Bath’s World Heritage status does sometimes have its draw-backs – especially when it comes to replacing a worn-out internal floor that was last repaired before the building around it was afforded statutory protection.
The Banqueting Room – within the Guildhall – is regarded by many as one of Bath’s finest interiors. Michael Forsyth – in his Pevsner Architectural Guide to Bath – describes this crystal-chandelier-hung space as ‘ a masterpiece of up-to-the-minute late 18th century decoration.’
The existing floor has been in place since circa 1923 and has sustained heavy use in that 90 year period.
Towards the end of last year the Council applied to itself for planning permission to replace the floor and to renovate the grand staircase – constructed of Dutch oak. However – my spies tell me that Listed Buildings consent was not granted for the replacement covering B&NES had in mind.
A Council spokesperson was quick to point out that the Canadian oak planks put down in 1923 had been ‘inappropriate for a room of such quality at that time but was certainly before heritage buildings were afforded statutory protection.’
Well with that ‘protection’ in mind seems B&NES will be aiming to match the original flooring design – going back to 1775-8. I was told : ‘After extensive consultation with our Conservation Team and historic research, it is thought that the most appropriate new flooring will be to match the original design which is 14-inch English oak floor boards sourced and fixed in the traditional way, this is required for Listed Building Consent – which will reflect one of the finest Georgian interiors in Bath.’
Some questions remain currently unanswered. How much this is going to add to the cost? When the work is to be done and what has been decided for the grand staircase?