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!




Holburne lanterns light up Bath.

Well, the good news is that window of dry weather opportunity came true for the hundreds of adults and youngsters who took part in this year’s  Holburne Museum Lantern Procession which set off from the Sydney Garden’s end of Great Pulteney Street at 6 o’clock this evening. (Thursday, November 19th)


Just one of the amazing mythical creatures in this year’s procession.

It’s got to be the biggest and best-produced procession to date. This year’s theme was the Enchanted Forest and its birds, beasts, trees and mythical creatures. The procession made its way up Great Pulteney Street and into Parade Gardens.

The city’s Christmas illuminations were also switched on this evening.


Mr Badger waiting at the Holburne for the ‘off!’

Those taking part are asked to gather at 5.30 pm. Every year children and adults get down to the serious business of making lanterns out of withy and tissue paper.

See if you can spot yourself – or just enjoy some of the highlights and tell your friends it’s all on the Virtual Museum of Bath.


Info wanted on Pulteney Hotel

Info wanted on Pulteney Hotel

Can anyone help Stephen Pickles who has contacted the Virtual Museum for help?

” I found your post http://virtualmuseumofbath.com/2014/02/24/solving-a-pulteney-street-mystery while trying to find out more about the building that was known as the Pulteney Hotel during the 1840s.

great pulteney streetAn advertisement in the Monmouthshire Merlin on 13 Dec 1845 described it thus: “Pulteney Hotel & Boarding House, Sydney Gardens, Bath. Conducted by Barnard L. Watson [Late Superintendant of the Telegraph]. This Establishment is replete with every convenience, and is delightfully situated at the end of Great Pulteney-street, Bath”.

Two years later, Barnard Lindsay Watson went bankrupt, for the third time. In his earlier career, he had established the Liverpool-Holyhead optical telegraph, the first in the world to carry commercial and private correspondence.

I have found some hints suggesting that this Pulteney Hotel may have been the building that it is now the Holburne Museum (but I am not convinced), and that the building which is now the Connaught Mansions did not acquire the name Pulteney Hotel until much later than the 1840s. Any light that you can shed on the matter would be much appreciated.”

In the meantime, says Stephen : ” I have unearthed various contemporary newspaper articles that make me all but certain that the Holburne Museum and the building known as Pulteney Hotel, Sydney Gardens during the 1840s are one and the same. I am pleased to say that the Holburne Museum now agree with me.

The enterprise run by Barnard Lindsay Watson during the 1840s was sometimes referred to in contemporary newspapers as the “Pulteney Hotel and Sydney Gardens”. It was leased to his father-in-law Dr Charles Warner and then operated as a hotel by Lieutenant Watson until he went Bankrupt in 1848. Another gentleman tried to operate the hotel after him, but also went bankrupt.

I attach a few clippings from the Bath Chronicle (there are many more – the Pulteney Hotel was a high-status building frequented by the gentry and aristocracy), and an 1845 advertisement in the Monmouthshire Merlin (Watson advertised widely). The description of the items for sale in the 1848 auction is especially convincing, as it is clear that the effects of both the hotel and Sydney Gardens itself were included. Can there be any other high-status building located in Sydney Gardens at the end of Great Pulteney Street at the time, being leased along with Sydney Gardens, that fits the description?

What clinches it for me is the visit of the future Napoleon III, which is mentioned in Historic England’s listing for the Holburne Museum:

http://bath-heritage.co.uk/qanda.html says in the Q and A section:
According to Michael Forsyth’s “Bath” (Pevsner Architectural Guides, Yale University Press, 2003), p182:
“Napoleon III stayed for six weeks in 1846 at the Sydney Hotel, now the Holburne Museum, and after 1871 often at No. 55.”

Contemporary newspapers mention the visit of Prince Napoleon Louis Bonaparte to Bath, where he was reported as staying at the Pulteney Hotel, Sydney Gardens for six weeks in 1846. I attach three of many such contemporary clippings referring to the Prince’s visit, one from the London Evening Standard, one from the Bristol Times, and one from the Hereford Journal.”

Holburne turns Gold

Holburne turns Gold

The Holburne Museum

The Holburne Museum. Click on images to enlarge.

