Abbey gets into hot water!

The area being examined is outside the Tourist Information Office - which is STILL open!
The area being examined is outside the Visitor Information Centre – which is STILL open!

Excavation work is taking place in Kingston Parade (outside the Visitor Information Centre) as part of a joint initiative by Bath Abbey’s Footprint project and Bath & North East Somerset Council to determine the feasibility of installing an eco-friendly system using Bath’s hot springs to heat the Abbey, and the Romans Baths & Pump Room complex.

Every day, a quarter of a million gallons of hot water flow through the Roman Baths from the thermal spring located at the heart of the site.

A large quantity of this hot water eventually ends up in the nearby River Avon via the Great Roman Drain. If harnessed correctly and converted as part of the Abbey and B&NES Council’s joint initiative, it could produce 1.5 megawatts of continuous energy – enough to heat the Abbey and the Romans Baths & Pump Room complex.

A notice on the fenced-off area tells the public what is going on. Click on images to enlarge.
A notice on the fenced-off area tells the public what is going on. Click on images to enlarge

For the next 2-3 weeks, engineers will be digging four metres below the ground beneath Kingston Parade to carry out a detailed investigation into the feasibility of this scheme.

They will determine what lies in this space and establish if this area will be suitable to house the thermal heat exchanger – the equipment needed to convert unused energy from the spring water into a thermal heating system.

Investigating the Roman drain
Investigating the Roman drain

All the necessary consents have been obtained and the work will respect the historic nature of the surrounding fabric. An archaeologist will be working alongside the engineers to document and interpret any objects that may be uncovered by the excavation.

Once the investigation is complete, the ground will be covered back up and the engineers will produce a feasibility study with their recommendations on where and how the thermal heat exchanger will be housed. Throughout this work the Visitor Information Centre will remain open.

Stephen Bird, Head of Heritage Services for Bath & North East Somerset Council, said “We’re pleased to be undertaking investigations alongside Bath Abbey on what could result in a fantastic project, not just for the Roman Baths and the Abbey, but for the city as a whole. It’s no surprise that this has really captured the public’s imagination – it’s an innovative project potentially using Bath’s famous hot springs to harness natural energy in order to heat two of Bath’s famous landmarks.”

Charles Curnock, Footprint Project Director from Bath Abbey, said: “The Abbey’s Victorian heating system is sadly outdated, inefficient and expensive to maintain. This combined with the work we’re doing as part of our Footprint project to repair the Abbey’s collapsing floor makes this the ideal time for us to consider a new underfloor heating system.

Investigating the Roman drain landscape
Investigating the Roman drain landscape

.We’re delighted to be working in collaboration with B&NES Council on this and our joint proposal for an innovative thermal heating scheme using Bath’s hot springs ticks all the right boxes, while providing a sustainable and eco-friendly solution for both the Abbey and the Roman Baths & Pump Room complex.”

Cllr Ben Stevens (Lib Dem, Widcombe), Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, added: “It’s great to be able to work with Bath Abbey on this exciting project. The Abbey, working with the Council, want to preserve as much of this city’s important heritage while improving the environmental sustainability of our historic buildings. In a city like Bath, this should be applauded.

This project, alongside the broader Abbey Footprint and the Council’s own Archway Centre project, will really enhance the heritage offer in Bath and we can all be proud of it.”