one side of the gate leading out to the road and the Bath Spa MacDonald Hotel has born a notice advertising its demise for some time now.

sydney gardens

The notice on a maple due to be felled.

A conversation with one of the team doing the tennis court work extracted the comment that it would open up a view of the park to the people living in that quite high block of flats behind on Sydney Road – and there was me thinking how the trees were doing a good job of hiding this brutalist architecture from park users.

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Now you can see the flats or maybe it’s more now they can see into Sydney Gardens.

Of course – down the bottom end of Sydney Gardens – similar thinning of vegetation has opened up the rear gardens of the Holburne Museum.


Looking at the clearance work from the Sydney Gardens side of the Holburne Museum.

Here though the building – in its original form – was always part of this Georgian Vauxhall or pleasure garden. It had curving side-wings that reached out to embrace the ‘green’ attractions that lay before it.

I wondered whether the conifers had provided a bit of a weather-break for tennis players but was told the winds don’t come that way. One regular user told me the trees gave a bit of privacy for people on the court but that dead material from these 20 to 30-year-old specimens was a bit of a nuisance.

Yes – as trees go – they are not very old – but it would be good to know why they have come down and what B&NES intend to do with the tennis court fencing now it has been exposed. It is pretty obvious the enclosure is in poor condition.IMG_5194

The Georgians set up this space with a clear idea of how it was going to be used. A place of almost completely open-air entertainment for which people paid admission.

It’s good to know we don’t have to pay these days and that the park is somewhere for everybody. It’s another of Bath’s ‘shared spaces’ which hasn’t quite settled down to being comfortable with itself and embracing all who use it.

Cyclists and skateboarders can sometimes be a nuisance. So can dogs charging about all over the place and filling the autumn air with the scent of their urine.

There are those who enjoy defacing the walls of Minerva’s sham temple and others who nip over the boundary fences with their spray cans to leave their mark on Brunel’s railway bridges.

sydney gardens

The graffiti grows in Sydney Gardens.

Just recently people were invited in to plant hundreds of spring bulbs. A lovely idea and a real ‘green investment’ that will provide much pleasure in the Spring.

I am just a little saddened to cover story after story of tree felling. I want to promote new plantings but – just recently – the only new sapling l had noticed in the area was one installed near the Laura Place Fountain at the other end of Great Pulteney Street. It replaced a diseased tree that had been felled.

laura place

The vandalized sapling in Laura Place.

The sapling is dead/dying. I have my suspicions that someone didn’t want a replacement. Maybe it gets in the way of parking a car? The tree was snapped off and new shoots also damaged.

This ‘old fogey’ has to accept change. I am sure the Parks Department has good reason for ordering the removal of the conifers in Sydney Gardens but it would be nice if park users could be kept better informed and maybe given hope for the future with news of where the ‘grand green plan’ is heading.

If someone at B&NES wants to do an interview along those lines the Virtual Museum will be pleased to publish it!




Norman masonry, gin shaker and putting archaeology to bed.

Norman masonry, gin shaker and putting archaeology to bed.

I was on hand – earlier today (Wednesday, November 25th) – to watch contractors put a little part of Bath’s industrial archaeology to bed.


The old pipe factory is being carefully covered with a blanket of small stones and a membrane.

It’s a good way of describing the careful way in which an important clay pipe factory – exposed by archaeologists during a dig on an area of the Saw Close that is now being redeveloped – is being carefully covered before it once again disappears below ground.

The site will eventually house a casino, hotel and restaurants but Sanctus the developers are letting Cotswold Archaeology delve into the history of this historic part of the old city before starting the re-build.

Knowing what is underground will also help the contractors work out where to put in the piles to support the new buildings – without too much disturbance.

The pipe factory – and its kilns – are the subject of a video interview elsewhere on the Virtual Museum and were also visited by nearly two thousand people during a special open day.

