Paving stones, war booty and sketches of Bath.

A sphinx with a smirk!
New paving at the High Street end of Cheap Street.
New paving at the High Street end of Cheap Street.

Sunday lunchtime finds me at the top of Cheap Street admiring the paving being laid as part of the road improvements under construction to enhance public access and safety around the Guildhall and on the north side of the Abbey.

Laying new paving slabs to existing pavements appears to be the top priority at present, and the narrowing of the road between the Guildhall and The Corridor is not yet completed.

Narrowing the High Street.
Narrowing the High Street.

Elsewhere l made a trip into Victoria Park in search of statues on plinths to great men (or women) l may have missed? I have been wondering why Bristol has many such worthies and Bath next to none.

A giant bird bath?
A giant bird bath?

Well l spotted giant bird baths, and plinths with decorated pimple tops and even some war booty from our lengthy disagreement with Napoleon, but no figurative bronzes.

Pimple-topped plinth!
Pimple-topped plinth!

Either side of the lovely Victorian bandstand are two urns which were apparently bought by the Emperor as presents for his Josephine .

One of two urns that Empress Josephine never got to enjoy!
One of two urns that Empress Josephine never got to enjoy!

Unfortunately the Duke of Wellington and  Waterloo distracted the French leader’s attention, after which the marble urns were brought to Bath as  war-time souveniers by an home-coming Army officer and eventually presented to the city.

I am a great fan of sphinxes and so was Isambard Kingdom Brunel who was planning on putting  them on top of his suspension bridge pylons that were to take the strain of his lofty roadway across the Avon Gorge in Bristol.

A sphinx with a smirk!
A sphinx with a smirk!

He didn’t live to see a rather scaled-down version of his Clifton Bridge completed – minus its Egyptian decoration l am afraid. Here’s where Bath gets to better Bristol – though on a much more modest scale. The gates to Victoria Park are flanked with crouching sphinxes  – complete with satisfied smirk!

Finally, a quick mention for the Sylvia Gosse: Streets of Bath exhibition which continues in the Wirth Gallery at the Holburne Museum until May 12th. In 1934 Sylvia gave the Holburne some drawings she had made of the streets of Bath some years ago. This was thought to be around 1916 when she lived in Bladud Buildings.

Sylvia's drawings and Dan's photographs hang in comparative pairs.
Sylvia’s drawings and Dan’s photographs hang in comparative pairs.

Sylvia – who died in 1968 – was among the most accomplished of the circle around Walter Richard Sickert and her city sketches have the same air of faded gentility as Sickert’s Camden Town works. They have not been exhibited since 1990.

This time around a selection of drawings are being shown alongside photographs by Dan Brown taken on the same spot today. Together they show how little Bath has changed in 100 years.

Between digitising the historical images of Bath for his website Bath in Time, Dan has been busy photographing art collections in the South West and South Wales for the Public Catalogue Foundation. He has produced several books on Bath that feature his own photography.