Bath stone may well turn to gold in the right light but while the effect on the Holburne Museum’s facade is magical – inside they are just about to offer people the opportunity of seeing lots of the real precious metal  in a new exhibition simply called ‘Gold.’

Jennifer Scott, Director of the Holburne Museum.

Jennifer Scott, Director of the Holburne Museum.

For Director Jennifer Scott, it’s a chance to bring to the city an exhibition which explores the enduring beauty and symbolism of gold through a selection of sixty exquisite works of art from the Royal Collection.

One that she herself curated in her former job with the trust which manages the public opening of the Queen’s official residences – and where she was Curator of Paintings.

Guests enjoying a private preview of the new Gold exhibition.

Guests enjoying a private preview of the new Gold exhibition.

Last night the Virtual Museum attended a private preview for the new exhibition which runs from October 24th through to January 24th, 2016.

Nahoko Kojima and her paper cut sculpture in gold.

Nahoko Kojima and her paper cut sculpture in gold.

We also had a chance to see a contemporary piece of work which took Japanese paper cut artist Nahoko Kojima five months to create – and which compliments the main exhibition.

Just before the arrival of museum trustees, patrons and friends l had a chance to talk to Jennifer about what was on show.

As l understand it, this year’s Christmas tree at the Holburne will continue the gold theme with its decorations. It will be up there on the balcony – above the main entrance – and very visible through the length of Great Pulteney Street.

Lantern Procession set to switch on Bath’s Christmas lights.

Lantern Procession set to switch on Bath’s Christmas lights.

An image from last year's procession.

An image from last year’s procession.

After Mary Berry, Justin Webb and Bath Rugby doing the honours in recent years, Bath & North East Somerset Council has cooked up something different for this year’s Christmas lights switch-on.

They are not going to have a celebrity and instead are  linking in with the Holburne Museum’s annual Lantern Procession  to make the youngsters – and adults – taking part – the stars of the show!

The  lantern show has gradually been getting bigger and bigger and this year – as well as many lanterns made by youngsters from local schools – twelve professional artists have been commissioned to make large-scale spectacular pieces.
So next month – November 19 – the city’s Christmas illuminations will light up in celebration on the same evening – with the youngest members of the Holburne Museum Lantern Procession will bring their lanterns into Abbey Churchyard for the lighting of the Christmas Tree.
Jennifer Scott, the Holburne’s Director said: “I am thrilled that for the ninth year in a row the Museum will unite families, schools, students, artists and community groups for the Holburne Lantern Procession. We hope to welcome even more people this year to join in and enjoy the spectacle of lanterns illuminating the streets of Bath on Thursday 19 November.”

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Image from last year’s procession.

Councillor Martin Veal (Conservative, Bathavon North), the Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services said: “Having almost a thousand local people – mostly children – light up the city for Christmas this year will be quite a spectacle. We’re looking forward to switching on the Christmas tree lights as part of this procession, which is one of the largest free, participatory events in our city. I hope lots of people come along to watch, enjoy the light switch-on and stay in the city to eat and shop.”
The theme of this year’s Holburne Museum Lantern Procession is The Enchanted Forest. It takes its inspiration from the museum’s displays, in particular the autumn show Gold: An Exhibition from the Royal Collection, and also the work of Japanese paper cut artist Nahoko Kojima. During the procession, birds, beasts, trees and mythical creatures will travel from the Holburne through the streets of Bath to Parade Gardens.

Abbey Churchyard tree.

Abbey Churchyard tree.

The Holburne is busy working with seven local primary schools (Freshford, St. Martin’s Garden, Longvernal, Swainswick, King Edward’s, Roundhill and St. Philip’s) students from City of Bath College, six community groups (the Holburne’s Gardener’s Lodge Art Group, Compass, Mentoring Plus, Alice Park Community Group, DeafPlus, Odd Down at Play), Holburne volunteers, young people from the Holburne’s Portfolio Group, Youth Forum and Early Years group to create the lanterns. Twelve artists have also been commissioned to make huge, spectacular lanterns.
If you would like to take part, you will need to book on to one of the Museum’s lantern-making workshops (www.holburne.org) or purchase a lantern-making kit from the Holburne Museum shop, available from Saturday October 24