John Cossins-Price – the Sanctus Site Manager – gave me a hard hat and a special guided tour around the old Regency Garage which is soon to be demolished.

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Site Manager John Cousins-Price showing me the old car lift inside the Regency Garage.

The building was originally an 18th-century coach house and then a cheese warehouse, before becoming a garage in 1906. It operated until the late 20th century.

Interesting to read a section of a Historical Building Report on the area produced by Kay Ross of McLaughlin Ross llp for B&NES in 2007. She says:

‘The Regency Garage remains little changed since it was converted into a garage in 1906, and its distinctive shape can be traced back through a number of maps and plans to at least the late 18th century.


The old Regency Garage building.

Originally a coach house built in the 1770s, the east wall has a high blocked archway which would have provided access from the carrier’s yard. The angled west wall fronting the Saw Close was built in 1824 as well as the southern section of the rear east wall. The remaining walls are probably those of the 1770s building.

Both large doorways were inserted between 1906 and 1914 and the building has probably been 3 storeys since 1824.’

The historic walls linking it with the front of the former Music Hall Theatre next door will be kept. The theatre facade is listed and is absolutely assured of also being retained.


The upper floor in the old Regency Garage with the winch winding gear to the right.

The rest of the building is near collapse anyway. The most interesting thing inside is a manually operated car lift that must date back to the early years of the 20th century.

One could imagine it taking the weight of a Model T Ford but not a modern day – and much weightier – car.


The old winding handle for the car lift in the old Regency Garage.

A car can be winched up to the second floor – to be worked on – by a man turning the winch handle on the floor above.

I have taken many pictures and will pass them on to Stuart Burroughs at the Museum of Bath at Work.

Meanwhile, Simon Sworn who is Site Director for Cotswold Archaeology showed me where the excavated pipe factory was now being carefully re-covered in readiness for development work to proceed above it.


Site Director Simon Sworn showing me the basement area they have uncovered.

Elsewhere he pointed out some carved Normal masonry that had been recycled as building material on the Saw Close site. He thought it came from a church. Could it have come from the Norman complex that lies beneath Bath Abbey?


The carved piece of Norman masonry that may have come from a Bath church.

The stonework is being removed and will be preserved.

We then went further down the site and – in the middle of a muddy and noisy construction area – Simon explained what new archaeology had been discovered in the basements of houses that used to line the Bridewell Lane.



Park & Ride extended Christmas services

Park & Ride extended Christmas services

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Park & Ride services will be running more frequently and later into the evening during the Christmas period.

Buses from Newbridge, Lansdown and Odd Down will operate until 10pm on weekdays during the Christmas Market.

christmas market

Last year in Abbey Green

More buses will also run at weekends which will double the frequency of services – on Saturdays there will be buses every 5 or 6 minutes, and on Sundays every 7 or 8 minutes.

Extra buses will also run on Sunday December 27 when Bath Rugby has a home fixture, and on the Bank Holiday, Monday December 28.

Councillor Anthony Clarke (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “The Christmas Market attracts thousands of visitors from across our area, as well as the rest of the UK and overseas, generating over £20 million for the local economy.

“However, the increase in visitor numbers into the city during the festive period inevitably puts additional pressure onto our highways network. We are therefore putting in place additional measures to accommodate this increased demand and ensure that the market is as accessible as possible.

“Our Park & Rides are a good way of getting shoppers and visitors in and out of Bath city centre without using their car, and laying on additional weekend buses and extended the Park & Ride opening times also help keep traffic moving in the city during this busy period.”

christmas market 2014

Abbey Green through the M&S archway.

Late evening services will operate on the following days:

Christmas Market – Thursday November 26 – Saturday December 12
Monday – Saturday late night operation, last buses will leave the city centre at 10pm.

On Sundays November 29 and December 6 and 13, the last buses will leave the city centre at 6pm.

