January launch for Beau Street Hoard

January launch for Beau Street Hoard

People keep asking me when exactly is the Beau Street Hoard – those eight bags of 17,500 silver Roman coins – coming back to Bath from the British Museum?

The first handful from the hoard which is now known to contain 17,500 coins.

The first handful from the hoard which is now known to contain 17,500 coins.

It’s where they went following their discovery – in advance of a hotel development in the centre of the city – back in 2007.

I asked Stephen Clews – Manager of the Roman Baths and Pump Room – if there would be a ‘magic moment’ – anytime soon – when the coins were revealed – following their legal acquisition.

He told me : ‘ The sad reality is that it is more like a dripping tap than a magic moment! Small quantities are delivered whenever people transit between Bath and London. This is because the BM are steadily working through them and we are steadily processing them at this end.

The Beau Street Hoard book.

The Beau Street Hoard book.

The ‘magic moment’ will be when the display opens to the public, which is currently shown on the project plan as end January.”

In the meantime – the Roman Baths shops is selling a book which tells you all about the Hoard’s amazing discovery and its relevance.

Bike users exceed targets.

Bike users exceed targets.

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s self-service bike rental scheme is proving to be a hit, exceeding usage targets across the city.
next bikeThe 24-hour nextbike hire scheme allows users to drop at multiple locations, including Bath Spa railway station, Bath Spa University, The Guildhall and other city centre locations, as well as the Royal United Hospital.

The bikes are available 24 hours a day and users can register and hire bikes in just a couple of minutes. Since its launch in June, the service has been growing in membership and now has around 700 users a month.

Councillor Caroline Roberts (Lib-Dem, Newbridge), the Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “I’m delighted with the uptake of the scheme which is proving popular with visitors and local residents alike. This will help us in our aim to reduce congestion in the city and in delivering our walking and cycling strategy for Bath.”

Rob Grisdale, Managing Director of nextbike UK said: “It’s been a great launch summer for nextbike in Bath and so far the figures are looking great. We originally expected 500 rentals per month but so far we’ve seen between 650 and 750. We are looking forward to capitalising on this early success and growing the scheme in 2015, both in scale and in ridership.”

One of the Nextbike hire stations.

One of the Nextbike hire stations.

Charlotte Taylor, Senior Marketing Manager at Bath Tourism Plus, said: “Last Friday I took five German journalists on a little jaunt up to and through the Two Tunnels. As a keen cyclist, having routes like this on my doorstep is one of the reasons I moved to Bath, but showing these German visitors how easy it is to grab a bike in town and set off on one of the many stunning rides heading out of Bath reminded me that this city and the extensive cycle-friendly pathways and quiet roads surrounding it, is perfect for cyclists of all abilities.”

Residents and visitors to Bath have nine docking station locations to choose from when they hire and return their bike and three new stations will be introduced before spring 2015.

On average users of nextbike hire a bike for just over two hours, with 47% of users preferring to drop the bike at a different location to where they hired it, demonstrating the power of the A-B system.

Users can hire bikes direct from the docking stations on street or by using a mobile-based application. Registration to the scheme is free and each rental costs £1 per half hour. For full subscribers, rentals are free for the first 30 minutes of every rental. There is a maximum charge of £10 per day to allow riders to explore the city and its environs. A lock is provided to enable users to secure the bike during use.

The scheme is operated by nextbike but is part-funded by Bath & North East Somerset Council through the Department of Transport’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund although it is hoped to become self-sufficient within two years.

For more information visit http://www.nextbike.co.uk

Knock, knock.

Knock, knock.

From an Anglo-centric point of view the most famous door in our island realm has got to be the black and shiny one that fronts the Prime Minister’s official London residence at  10 Downing Street.



When it comes to watching the political comings and goings – during important events in our nation’s history – you may have noticed (as such things are photographed and televised) that it is a lion’s head door knocker that is grasped and used by whoever is announcing their presence and wanting to gain entry.