Participants should gather at the Holburne by 5.30pm. The Holburne Museum Lantern Procession will leave at 6pm and proceed over Pulteney Bridge, through town and end in Parade Gardens by 7pm. The Procession will be accompanied by three marching samba bands provided Bath School of Samba including a new Bath Spa University student band (in partnership with BSU Music Department). There will also be Glow-hoopers from Funky Monkey Studio. The procession will end in Parade Gardens with bhangra band RSVP.
The Holburne Museum Lantern Procession supported by the Cobalt Trust
Bath Christmas Lights supported by Bath & North East Somerset Council
The Bath Christmas Market will open the following week, November 26.

For your information: 
The Holburne Museum houses an important art collection formed by Sir William Holburne in the early nineteenth century, which includes paintings, silver, sculpture, furniture and porcelain of national and international significance. Artists in the collection include Gainsborough, Guardi, Stubbs, Ramsay and Zoffany.
The Museum reopened in May 2011 after ambitious renovations and a new extension by Eric Parry Architects. The Holburne has fast gained a reputation as one of a number of outstanding regional museums in the UK.
• Winner of the Museums & Heritage Award for the re-display of the permanent collection. 
• Winner of RIBA Building of the Year, South-West. 
• Winner of the Civic Trust’s Michael Middleton Special Award for a restoration/extension project within a conservation area.
The Holburne Museum, Great Pulteney Street, Bath BA2 4DB
Open daily, free admission 10am to 5pm (11am to 5pm Sundays and Bank Holidays)
Tel: 01225 388569 | email: enquiries@holburne.org | http://www.holburne.org
 In Partnership with Bath Spa University

Spray, splodge and dodge.

Spray, splodge and dodge.

The main pathway up to the front of the Holburne Museum.

The main pathway up to the front of the Holburne Museum.

Followers of the Virtual Museum will know l hate so-called pavement stencils. Messy graffiti that disfigures our historic city. It just looks bad and – as the rain falls and people smudge the outlines – it just gets worse and worse.

More stencilled footprints leading to the Victoria Art Gallery.

More stencilled footprints leading to the Victoria Art Gallery.

The latest examples l found on the main path leading up to the Holburne Museum and the pavement surrounding the outside of the Victoria Art Gallery.

Apparently its all part of ‘Rome around Bath’ – a marketing campaign organised by the Bath Museum Partnership – with funding from Arts Council England!

It includes leaflets and posters, digital campaigns and – it would seem – stencils. It’s the successor to the ‘Hot Bath, Cool Museums’ marketing campaign last year.

The 'Rome around Bath museums' leaflet.

The ‘Rome around Bath museums’ leaflet.

All the museums are included in the promotion – including the Council ones. The campaign is listed on the Visit Bath website: http://visitbath.co.uk/things-to-do/rome-around-bath

While l applaud any effort to ‘market’ our fine collection of specialist museums I have to say how can young people be told not to write on walls when the  grown-ups are busy spraying all over the floor??

A closer look at the Holburne graffiti. Click on images to enlarge.

A closer look at the Holburne graffiti. Click on images to enlarge.

This is a World Heritage city. We should be proud of it. Every bit of it is precious. There is enough rubbish blowing about without this.

Ironically just been watching Reese Witherspoon in the 2004 film version of Vanity Fair – shot at locations in Bath including the Holburne and Great Pulteney Street.

These are backdrops we value for tourist income – don’t spoil them.

It’s not enough to say it’s temporary. It’s the mindset that you think it’s OK to do this in the first place.

The cut back laurel hedge by the canal.

The cut back laurel hedge by the canal.

Meanwhile interested in knowing how people feel about the cutting back of laurel in Sydney Gardens where views of the canal are certainly being opened up. I like it.

The laurel will recover at a more respectable height. It’s all to do with park management. At least for as long as the local council feels it can afford to pay.

The Network Rail barriers in Sydney Gardens are coming down.

The Network Rail barriers in Sydney Gardens are coming down.

Elsewhere in the park the barriers around the railway line that also cuts through this former Georgian pleasure garden are starting to come down at the end of Network Rail’s six-week programme of works ahead of electrification.

