Mr Peto’s garden of delights

Mr Peto’s garden of delights


Double-clicking on any of these images will increase their size!

Just half a mile south of Bradford on Avon – on one side of a beautifully green and lush-leafed valley where Somerset and Wiltshire face each other across the banks of the River Frome – lie the terraces of a little corner of Italy and what must be the smallest opera house in the world!

I had discovered – and its approach is well-hidden down a steep and narrow stone-banked lane – a little gem of a garden near the end of its viewing season. (The last week-end the tea shop would be open and only four Sunday viewings in October left to go)!

It’s The Peto Garden at Iford Manor. A Grade 1 Italian-styled combination of architecture and plants that is famous for its tranquil beauty.IMG_4889

From 1899 to 1933 it was the home of architect and designer Harold Peto who became increasingly interested in garden design after a 16-year architectural partnership came to an end.

IMG_4945Peto was a much travelled collector of anything that fed his tastes for the style and decorative arts of the Italian Renaissance.

Several long trips to Italy had a big influence on his attention turning towards combining both house and garden design together.

Across the garden - from a mould taken from the original in the Capitol Museum in Rome - the bronze wold with Romulus and Remus

Across the garden – from a mould taken from the original in the Capitol Museum in Rome – the bronze she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus

He was responsible for creating several combined villas and gardens on the Continent but carried out commissions in Ireland and England too – including Wayford Manor and Burton Pynsent House in Somerset.IMG_4934

Peto was searching for a country manor he could both transform and live in. He bought Iford Manor in 1899 and took up the challenge of moulding the steep, awkward landscape and trying out his ideas.

Italian marble figure of a youth.

Italian figure of a youth.

Over several years – and with a limited budget – he arranged the grounds as terraced walks in reflection of some of his favourite Mediterranean gardens.

IMG_4864Within it he also made good use of his collection of antique fragments which he had amassed during his career.

Peto thought a garden was at its most beautiful when it combined architecture and plants.

Iford is certainly a worth-while ‘theatrical’ experience but be prepared to exercise your lungs climbing the steep terraces to experience it all.

In his manuscript The Boke of Iford – published after his death, Peto wrote:

‘ Old buildings or fragments of masonry carry one’s mind back to the past in a way that a garden of flowers only cannot do. Gardens that are too stony are equally unsatisfactory; it is the combination of the two, in just proportion, which is the most satisfying.’IMG_4883

I mentioned what might be the smallest opera house in the world and it is time to tell you where you will find it.

One of two 13th century lions guarding the Cloisters doorway

One of two 13th century lions guarding the Cloisters doorway

One of Peto’s theatrical pieces is the Cloisters which he completed in 1914 – partly to house his remaining antique fragments and partly as an historical reference to the Cloisters which has once existed on the Conervatory lawn.

He adopted the Italian style of about 1200 AD with two Lombardic 13th century lions guarding the entrance with a doorway which is believed to have come from a house in Mantua and to date around 1450 AD.

An Italian votive group on 1485 AD showing figures sheltering under the Madonna's cloak.

An Italian votive group on 1485 AD showing figures sheltering under the Madonna’s cloak.

Inside the structure is a beautiful and compact space used to stage regular opera productions before which people picnic in the gardens and then return by the light of flares to listen to the performers.

It’s a very intimate atmosphere with little to separate musicians and singers from those seated around them.

The season runs from the last week in June through to the end of July. Check out the website

The Cloisters

The Cloisters

Peto’s Garden is open on Sundays between April and October and on Easter Monday between 2pm and 5pm.

While from May to September daily between 2pm-5pm except on Mondays and Fridays. More information on

A feather-ruffling day to talk seagulls.

A feather-ruffling day to talk seagulls.


Local residents, business owners and visitors are being invited by Bath & North East Somerset Council come together to tackle the urban gull population in the city.

A scrutiny inquiry day being held on Wednesday 27 November 2013 on reducing the gulls’ food source caused by litter and waste dropped on the ground or exposed in unsuitable containers. The day will aim to raise awareness on causes of large gull populations and dispel myths about enhance understanding about what can and cannot be done to solve the problem. The ultimate aim is to come up with a set of practical recommendations for change and for every resident, worker and visitor to play their part.