A lion’s head has got to be a popular subject for such a piece of door furniture . I have spotted many here on the imposing streets of Georgian Bath.

A Bath lion knoxker!

A Bath lion door knocker!

Black iron or shiny brass – they stare out both fiercely and proudly from their lofty perch above each individual threshold.

Door knockers appear in every culture but l was interested to learn that in Ancient Greece slaves were often assigned to answer doors and were chained to the portal in order to prevent them from running away.

The predecessor of door knockers were short iron bars – attached to these chains – which were used as “rappers.”

It appears that the lion’s head design also existed for door knockers in ancient Greece.

In 1942  the late American Professor of Archaeology Sterling Dow – a leading expert on Greek history of the 5th and 4th centuries BC – mentioned some “heavy handsome lion’s-head door knockers…which escaped the sack by Philip in 348 BC.”

So, what’s the significance of lion’s head door knockers? Did they symbolize anything, or were they just decorative?  Well it seems lions held symbolism in lots of ancient cultures, and often embodied power and strength.

The Lions Gate at Mycenae

The Lions Gate at Mycenae

It’s likely that lion’s head door knockers were intended to serve the same symbolic function as the lion statues which decorated the gates of the Mycenaean citadel (Lion Gate at Mycenae, c. 1250 BCE).

These intimidating stone creatures serve as guardian beasts for the city, as well as symbolizing strength and power.

In terms of the more recent British Empire they remain as guardians – and symbols of our now faded imperial power – around such things as  Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square and in front of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

The lions outside the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

The lions outside the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

I think it is fair to see the same purpose being fulfilled by lion’s head door knockers, which rest on the doors (i.e. gates) as guardians of the hearth.

In the Middle Ages they took on gruesome faces such as gargoyles and dogs – as well as lions.

Images it was thought would ward off evil spirits from the home.

Dragon door knockers at Cizre Great Mosque.

Dragon door knockers at Cizre Great Mosque.

East – as well as West – used the same device.

The doors of the Cizre-Great Mosque in Anatolia in Turkey – which was built in 1160 – hold two dragon door knockers.

There are lions and dragons in China and just look at the lion-bodied Sphinx guarding the Great Pyramids of Giza.

The 'Ring of Mercy' on the Cathedral St Maria in Augsburg, Germany.

The ‘Ring of Mercy’ on the Cathedral St Maria in Augsburg, Germany.

There was apparently no need for guardian figures at the door to a church. It was thought the holy water in the baptismal font just inside was enough to ward off evil.

However some church doors had something called the ‘sanctuary knocker’ – a large ornamental hoop found on the door of a cathedral.

A Bath-based descendant of the 'sanctuary' knocker?

A Bath-based descendant of the ‘sanctuary’ knocker?

Under medieval English common law these instruments supposedly afforded the right of asylum to anybody who touched them.

By 1623 the laws permitting church sanctuary had been overturned by parliament.

However, the ‘church knocker’ is another popular contemporary choice – as is a hand-shaped device.

This is something often seen in Muslim countries and was thought to symbolise the hand of Fatima – daughter of the Prophet – which protected the house from evil and was also a way to show that the occupants of that house were followers of the Muslim faith.

'Hand of Fatima'

‘Hand of Fatima’

It was also assumed that there were different hand knockers – one male and one female – as it was considered inappropriate for the woman of the home to open the door to a man.

Therefore visitors would use the knockers according to their gender. Each knocker would make a different sound so the woman of the house would know whether or not she should open the door.

A touch of Art Nouveau

A touch of Art Nouveau.


A Victorian love of ornamentation and expression brought forth a plethora of different shapes and subjects for knockers.

The head of a goddess is another popular choice

The head of a goddess is another popular choice in Bath.

Some to bring a smile to the face of the visitor waiting outside and others reckoned to bring good luck inside – every time the door was opened – such as horseshoes, stars, suns and flowers.