Monday December 14 – Saturday December 19
Late night operation, last buses leave the city centre at 10pm

Sunday 20 – Thursday 24 December – normal service

Christmas Day & Boxing Day – no service

December 27 & 28 – Sunday service (last buses leave the city centre at 6pm)

December 29 – 31- normal service

New Year’s Day – no service

January 2, normal Saturday service

(*Normal operating hours are 6.15am – 8.30pm Mon-Sat and 9.30am – 6.pm Sunday/Bank Holidays.)

The bus shelters at Odd Down Park & Ride have also been replaced in time for the Christmas Market. The new shelters are bigger and provide better weather protection for waiting passengers.
The shelter for the number 42 service to the RUH has also been improved.

Full details can be found here http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/sites/default/files/siteimages/Parking-and-Travel/Park-and-Ride/christmas_2015.pdf

Free family history courses

Free family history courses

Free family history courses will be on offer to local residents, starting in December.

Bath and North East Somerset Council’s Bath Record Office is able to offer the new courses thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Bath Record Office

Bath Record Office at the Guildhall.

There are two types of courses: one for people who are just beginning their family history, or have made a start, perhaps using family history websites, but have not got very far; and courses for more advanced researchers, focussing on less well-known sources. The courses will include the chance for one-to-one help with your own family tree, as well as more formal sessions.

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “This is a great opportunity for local residents to learn more about their family histories and I would like to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for making these possible. Thanks to the popularity of programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are? we expect these to prove incredibly popular.”

The courses will run as follows:

Friday December 4, 2015
Beginners Family History at Keynsham Community Space

Monday January 11, 2016
Beginners Family History at the Guildhall, Bath

Tuesday January 26, 2016
Beginners Family History at Paulton Library @ The Hub

Monday February 22, 2016
Advanced Family History at the Guildhall, Bath

Saturday March 5, 2016
Beginners Family History at Keynsham Community Space

Saturday March 19, 2016
Beginners Family History at the Guildhall, Bath

Saturday May 7, 2016
Advanced Family History at the Guildhall, Bath

The courses at Keynsham will run from 10.30am until 3pm, with free lunch and refreshments

The courses at The Guildhall and Paulton will run from 10.30am until 3.30pm, again with free lunch and refreshments.

Please book a place by contacting archives@bathnes.gov.uk, or on 01225 477421.

The courses are being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of ‘Our Heritage, Your Story: explore the past with Bath Record Office’, which is enabling Record Office staff to bring archives to life for new audiences. Bath Record Office has received a grant of £75,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a programme of events and projects with local community groups, together with a volunteer project to catalogue records. It aims to reveal fascinating records to many people who may never have never thought of using archives. The project started in early June, and will run for fifteen months until September 2016.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery

A-boards latest.

A-boards latest.

My spies tell me there could be an announcement from B&NES before Christmas regarding the proliferation of A-boards in the city centre.

Hard-pressed businesses are obviously looking for every way to promote themselves, but the lines of A-boards are getting out of hand.


Two narrow passages in Union Street for people

Your Director took this picture in Union Street on Sunday last. The stalls on the left are always there, but someone has set up shop in the middle of the hanging basket array and – with a line of A-boards on the right – there are just two narrow passages for peopple to walk through.

It’s a real obstacle course for everyone with the risk of boards flying off in the high winds we have been experiencing and a lethal array for people with sight issues.


More like Fort Knox.

While we are on the subject its good to see new businesses arriving but the old Phones4u stores now looks like the entrance to Fort Knox and even the street sign advertises a run-down feel.


New business coming to town

While we are on the subject of street litter – these sticky-backed plastic posters being laid on our streets are just another version of graffiti and should not be allowed in a World Heritage city. Words – at this point – fail me.


More street litter in a World Heritage city!

Bath Quays bridge chosen.

Bath Quays bridge chosen.

Bath & North East Somerset Council has revealed the winning design for the prestigious Bath Quays Bridge competition.


The winning design. Image supplied by architects.

