It’s a shame maybe that the most impressive reminder of Bath’s industrial past is visible on the quayside in Bristol rather than in the city where they were manufactured. I am talking about the four huge cranes outside what is now M Shed on the Floating Harbour.
They were made at the Stothert and Pitt Newark Works – here on the Lower Bristol Road. !t was – until its closure in 1987 – a heavy engineering company that eventually became Bath’s biggest employer.
Although S & P made a range of products it was cranes that brought it international renown. The four examples in Bristol were built back in 1951 – many others can be found on docksides around the world – but the only example still in this city is a more modest affair – built in 1904.
It’s one of the last remaining rail-mounted self-propelled steam cranes produced by the company and – after a campaign led by B&NES Heritage champion Cllr Bryan Chalker – was saved to claim pride of place in front of the new residential development by Crest Nicholson which is leading to the regeneration of the western riverside.
Sadly the crane was subsequently attacked by vandals and a plaque explaining its provenance and the industrial history of this former industrial site badly damaged.
However Cllr Chalker tells the VMB that the developers have come to the rescue.
‘Crest Nicholson has now funded a new and larger plaque,’ he says. ‘ This is now in place and attached to the steam crane’s cab. Once the weather improves, the jib will be lowered and fenced off for cleaning and repainting and the cables greased.’
The plaque says that with the Help of the Mayor of Bath – Bryan Chalker, Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust, Avon Valley Railway, The Museum of Bath at Work and Bath and North East Somerset Council this crane is being restored to its former glory as part of the Bath Riverside Art Strategy.’ It is signed ‘Crest Nicholson Regeneration.’