Overall a grand setting and a solid door calls for a grand gesture – despite the fact the electric doorbell has been around for quite a while now.

The bell might do the job of announcing your presence but there is no real connection – via metal hitting metal – between the visitor and the householder. No link with the portals of the past.

Is this Jane Austen herself doing he greeting?

Is this Jane Austen herself greeting visitors to this Bath house?

Doorways from public to private. Brass and iron guardians of gateways linking people and different worlds.

Do look out for unusual door knockers and let the Virtual Museum know what you have found.

This Museum is also grateful to anyone who wants to add to this brief look at the history of the humble door knocker.








Threat to Bath spa waters

Threat to Bath spa waters

Bath could lose its spa-water ‘life-blood’ if fracking is allowed around the city – according to the leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, Councillor Paul Crossley.

Cllr Paul Crossley Leader, B&NES

Cllr Paul Crossley
Leader, B&NES

Addressing the Shale Gas Environmental Summit in London, he warned that shale gas operations and hydro fracturing – commonly known as ‘fracking’ – could damage the supply of water to the Hot Springs.

“The World Heritage City of Bath is home to the UK’s only natural Hot Springs. I have deep concerns about the fracking process and the possible damage to the supply of water the springs and the knock-on impact on the city as a major tourist attraction,” says Cllr Crossley.

“The springs are the life blood of this city, which is cherished worldwide. In economic terms, the city and region rely heavily on a tourist industry which is worth an estimated £380m annually to Bath alone and which employs 10,000 people.”

He will tell the conference that:
· The value of Roman Baths alone to the local economy is £92m per annum (based on a Bath University – 2010 Economic Impact Assessment)
· Bath Spa attracted 260,000 visitors in 2013 generating an additional £14m to the local economy
· 61% of visitors to the Spa said it was their main reason for visiting Bath

The Pump Room fountain supplying  spa water for drinking.

The Pump Room fountain supplying spa water for drinking.

Independent research carried out by the British Geological Survey has concluded that extraction of unconventional gas within the zone of influence of the Hot Springs of Bath has the potential to damage the delicate fracture-led delivery system of the hot water.

Cllr Crossley emphasised that Bath & North East Somerset Council is not opposed to the concept of shale gas extraction: “Our concern is wholly focussed on the potential damage to the Hot Springs and is backed by research findings.

“As such, we are not asking that Bath is made an exception in policy terms, but rather that a policy of pursuing shale gas extraction in appropriate areas recognises that for technical reasons it is wholly inappropriate to issue licences within the Bath Hot Springs catchment area.”

The Shale Gas Environmental Summit provides a platform for various industry representatives including operators, environmentalists, campaigners, NGOs, academics and researchers to come together and discuss the environmental aspects of shale gas extraction and production.

New loos for Parade Gardens.

New loos for Parade Gardens.

Work to install new toilets at Parade Gardens in the centre of Bath begins today – Monday, October 27th.

Parade Gardens

Parade Gardens

Bath & North East Somerset Council is moving ahead with plans to improve public toilets across the district. Healthmatic Ltd, the Council’s contractor, will complete the work during November before the Christmas Market begins. During construction the Ladies side will be kept open and there will also be a temporary unisex toilet, suitable for people with disabilities, at the main entrance next to the ticket kiosk.

The Council’s contract with Healthmatic Ltd will provide investment in cleaning and management services for 15 years, and means that 15 public toilets in parks, play areas, green spaces and key transport hubs will remain open and be improved.

Cllr David Dixon (Lib Dem, Oldfield), Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “These new toilets will be a great improvement for Parade Gardens, a beautiful park that attracts tourists and visitors who want a break from their sightseeing and shopping, as well as people living and working nearby. Parade Gardens is an award-winning park which is now becoming a popular venue for weddings and ceremonial photographs too.

