Pulteney Bridge – one of Bath’s most iconic architectural set-pieces – was apparently designed to lead to even greater glories.
Its construction across the River Avon opened up the Bathwick estate for the building of what was planned to be one of the most impressive Neoclassical urban set pieces in Britain.
Great Pulteney Street was intended to form the central spine of a vast geometrical layout of grand streets, squares and circuses.
However, the scheme by Thomas Baldwin to create a whole new town south of the river was hit by financial panic as a result of the French Revolution and the collapse of many banks – including the one funding Baldwin’s grand plans.
Today stubby little side roads like Sunderland and Johnstone Streets indicate where work was brought to a halt.
The project had been instigated in the late 18th century by Sir William Johnstone Pulteney on behalf of his heiress wife Frances and then, after her death, on behalf of their daughter, Henrietta Laura Pulteney – the first Countess of Bath.
Laura’s name lives on in Laura Place – with its centrally place and summer-gushing fountain.
Her mother was due to be immortalised with a vast square named after her – leading off from Sunderland Street. Instead – with bankruptcy cutting off funds – the land was not built upon.
Instead Henrietta’s name lives on as a much-love seven acre park laid out and opened to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria of 1897.
Architectural historians may also love it for being a fine example of the original level of the Bathwick estate land before the likes of Baldwin arrived to change the contours.
The terraces of Great Pulteney Street nearby were raised up on extensive vaults above the meadows that once sloped down to the river to form a level surface for the monumental layout.
The park also contains the King George V Memorial Garden with lovely planting arranged around a central pool and fountain.
A marble inscription – mounted on stone – says Henrietta Park was presented to the City of Bath by Captain Francis Williams Forester of the 3rd Kings Own Hussars.
Apparently, Captain Forester inherited the vast Bathwick Estate in 1891, because he was the great-nephew of Harry George Vane Powlett, 4th Duke of Cleveland (1803-1891).
He was also President of the Bath Association Cricket Club at some time between 1891 and his death in 1944 and he passed some of the Bathwick Estate on to the club, and to other sports clubs in the area.
His gift is recorded on a memorial stone which is badly in need of cleaning and it’s further obstructed from view behind a climber that has spread out on the fence in front of it.
The grounds are beautifully cared for by the Parks Department staff but it is sad to see – as it is elsewhere in the city – the main park sign looking faded and unloved.
It’s the same thing at Alice Park – further along the London Road.
I have just become aware recently of so many examples of signs relating to Bath’s history and heritage which are in need of cleaning and restoration.
Surely there is nothing wrong with feeling proud about where one lives and the efforts both now and in the past that have gone into delivering and maintaining something which benefits the city and its people.
These signs have lost their ‘pride of place’ – their special prominence in our lives.
Don’t let them fade away.