IMG_4028The morning – the inquiry opens at 9.30 am – will focus on providing information and will include presentations by experts, council officers and government representatives. The afternoon will include a workshop session for everyone to have their say in the practical recommendations that are put forward.

Councillor Marie Longstaff, Chair of the Planning, Transport and Environment Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel, said, “The purpose of the day is to engage everybody who works, lives or spends time in our area to take responsibility for the issue and causes. The increasing gull population is a subject that bothers a lot of people, and we sympathise with that. But it isn’t only the Council’s responsibility to tackle it. We want to challenge those people and businesses who are making the problem worse through a lack of thought and for everyone else to know that little bit more and contribute to the solutions.”

Local resident, Kirsten Elliott campaigned to councillors to take action in bringing the community together to promote joint responsibility. She said: “I’m a believer in making things happen, not sitting on my hands moaning. I felt people need to get together if we want to see a long term change. Many times have I seen household and business rubbish being fought over by two or more birds and it is frustrating to know that wouldn’t happen if people took more responsibility and thought about the consequences. Like everybody, I just want what is best for my city.”

seagullsThe inquiry is a public meeting and the council wishes to encourage broad interest and participation in the day. Although it is not obligatory to submit statements in advance for this sort of event, it is recommended that those who want to speak on the day do so. Statements should be sent no later than five working days before. Due to the expected demand, each speaker will be allocated a maximum of three minutes.

For further information on the day or to submit a written statement, please; Policy Development and Scrutiny Team, Bath & North East Somerset Council, High Street, Bath, BA1 5AW; or call 01225 396053.

Last chance for top spot over Keynsham

Last chance for top spot over Keynsham

The last chance in 2013 for people to view the construction site for 100 feet up of the £34 million regeneration of Keynsham town centre will take place on Thursday 17thOctober 2013, 5.45pm. Bath & North East Somerset Council and Willmott Dixon will host the event at Riverside.

Taking in the view!

Taking in the view!

Excellent progress is being made on all aspects of the project which includes new shops, new community space, and new library with one stop shop for public services. Those who attend will get the opportunity to:

  • View a short video about the progress being made with exclusive footage from inside the construction site;
  • Ask questions about the project to the construction team;
  • Learn more about what is planned for the 2014 time capsule that will be buried within the town centre regeneration;
  • Take photographs from the windows some 100 feet from ground level and Tweet them using the hashtag #keynregen

Councillor Paul Crossley (Lib-Dem, Southdown), Leader of Council, said, “People can get a much clearer view of the progress being made from 100 feet above the site than at ground level. The short video and presentation will provide an exclusive insight into history in the making as Bath & North East Somerset Council breathes new life into Keynsham.

“Those who attend will be able to contribute ideas for the 2014 Time Capsule. All of our previous Open Office events have been oversubscribed, so contact us as soon as possible to book your place.”

Book your place now

Numbers are limited to 60 and will be booked on a first come, first served basis. Light refreshments will be provided. People can get in contact or can call 0117 986 8941.

For those people who cannot attend, our website provides the very latest information on the regeneration at


Cellar secrets

Cellar secrets

IMG_4861 A trip into a Bath chemist to buy a bar of coal-tar soap also – quite unexpectedly – plunged me deep into the city’s past!

Well it was more a case of stepping down into history – on the corner of  Burton and New Bond Streets – as l went down the stairs and into the basement of what is now the Lifestyle Healthcare shop.IMG_4855IMG_4857

Seems it’s a popular tourist destination as – apart from what’s for sale – there’s an amazing subterranean space made up of stone arched cellars which – l was told – were built over the original street level.

IMG_4856You can look up at the skylight built into the pavement above and also see where rain water on the street surface is fed down a pipe into the old drains.IMG_4858

A very helpful and enthusiastic young lady said people are welcome to come take a look. It’s certainly very atmospheric!IMG_4860

Above the cellar tunnels, an old sign on the shop wall is apparently what  hung on the exterior of the shop when it was a pharmacy in Victorian times.

The Bernina remembered

The Bernina remembered

I have been talking about an official handbook published in 1923 which features up to date information on all the excavations that had taken place since 1878 around the original Roman baths complex.