“New toilets have already been put in place at Monmouth Street; Odd Down Park & Ride; Sandpits play area; Alice Park, and Keynsham Memorial Park and they are much improved, cleaner and safer to use. The works at Charlotte Street car park are progressing well and improvements to the remaining toilets will take place over the autumn and winter.”

The new public toilets at Parade Gardens will have many benefits, including:
• Cubicles will be unisex, one will be disability compliant and will have baby-change facilities – before there was only a locked baby-change room on the Ladies side
• The cubicles offer a high standard of cleanliness and safety and are able to handle large numbers of people using them
• They are large enough for a parent with a couple of small children and a pushchair to use together
• High-tech controls means access can be 24 hours / 7 days a week all year and timers can be adjusted remotely to suit local need as well
• Access is by coin entry to a totally private cubicle with its own hand-washing and drying facilities
• The inside is resistant to vandalism and misuse with an easy-clean tiled interior and hard-wearing fittings
• Problems are detected remotely enabling rapid response by Healthmatic’s engineering and maintenance teams

All of the refurbished facilities will be charged at 20p for use, in order to make the contract sustainable over the next 15 years.

Family photos get civic display.

Family photos get civic display.

Bath & North East Somerset Council is to host a Connecting Families photographic exhibition at its Guildhall offices in October and November.

‘Connecting’ is a family photography project, where parents, children and siblings have worked together to explore various different aspects of photography, many for the first time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATwo families comprising seven people took part in the four-week programme and the photographs they took will be displayed in the Guildhall, Bath, from Monday 27 October to Sunday 2 November, following a recent celebration event and exhibition of their work in 44AD Gallery, 4 Abbey Street, Bath.

The families have worked from a starting point of shape, colour, texture, light and portraiture to capture what they saw around them, what caught their eye, and what was important to them.

Councillor Dine Romero (Lib-Dem, Southdown), the Council’s Cabinet Member for Early Years, Children, and Youth, said: “This fantastic project has produced an amazing variety of photographs and has enabled the two families who took part to tap into their imagination and creativity. It also builds on the work that our Connecting Families team does in the local communities in Bath and the surrounding area.”

The ‘Connecting’ programme was a partnership project which was funded by Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Arts Development team. Families were identified via the Council’s Connecting Families team and the project was carried out by Suited & Booted Studios, led by Chris Kemp, who said “It was a joy to work with and be inspired by the families, and their infectious enthusiasm for the project.”

Families said that “they learned a lot about using a camera and editing photos”. One family member felt that they would not have taken photos without this opportunity and one young girl has since enrolled onto a school photography club.

The ‘Connecting’ exhibition is free of charge and residents and visitors are welcome to pop in and take a look while passing by the Guildhall.

War plaque for Bath’s Guildhall.

War plaque for Bath’s Guildhall.

Bath & North East Somerset Council is honouring the memory of those who served and died in the First World War with a special commemoration ceremony in November.

The Bath Guildhall

The Bath Guildhall

A plaque commemorating the centenary of the start of the First World War in 1914 will be unveiled in the Guildhall in Bath on Armistice Day, Tuesday 11 November with special guests from the Royal British Legion and other local groups.

Bath & North East Somerset Council Chairman, Councillor Martin Veal, said: “We mark Armistice Day every year, but the centenary of the start of WW1 deserves special commemoration.

“Visitors to the Guildhall can see the new brass plaque on the main staircase, near to the one honouring Harry Patch, the last surviving Tommy, who died in 2009 aged 111.”

The unveiling ceremony will include poems about WW1 written by pupils of St Stephen’s Primary School, and the song ‘Do you recall the war to end all war’ with lyrics written by B&NES Councillor Bryan Chalker and put to music by Tony Renney.poppies knitted

The Guildhall will be decorated with knitted red poppies from Thursday, 6 November to Wednesday, 12 November to raise awareness of this year’s Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.

In addition, Cllr Veal will be wearing a special commemorative sash created by the group who knitted the poppies.