Can’t wait to see the designs being considered for the brackets to hold the power cable through this heritage site.

Maybe the whole of Bath might be allowed to vote on them rather than individual organisations.

The puddle-covered towpath into Bath.

The puddle-covered towpath into Bath.

The other path leading into the park is the towpath along the Kennet and Avon Canal. Ironically B&NES has a grant – aimed at encouraging cycling – to spend for the benefit of all users of the towpath. Not everyone likes the cyclists but then not every cyclist likes the dogs that wander freely across their path.

Plans for resurfacing the towpath were put on show at Larkhall on Saturday for people to see and comment upon.

Plans for resurfacing the towpath were put on show at Larkhall on Saturday for people to see and comment upon.

Went to the consultation in Larkhall yesterday where l was told very few people had complained about the proposals.

A steady flow but not exactly the sort of queues Banky’s Dismaland has been getting down at Weston super Mare.

This – of course -is all about consideration for others and a decent path so ALL can enjoy a mud and water free walk or cycle into town.

If you don’t like the bikes then campaign for B&NES to make proper provision for them along the streets of this city. The car is not sacred anymore.

The towpath has an un-enforceable code of conduct which asks cyclists to go slow and dog walkers to use a lead but there is no one to police this or hand out an on-the-spot-fine.

To all speeding cyclists and those without bell or helmet – l say slow down and safety-up. To all dog walkers not using leads l say get your pet under control. While those out with the family must put their mobiles away for long enough to keep an eye on their toddlers.

To all of those who do have consideration for others – thanks and now spread the word.

Holburne’s latest purchase unveiled

Holburne’s latest purchase unveiled

Don McCullin and Charlotte Sorapure - wither side of her portrait.

Don McCullin and Charlotte Sorapure – either side of her portrait. Please click on images to enlarge.

Veteran war and landscape photographer Don McCullin CBE paid a special visit to Bath’s Holburne Museum today (Friday, March 13th) to witness the official unveiling of a portrait of himself.

It’s been painted by Charlotte Sorapure who was the 2012 winner of the Holburne Portrait Prize and who chose Don – who is celebrating his 80th Birthday this year – as her subject.

The portrait of Don McCullin

The portrait of Don McCullin

Her compelling portrait of him – and her own prize-winning self-portrait – are displayed in the Wirth Gallery alongside some of McCullin’s own melancholy landscape images and one of his iconic photographs from the Vietnam War.

The portrait of him is also the Holburne’s latest acquisition.

Charlotte with her husband - artist Saied Dai.

Charlotte with her husband – artist Saied Dai.

Charlotte – who arrived this morning in the company of her husband, the painter Saied Dai – lives and works near Bath.

She studied at Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Art and Technology, graduating with a BA (Hons) Fine Art, 1991, and the Royal Academy of Arts, for the Post Graduate Diploma in Painting, 1995.

Since graduating, her work has been exhibited widely, including most recently at Messum’s Gallery, London; Mall Galleries, London; Holburne Museum and Victoria Art Gallery, Bath; University of Kentucky, Lexington, USA; and the Royal West of England Academy.

Charlotte and Don greet each other.

Charlotte and Don greet each other.

Charlotte has won a number of awards for her work, including the Holburne Portrait Prize; Odin Painting Prize, Royal West of England Academy; Bill Patterson Memorial Award and Cecil Joseph Prize, New English Art Club; and the Elizabeth Greenshield Foundation Grant (twice awarded).

She is an elected member of the New English Art Club.

Please click on the video-link below to listen to her talk about painting the portrait of Don McCullin. Apologies for sound but very busy press reception going on just behind us!





Postcards of the mcCullin portrait are on sale in the Holburne shop.

Postcards of the McCullin portrait – and examples of Don McCullin’s work – are on sale in the Holburne Museum shop.

Postcard copies of the McCullin painting are on sale in the Holburne Museum shop.

The [photograph Don McCullin took of Charlotte - while painting his portrait.

The photograph Don McCullin took of Charlotte – while painting his portrait.

The exhibition featuring the portrait will run from Saturday, March 14th to Sunday the 7th of June.

It also includes a photograph Don McCullin took of Charlotte while she was working on his portrait.