You can find the article – under History and Heritage – and called “Bath Uncovered.’IMG_4848

I spend some time discussing the Bath businesses who took out advertising space in the catalogue – including one for The Bernina – which was ‘Bath’s beautiful Swiss cafe’ which even made its own chocolates!

The Bernina in Old Bond Street 1966  © Bath In Time

The Bernina in Old Bond Street 1966
© Bath In Time

My thanks to Dan Brown from Bath In Time for telling me he has several images of the business which was still in existence in Old Bond Street in 1966 when one of the photographs was taken. You can link to his site here…

Praise for the man who helped restore Bath’s Spa.

Praise for the man who helped restore Bath’s Spa.

Bath and North East Somerset Council has been paying its condolences to the family of Dr. Geoffrey Kellaway – the man who helped the city restore its Spa status after the discovery of pathogenic amoebae in the hot springs  forced their complete closure in the late1970’s.

Dr Kellaway – who was a former Geologist Consultant to the Council –  died last week.

Cllr Paul Crossley Leader, B&NES

Cllr Paul Crossley
Leader, B&NES

Councillor Paul Crossley, Leader of B&NES, said, “ Dr. Kellaway made a significant and highly valued contribution to the heritage of our area. His work and research on the Hot Springs continue to be important to Bath, ensuring that one of the city’s most treasured assets will be maintained for generations to come. We are all very sorry to hear of his passing.

“His legacy includes supporting the restoration of the Spa to working order – something that has not only been good for the economy of Bath but also for its soul as it is one of the unique assets that Bath has.

This success has been matched by the confidence of the YTL group who are investing so much in the new Gainsborough Hotel.”

The Gainsborough Hotel taking shape

The Gainsborough Hotel taking shape

Since Roman times Bath has been famous for its hot springs and for the treatment centre they offered. Elizabeth the First placed them under the care of the city authorities in 1590 and, from that time until the complete closure of spa facilities in 1977, Bath was an important medical and social centre – reaching the peak of its fame in the 18th century,

In 1977 the discovery of pathogenic amoebae in the water closed the bathing pools and also the pipeline supplying the water for treatment to the Royal Mineral Water Hospital. For the first time in nearly two thousand years the natural springs were not being used by man.

In response to this disaster Bath City Council mounted a major geological investigation in order to restore a supply of biologically ‘clean’ thermal water. This work was carried out on the advice of Dr Kellaway with the assistance of the Wessex Water Authority and the co-operation of scientists from the British Geological Survey, the Universities of Bristol and Bath and the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London.

Apparently microbiological work was also carried out in the Pathological laboratory of the Royal United Hospital in Bath  with other medical investigations based at the Bristol Royal Infirmary

The King's Bath or Sacred Spring - fed by three-quarters of a million litres of natural water a day.

The King’s Bath or Sacred Spring – fed by three-quarters of a million litres of natural water a day.

Dr. Kellaway undertook an extensive investigation of the Bath Hot Springs over a period of 25 years and designed the boreholes to ensure that clean hot water fed the springs subsequently.

He edited the definitive review of research into the hot springs (Hot Springs of Bath, 1991, Edited by G.A. Kellaway, Bath City Council).   Dr. Kellaway was a joint author of our paper recently published in the Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology (McCann, C., Mann, A..C., McCann, D.M, and Kellaway, G.A., 2013, Insights into the origin of the thermal springs of Bath and Bristol, England from geophysical data, Q.J.E.G.H., 46,267-279).

Dr. Kellaway was born in Bristol and undertook major geological surveys in the South-West from pre-war times onwards, in his capacity as a geologist with the British Geological Survey.  He was a very eminent and outstanding geologist.

Bath uncovered

Bath uncovered

IMG_4840 Back in 1923 Bath not only had a daily newspaper called The Bath Herald – ‘ acknowledged to be the most popular paper in the district’ – but also rolling  off its presses in North Gate that December came the eighth edition of Alfred J Taylor’s  Catalogue of Roman Remains Bath.

For 9d – and with the authority of the Bath Corporation – you could pick up a ‘ small, inexpensive hand-book which might serve the interested visitor as a ready guide to a study of our renowned Roman Baths, and those other monuments of ancient luxury and taste which excavations upon the site of the Roman Thermae have from time to time disclosed.’

