Royal opening for new temple walkway.

Their Royal Highnesses The Earl and Countess of Wessex have visited the Roman Baths to re-open the newly-renovated Temple Precinct on Monday May 12, as part of a tour of Bath, which also included a visit to Bath Abbey.

Prince Edward Earl of Wessex and Sophie Countess of wessex visit the Roman Baths. May 2014. Photographer Freia Turland e:info@ftphotography.co.uk m:07875514528
Prince Edward Earl of Wessex and Sophie Countess of Wessex visit the Roman Baths. May 2014. Photographer Freia Turland e:info@ftphotography.co.uk m:07875514528 Click on images to enlarge.

They saw how the uncovering of the Roman Temple Precinct has increased space for visitors and revealed more of the ancient monument.

Prince Edward Earl of Wessex and Sophie Countess of wessex visit the Roman Baths. May 2014. Photographer Freia Turland e:info@ftphotography.co.uk m:07875514528
Prince Edward Earl of Wessex and Sophie Countess of Wessex visit the Roman Baths and view the head of Minerva. May 2014. Photographer Freia Turland e:info@ftphotography.co.uk m:07875514528

The display of the gilt bronze head of the goddess Sulis Minerva has been completely re-designed and a tactile model put in place for the benefit of visitors who may be partially-sighted.

The Earl of Wessex was last at the Abbey for his investiture as Chancellor of the University of Bath.

Bath & North East Somerset Council has made major improvements to the Roman Baths, including opening up a new, previously hidden, area and improving access for visitors.

The new suspended walkway across the temple precinct.
The new suspended walkway across the temple precinct.

A new suspended walkway has also been put in place above the Temple Precinct, giving visitors an aerial view of the ancient monument below. Full wheelchair access will follow in the autumn when two new lifts are installed.

Prince Edward Earl of Wessex and Sophie Countess of wessex visit the Roman Baths. May 2014. Photographer Freia Turland e:info@ftphotography.co.uk m:07875514528
Prince Edward Earl of Wessex and Sophie Countess of Wessex try a glass of natural spring water. May 2014. Photographer Freia Turland e:info@ftphotography.co.uk m:07875514528

There’s also a new lighting scheme at the Roman Baths, which uses 80% less energy than previously but is also better quality.

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Head of Heritage Services, Stephen Bird, said: “We’re delighted that the Earl and Countess of Wessex came to Bath to officially re-open the Temple Precinct.

“These improvements to the Roman Baths will make the experience much better for our visitors. The imaginative lighting scheme also supports the Council’s drive to reduce energy bills and energy consumption.”

Countess and Earl looking at the Norman foundations
Countess and Earl looking at the Norman foundations. Photo  © Deborah Coleman

At Bath Abbey, official photographer Deborah Coleman followed the Royal couple around the church during which they stopped to peer through a glass-topped trench to view the Norman foundations below the present building.

The Royal couple with the Rector of Bath Abbey.
The Royal couple with the Rector of Bath Abbey. Photo © Deborah Coleman

They were also told of plans to stabilise the Abbey floor and use thermal water to heat it afterwards – supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund application which is due to be ruled upon in a couple of weeks.

Reverend Prebendary Edward Mason, Rector of Bath Abbey, said: “We are delighted that the Earl and Countess of Wessex were able to include the Abbey in their visit to Bath. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to give the royal couple a glimpse of what we do here at the Abbey.

They met and spoke with several members of staff, some of our congregation and our youngest choir, the Melody Makers, who gave an impromptu concert. They also learnt about our work with the homeless through the Genesis Trust, our recent floor repair and heating trial and our future plans for the Footprint project.