The Larkhall pub that vanished?

The Larkhall pub that vanished?

Getting ready to open the Larkhall Festival.

Getting ready to open the Larkhall Festival.

The annual Larkhall Festival came and went last week-end. Yours Truly enjoyed his two minutes in the spotlight cutting the ribbon outside the New Oriel Hall to officially open the seventh annual community event.

A lot of hard work by a group of volunteers – supported by local businesses – ensures that the talent living within this amazon area is seen and appreciated by the community.

The Virtual Museum was contacted by Mr Eddie Priest who lived in Larval from 1949 to 1970.

He told me : !”I remember the festivals we had there in the 50’s and 60’s – including the 1963 Carnival in which my wife – then girlfriend – was a beauty queen contestant. The roads were cordoned off from Camden right through the Square and up to the back fields where the contest was held. It was a great social event organised partly by my old dad. Happy Days.’

Eddie did not tell me whether his wife – then girlfriend – won the contest but we can all imagine he got himself a ‘winning’ wife!

Eddie asked our help with something he remembers his father telling him.

St Saviours Church at Larkhall.

St Saviours Church at Larkhall.

‘He explained to me that during the war an unexploded bomb dropped through the pavement under the old pub at the junction of St Saviours Way and St Saviours Road – opposite St Saviours Church.

I have been unable to find any history of the pub. When it opened or closed and l am not even certain of the name but think it was ‘Queen’ something. Can anyone help.

Tracey Hill of Larkhall was quick to come through and confirm that there was a pub called The Queen in a property that is now a private house and opposite St Saviours Church. It’s not the only vanished pub either. According to Tracey ‘even the Larkhall butchers shop used to be a pub.’

In the meantime l was also intrigued to know how the Oriel Hall in Larkhall came to be named. Turns out the original Oriel  village Hall was in the Swainswick Valley – an area of land once owned by Oriel College at Oxford University. As it stood in the way of the new by-pass it had to be demolished by the Highways Authority did fund a replacement.

Took a few years to find it but eventually the then derelict original St Saviours Junior School – built in 1845 – was renovated and re-opened in 2004 for the use of the community.

New trees amongst the Bath traffic!

New trees amongst the Bath traffic!

The new trees arriving on the London Road

The new trees arriving on the London Road

Many of the trees  to fill the  ten decorated steel tree planters – commissioned to line part of one of the city’s busiest traffic routes – have arrived on the London Road.

Bath-based artist Jane Veveris Callan was commissioned by B&NES to create decorative designs to go on to the containers as part of a somewhat controversial improvement scheme to the top end of the London Road – the A4 – into Bath.

The laser-cut decoration on the side of a new planter.

The laser-cut decoration on the side of a new planter.

They are being installed on the left hand  side pavement. This has already been newly laid with decorative setts and also planters will be placed on central road reservations.

Jane collaborated with Alan Summers and Karen Hoy of ‘With Words’ to work with the community – gathering local history and stories as words, with haiku and renga poems, which have informed her resulting designs.

The inscription reads ''lungs of the city' - and we surely need some more trees on this road!

The inscription reads ”lungs of the city’ – and we surely need some more trees on this road!

CorTen steel is a weather-resistant alloy designed to quickly acquire a dense tight layer of rust. It’s an air and water-tight patina which will prevent the steel from rusting any further. Colour-wise the surface will have a warm, natural appearance which will fade from orange to brown over time.

There are twelve different designs across the decorated sides of the planters – which are laser cut into the steel.

You can follow what is happening – and find out what inspired some of the designs – by logging onto

On the site, artist Jane Veveris Callan says: ‘Once the planters are in place they will will be planted up with colourful succulents ‘Sempervivum’ and Alium, with variegated ivy trailing down over the undecorated sides.

Illustration of the flower of a

Illustration of the flower of a “Snowy Mespil” tree.

Planting up on a central reservation.

Planting up on a central reservation.

Very fittingly for Snow Hill, the trees going into the planters are ‘Amelanchier’ also known as the Snowy Mespil, due to their large white flowers which blossom in June. The Central island tree pits will be planted with ‘Tilia Cordata’ the small leafed Lime, which has a beautiful conical shape.’

The planters are just one of the ‘improvements’ being carried out as part of the London Road Gateway Project which aims to improve the public realm of the stretch of London Road between Cleveland Place junction and Morrisons supermarket.

Traders and residents have had to put up with months of disruption – as have motorists going in and out of Bath on a road regarded as one of the most polluted in Europe. Some extra green ‘lungs’ will no doubt be welcomed.