The first edition dated to 1906 – less than 30 years after the amazing Roman bathing complex had been re-discovered and the work of uncovering it begun. This 1923 work had been kept from the printers until the very last-minute to ‘enable the whole of the information made available by excavation works which only ceased this month, being incorporated in the plan and letter-press.IMG_4841

Just inside the front cover is a pull-out diagram showing the very latest known lay-out of the Roman Baths.

IMG_4852While from about half way through there is an extensive catalogue with lots of illustrations of sculptured relics and inscribed stones which Alfred Taylor described as ‘ essential to such a publication if it is to properly fulfil its object in creating among the many visitors attracted to the city a more permanent interest in these remains of Roman Bath, which there can be little doubt rank among the most precious archaeological possessions of our Isles.’

I love this little ‘official handbook’ not only for its detailed but readable explanations but also for the advertising that supported its publication.IMG_4842

Let’s start with a full-page advertisement for S.W.Bush and Son who were founded in 1834 on the site of the City’s old West Gate. Old established but apparently with ‘modern methods’ in which choice groceries and provisions ‘at competitive prices’ are ‘served by efficient salesmen, with utmost courtesy.’

No jobs for the ladies there then? I have already mentioned the Bath Herald. It cost 1d – a penny – daily and there was a weekly edition on Saturday for two pence or should l say tuppence.

IMG_4843The paper was noted for ‘its full and complete services of telegrams. Its ample foreign and home notes and its special service of sporting and racing results!’

Another full-page spread for the ‘noted’ Old Red House in New Bond Street where the famous Bath Oliver biscuit was manufactured. They also sold Bath Buns, Bath Bulls Eyes and Spahton ( Spa Town) chocolates!IMG_4844

The Old Red House was home to The Bath Restaurant and the business operated by Alfred Taylor (Bath) Ltd. Is that the same Alfred Taylor who wrote the Guide?

Down at South Gate Robert Membery was busy manufacturing The Auto Mower.

IMG_4845 Visually promoted for its ‘simplicity, economy, lightness and ease of manipulation’ by having a woman steering it! I am leaving that one there – apart from telling you the grass cutting wonder cost from £42 10 shillings complete.

Those ‘Bath Bulls Eyes’ crop up again in another ad. This time it’s Mr W.G.Reed’s Ye Olde Bath Bulls Eyes Shoppe in Broad Street.IMG_4846

He apparently manufactured these delights and also high-class chocolates and ‘ the new cream toffees of delicious flavour’ which were sold in half pound or one pound tins and boxes.

IMG_4847Now l knew already that plasticine was invented in Bath in the basement of a house in Alfred Street near the Assembly Rooms. By this time Mr Harbutt’s factory had moved to Bathampton but this ‘complete modeller’ was being offered in ten colours and was available ‘for artists, schools and fancy boxes for the home.’IMG_4848

Did you know the city once had a Swiss cafe? It was called The Bernina and apart from being rendezvous for lunches, delightful afternoon teas and theatre dinners’ was also the home of ‘ the original Bernina chocolate.’ This City has got a very sweet tooth!

IMG_4849We are used to package tours and budget airlines but in Bath in 1923 Bell’s Travel Bureau in New Bond Street was promoting its business as ‘ the place in which you may get your railway tickets for travel on G.W.R. or Continental railway tickets.’

They did also arrange tours on the continent and that included finding you an hotel.IMG_4850

Next comes Ware and Co who dealt in cars, motor cycles and cycles from their premises in Quiet Street! They were agents for Sunbeam and Bean cars, Morgan runabouts and Triumph and Ariel motor cycles. You wouldn’t forget their telephone number – Bath 191!

IMG_4851Finally – where Cafe Lucca is now on Bartlett Street and above in Alfred Street where Woods Restaurant is in business  – the premises of Evans and Owen – high-class drapers.

‘Opposite the famous Assembly Rooms’ – said the advertisement – though at that time l think the Georgian building was being used as a cinema and market!

Hope this has stirred a few memories and maybe encouraged some contributions from other old Bath books and from other Bath people!