Making a ‘cheese’ of Bath stone

Every year the Mayor of Bath’s Honorary Corps of Guides organises a series of special Summer walks. One such temporary addition will take in Walcot and the Paragon and will be led by Mr Ken Jefferies – who trained me last year!

John Cooper who is the Corps of Guide’s Membership Secretary – and who will be assisting Ken on his walk – has contacted the Virtual Museum with a question.

P1050565‘On the junction of Lansdown and the Paragon are Fountain Buildings. At the first floor level on the Paragon, but lower on Lansdown, are a number of holes drilled in the stonework below  some, but not all, of the windows, The holes have a consistent but strange pattern. Is there any significance in the pattern of holes? Are they for ventilation?’fountain_buildings_holes

John is sure visitors will ask what the significance of the holes is.

Dr Cathryn Spence from Bath Preservation Trust very helpfully put me in contact a man who she thought  must know most about buildings – and especially Bath buildings – and that’s architect David McLaughlin.

True enough – David emailed me with the information which will certainly help Ken and John with their special walks.

‘The holes and their odd pattern,’ he says, ‘ were insisted upon by British Gas (or the equivalent) when the two ranges of Fountain Buildings were repaired and converted to flats by a housing association in order to ventilate gas fires which were placed immediately behind them internally.

P1050564I was Conservation Architect in the city ( and from 1975 – 2005) at the time and tried to argue against them by taking the cross-section area of an individual hole and multiplying it by the number of holes, to give their required area and suggested that if a slot was created immediately under the window cill for the near width of the window – and a small length of mortar in the middle to support the two lengths of the cill – that it would be a dramatic visual improvement rather than the Gruyère effect of the holes.

However, British Gas (or equivalent) would not agree. There was a happier outcome in Cheltenham where my slot suggestion was used by others facing the same dilemma.’

Thank you for that David!