I love being able to solve a mystery. My coffee hangout is Roscoff Deli in Northumberland Place – a charming narrow paved street with 18th century buildings – erected on land owned by the Duke of Northumberland.
I often gaze out of the window and take in the assortment of traditional-style late 20th century hanging shop signs which the local authority actually encourages in this atmospheric alleyway.
One ornate metal double bracket has lost its sign and l have often wondered what was there. What trade did that frame once promote above the heads of those passing by.
I have often said how this delightful shopping street – along with other narrow passageways in the area – should be collectively promoted as the Bath Lanes – just like the Lanes in Brighton!
That empty bracket arrangement could hold a new sign saying just that – ‘Welcome to the Bath Lanes!’
Imagine my delight in coming across a book called Sketches of Georgian Bath by J Raymond Little – with a Preface by T Sturge Cotterell – the local civic leader who effectively created the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides – which has been running for 80 years!
Amongst all the artwork in this publication of 1932 was this pencil sketch of Northumberland Place – described by the author as ‘delightful not only because of their quaintness, but also because they offer a sanctuary to the harried pedestrian – you can’t possible get run over.’
There in the top right hand corner was my ornate bracket and attached to it a sign saying ‘Millinery’ – so now l know – and next door evidence of a tobacconist shop too!
One other point that illustration helped me with was the Coat of Arms above the archway connecting with the High Street.
In his Pevsner Architectural Guide to Bath, Michael Forsyth tells us they are the arms of Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany (1763-1827) who attended the opening of the new Pump Room in 1795 and was presented with the Freedom of the City.
J Raymond Little told a different story. That this was a model for the coat of arms of Frederick, Prince of Wales and his wife – parents of George the Third – which were planned to embellish the obelisk erected in his honour in the centre of Queen Square.
Michael Forsyth – l think – wins this one. You can clearly see the black winged bird of Prussia on the right hand shield. The Duke of York’s bride was his Prussian cousin Frederica Charlotte – daughter of King Frederick the Second of Prussia.