The winning design for the new pedestrian and cycle bridge is called ‘Between History and Modernity’ and was submitted by Paris-based engineering and architectural consultancy Marc Mimram.

The new Bath Quays Bridge will link the river from Green Park Road on the north side to the Newark Works buildings on the south. It will create an attractive physical link between the new business developments planned in those two locations.

The Council intends to submit a planning application for the new bridge during 2016 with a view to construction taking place during 2017.

A panel made up of respected figures from the fields of bridge engineering and architecture, along with Council representatives, judged the designs. Feedback received during the exhibition of the designs also showed the Paris-based team’s design to be the public’s favourite.

Judges say they were impressed with the sensitivity of the design and particularly inspired by the bridge’s curving design and the unusual undulations of the deck.

Council Leader, Cllr Tim Warren (Conservative, Mendip), said: “The new bridge is an essential component of the Council’s plans to create a new business district, Bath Quays, in the city’s riverside quarter. A development of the scale of Bath Quays is a fantastic opportunity for Bath to reinvent a somewhat overlooked corner and connect it with the vibrant and beautiful historic city.”


The winning design. Image supplied by architects.

Marc Mimram, Founding Director of Marc Mimram Architects and Engineers, said: “I have built bridges all over the world but it has long been my ambition to build in the UK and I’m excited to be doing so in Bath. The city’s history and relationship with the River Avon has captivated me since my first visit and it was this that inspired our design for the bridge. Bridges have the capacity to transform cities, to build not just physical ties between locations, but symbolic bonds within communities. While being firmly rooted in Bath’s history and landscape this bridge connects Bath’s two new business districts and allows the city to look forwards towards future growth and transformation.”

Bath Bridge Top Trumps

Alongside the formal international competition, local children were also invited to design their own concepts for great bridges.

Over 70 children came up with Bath Bridge Top Trumps cards featuring a range of innovative and creative designs. All the entries have been made into commemorative sets of cards which will be given to everyone who took part.

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Economic Development, commended the efforts of the young bridge designers: “Bath has a proud tradition of excellence in engineering and design. We have been impressed by the efforts of our young people and hope that some of them may go on to be the bridge designers of the future.”

The winners of the children’s Top Trumps were:

Under 8
Winner: Sydney Ella Dix (aged 8) for The Sydney Bridge
Runners up:
Verity Hodges (aged 7); Greta Magnusson (aged 5); Erin Willis (aged 8 from Melksham) and William Frayling (aged 6)

9 and over
Winner: Ollie Knight (aged 9) for Bath Quays Span
Runners up: Josh Critchley (aged 10); Marina Lyndon (aged 12); Alice Martin (from Saltford aged 10); Ella Worthington (aged 12)

Judges included: Andrew Grant of Grant Associates; Jane Wernick of Jane Wernick associates; Roger Buckby of CH2MHill; Trevor Osborne of Trevor Osborne Property Group; Jo Farrar, chief executive of Bath & North East Somerset Council, Cllr Patrick Anketell-Jones; Simon Martin, Programme Director, Bath Enterprise Area.

Christmas at Bath Abbey.

Christmas at Bath Abbey.

The BBC will be broadcasting a live Christmas Day Eucharist from Bath Abbey as part of the seasonal celebrations which includes everything from carol-singing to spectacular choral concerts.

Shoppers visiting the Christmas market can enjoy  20-minute informal carol services on Saturday afternoons (28 Nov, 5 Dec and 12 Dec). There is also the opportunity to climb to the top of the Tower and soak in the marvellous atmosphere of the scenes below while drinking a glass of mulled wine or soft drink thanks to our Festive Tour Tours.

The tree has gone up in Abbey Churchyard

The tree has gone up in Abbey Churchyard

For families, there are Family Carol Services (unofficially called the ‘Donkey Service’) where children get dressed up for a nativity scene. It also features Mr Frosty the donkey and is very popular with families with young children (Sunday 20 Dec 3pm and 4.15pm). Another event that will keep families thoroughly entertained is the Carols for Choir and Audience, a festive concert featuring performances from all three of the Abbey’s choirs, with full audience participation (Sat 19 Dec, 7pm).

