The redevelopment of the old Harvester site just off the London Road by the turning onto Gloucester Road at Lambridge will have water power incorporated into it – if the views of local B&NES Councillor and Heritage champion Bryan Chalker have anything to do with it.
Cllr Chalker has said he welcomes a new planning application that will see the now derelict 1998 building re-modelled as retirement homes.
It stands near the site of a former mill that was powered by water and Bryan hopes a water wheel could be incubated into the new design to provide at least some of the electrical power for the new development.
He’s written an overview of his thoughts and the Virtual Museum reproduces it in full.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE FORMER HARVESTER PUB/RESTAURANT AND ITS SITE by Cllr. Bryan Chalker (Heritage Champion)
I have always been interested in old mills and the Harvester caught my attention when I first became a Bath City councillor for Lambridge and realised that this modern building, erected in 1998, mirrored the design of Lambridge Mill, which once stood on land now occupied by nearby Pitman Court. This was an old watermill and there is precious little to mark its passing than a few scant stone footings and traces of the sluice (on the Lam Brook) which once turned the wheel to power the machinery.
Watermills were the lifeblood of Bath during its great industrial period but the vast majority have vanished with the passage of time and are remembered in name only.
Lambridge had two mills, one still standing but minus its wheel, the Dead Mill, and, of course, the aforementioned Lambridge Mill. A careful study of the modern Harvester building reveals a pleasing external facsimile of an early 19th century water-mill, complete with imitation vents, timber lucarne (winch-housing) and west extensions vaulted over a mock tailrace, diverted from the fast-flowing Lam Brook, which only lacks a waterwheel to complete the impression of rustic tranquillity.
In his excellent book ‘Bath At Work’ (Millstream Books 1989), author Duncan Harper wrote: “The tributaries of the Avon turned many waterwheels; there were extensive gunpowder mills at Woolley, paper and silk mills at Batheaston, leather at St. Catherine’s, flock at Monkton Combe”. One of those tributaries is, of course, the Lam Brook and the Lam is mentioned in a Saxon boundary charter for Charlcombe under the name of ‘Lambroc’; ‘lam’ possibly meaning either ‘loam’, ‘lamb’ or ‘land’ and the latter, in turn, might have implied ‘boundary brook’.
The Lam Brook begins its life in Cold Ashton, slightly five miles north of Bath, and once served as a common boundary to Tadwick, Langridge, Woolley, Charlcombe, Swainswick and Walcot, before flowing into the Avon. The Lam actually joins the Walcot ward boundary at the bottom of Valley View Road, a short distance from where the Dead Mill’s tail-race once re-joined the main stream next to the stone arch bridge beneath Dead Mill Lane.
There was a time when the Lam Brook served the Lambridge Mill, erected in the first half of the 19th century, and serving the local community and beyond with leather dressing, glue making and, latterly, as a flour mill.
A map of 1830 shows the Harvester site as meadows and depicts for the first time the newly built Lambridge Mill to the north, owned by the Sturge family. By the 1840s, the southern end of the site had merged into the land bounding Lambridge House, with the northern section held by the Sturge family and its watermill complex.
According to an estate map of Swainswick dating from 1729, the Harvester site formed part of a parcel of land known as ‘Licker’s Mead’, a meadow in the owner-ship of the Clark family and a mill had stood on this land since 1275.
Lambridge Mill fell into decay after its working life ended in 1951 and it became little more than a builder’s yard until demolition in 1966. It is interesting to note that one of its smaller mill stones may well survive in nearby Alice Park, where it served to cap a well and form the base for a flag-pole.
Bass Taverns were responsible for building the Harvester in 1998 but due to dwindling trade it closed for business in 2007/8 and has stood derelict ever since. Various applications have been to redevelop the land there and one such scheme proposed to demolish the structure and begin afresh. Now, it seems, a fresh application has been submitted to B&NES by McCarthy & Stone to retain the shell of the Harvester and transform its interior into retirement apartments for the over-70s, with 33 two bedroom apartments and 17 one bedroom apartments and 33 on-site parking spaces for residents and visitors.
One can only hope that B&NES planners will give the go-ahead for this development and ensure that the outward appearance of this pleasing modern building remains intact. My personal view is that the vaulted west wing could be adapted for the installation of a working waterwheel to provide electricity for the complex.
Prior to the erection of the Harvester pub, all that occupied the site previously was a modest nursery garden, with timber huts and glasshouses. There is precious little evidence of archaeological remains in or around this land, although an official survey of 1990 did find small quantities of Roman and medieval pottery along the proposed course of the Batheaston By-Pass near the Elms, Bailbrook.
It is high time the Harvester building was brought back to life and reflects some of the proud industrial heritage of Lambridge and a functioning waterwheel would be a wonderful way of welcoming visitors to this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I do hope that McCarthy & Stone will see fit to erect sympathetic and informative signage and/or plaques to highlight the architectural relationship between the Harvester and Lambridge Mill.