Secrets in stone

The weather-worn stone figures at the Abbey end of the Guildhall.
The weather-worn stone figures at the Abbey end of the Guildhall.
The weather-worn stone figures at the Abbey end of the Guildhall.

Are these the stone figures that once looked down on people crossing Bath’s old city bridge? A lion and a bear – now attached to the High Street facing façade of one of the ‘wings’ added to the 18th century Guildhall in 1893-7.

No one knows for sure where the Romans crossed the river but there are records of a 5-arched masonry bridge in the 13th century and a rebuild in the 15th.

This is when the figures of a lion and a bear were erected on pedestals at the south end of the bridge. There is a suggestion that a gateway here might have originally housed a drawbridge.
The bridge was reconstructed in 1754 – and not replaced until 1966 – but one source suggests the stone figures survived the 18th century re-modelling and were repositioned over the central piers until ‘mischievously destroyed in 1799 and thrown into the river.’
Were they then dredged from the river floor? Or had they really spent years forgotten in someone’s cellar? Or is this just a fanciful story and the Guildhall figures came from somewhere else? If you know – let me know.