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Last year’s Christmas Market in the shadow of Bath Abbey.

There will also be a variety of services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to choose from. Join in an informal service of Carol Praise (24 Dec 4pm), be there at the very start of Christmas at Midnight Communion or take part in the Christmas Eucharist (25 Dec 10am, tickets from Bath Abbey Office and website) a live BBC broadcast with music from the Abbey Girls’ and Men’s Choirs to celebrate Christ’s birth.
Climb the Tower during the Christmas Market; get a bird’s eye view and enjoy a free glass of mulled wine at the top (hot chocolate alternative available). Every 45 mins during the Bath Christmas market (26 Nov-13 Dec) Mon-Thu 1.30-6pm, Fri & Sat 12-7.30pm. No tours on Sundays. Tickets: Adult £6, Child (5-15 yrs) £3. Includes free mulled wine or hot chocolate at the top.

Bath Abbey - the lantern of the west!

Bath Abbey – the lantern of the west!

Shoppers’ Carols
Sat 28 Nov, Sat 5 Dec and Sat 12 Dec 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm
An informal 20-minute service with traditional carols. Ideal for weary shoppers.
All welcome, no reserved seating or tickets required
An Advent Procession by Candlelight
Abbey Boys’, Girls’ and Men’s Choirs Sunday 29 Nov 6.30pm
One of the most popular services of the Abbey’s year. Join us for a candlelit service with music and readings to mark the beginning of Advent. Entrance is by (free) ticket only. Tickets need to be obtained in advance from Bath Abbey website or Office. Please note tickets will not be available to collect at the Abbey door.
Family Carol Services
Sunday 20 Dec 3pm and 4.15pm
Children are invited to come dressed as a shepherd, angel, wise man or citizen of Bethlehem to create a stunning Christmas tableau. Features Mr Frosty the donkey!
All welcome, no reserved seating or tickets required so please arrive early to avoid disappointment.
Handel’s Messiah
Friday 4 Dec and Saturday 5 Dec 7.30 pm
Bath Choral society’s annual and ever-popular performance of Handel’s Messiah with the Bristol Ensemble, conducted by Will Dawes.
Tickets: £8-£29
Available from Bath Box Office / 01225 463 362 / http://www.bathboxoffice.org.uk
A Christmas Celebration
Saturday 19 Dec 7pm
Featuring the Abbey’s Choirs of Girls and Men, plus organ and harp, and the traditional candlelit performance of Benjamin Britten’s ‘A Ceremony of Carols’ by the Abbey Girls’ Choir.
Tickets: £8-£15
Available from Bath Box Office / 01225 463 362 / http://www.bathboxoffice.org.uk
Carol Praise 4pm
An informal service with traditional carols. All welcome, no reserved seating or tickets required but we expect the Abbey to be full to capacity.
Festival of Lessons and Carols with Abbey Boys’ and Men’s Choirs 7pm
Entry to this very popular service is by (free) ticket only. Tickets need to be obtained in advance from Bath Abbey website or Office. Please note tickets will not be available to collect at the Abbey door.
Midnight Communion with Abbey Girls’ and Men’s Choir 11pm
Be there at the very start of Christmas. A celebration of Christ’s birth, and with him the birth of new hope for the world.

BBC Live Christmas Eucharist 10.00am
(congregation to be seated by 9.15am)
A unique opportunity for the Abbey to express the joy and hope of Christmas to millions of people in the UK and around the world. This live service will include all the Abbey choirs, carols and communion. Tickets are limited, apply via application forms from the Abbey Office or download from the website www.bathabbey.org
Sung Eucharist for Christmas 11.15am
A formal service of Holy Communion. Music led by the Abbey Girls’ and Men’s Choirs.