Though l am hearing some concern about ‘hard edges’ on the metal planters being a bit of a hazard for those with sight impairments. While others are hoping local residents will have enough community spirit to remove any bottles, cans  cigarette butts and other litter that might end up in the containers! One container has reportedly already been hit by a van.

U3A Beau Street Hoard project on display

U3A Beau Street Hoard project on display

The University of the Third Age (U3A) is putting its work on the Beau Street Hoard on display in Bath Central Library from May 5 – 9.

U3A volunteers who have been working on the Beau Street Hoard project

U3A volunteers who have been working on the Beau Street Hoard project

Volunteers from U3A groups from Norton Radstock and Bath have been working with Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Heritage Services team at the Roman Baths. They have photographed 17,577 Roman coins found in 2007 below the foundations of the new Gainsborough Hotel in Beau Street, just a short distance from the Roman Baths where some of these coins are now on permanent display.

Bob Piper, who has been leading the U3A team, said: “Our display will showcase all the tasks that the U3A have been involved with as well as featuring stories from volunteers about their involvement with this very successful Heritage Lottery Funded project. As well as learning new skills and being able to research the emperors and their lives through examination of the coins, our U3A members say they have also benefited at a more personal level from being involved in this project.”

The Beau Street Hoard was excavated by archaeologists on the site of the Gainsborough Hotel development in Beau Street, Bath, in 2007. The Roman coins span the period from 32BC – 275AD and were found in eight separate money bags, which were fused together. No one knows how they got there, why they were put there, or why no-one ever returned for them; the mystery behind them has led to many interesting theories, but no actual fact.
In March 2014, Bath & North East Somerset Council was awarded a grant of £372,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to purchase the hoard, which is now on permanent public display in a new interactive exhibit within the Aquae Sulis Gallery at The Roman Baths.

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Hat trick for Roman Baths

Hat trick for Roman Baths

The Great Bath - part of the  Roman bathing complex built around the thermal waters.

The Great Bath – part of the Roman bathing complex built around the thermal waters.

Bath & North East Somerset Council-run Roman Baths have received an Award of Excellence based on visitors’ ratings for the third consecutive year.

The Award was made by Irish bus tour operator, CIE Tours International, which recognises UK hotels and visitor attractions that have received a greater than 90% customer satisfaction rating.

Patricia Dunlop, the Council’s commercial manager at the Roman Baths, said: “The Roman Baths receives thousands of visits from CIE Tours clients every year, nearly all of them from north America. Only a small proportion of the attractions visited receive the award and it is a tribute to the high standards maintained by the whole team that these visitors have consistently rated the experience at the Roman Baths so highly.”

Brian Stack, Managing Director of CIE Tours International commented: “Our visitors from North America are accustomed to very high levels of service in hospitality and to achieve an above 90% rating from them is very meaningful.”

Fantasy make-over for Queen Square

Fantasy make-over for Queen Square

forest of imaginationBath Landscape architects Grant Associates have designed a ‘Forest of Imagination’ to transform  one of the city’s historic public spaces into a temporary fantastical landscape and outdoor gallery for a free-to-enter  contemporary arts event this week-end.

It will be open from 10am to 6pm today (Saturday, May 16th) through to Monday.

It has transformed Queen Square into a magical forest to showcase Bath’s often hidden creativity and will include a garden and an outdoor gallery – ‘a gallery without walls’ with a series of artworks and temporary architectural structures.forest of imagination

The Forest of Imagination design includes:

The Forest enclosure featuring mixed forest saplings, understorey grasses and a willow tunnel running across the middle. Playing with space the mini forest will be made giant by the tiny world created within it of small creatures, dwellings and birds with an art installation by artist Edwina Bridgeman.

forest of imaginationThe Forest Pole enclosure created by Charley Brentnall will work round a complete circle to create a self-supporting enclosure.

The Bamboo enclosure, designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, is a 14.4m x 12 m space screened with vertical bamboo canes. Musical devices are attached to the poles for interaction with the visitors. Performances and activities will take place at the centre of the enclosure.

A gigantic magic white rabbit 6.5 meters in height will be inflated and pop up in different locations in the Forest throughout the four-day event.

forest of imaginatioAndrew Grant, Director, Grant Associates, said: “The Forest of Imagination reinvents Queen Square as an artistic, playful world where the creative spirit of the city has fun with this familiar Georgian landscape. It’s a wake up call to let everyone know Bath did not stop evolving 200 years ago.”

Penny Hay, Director, 5x5x5=creativity and Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University, said: “We believe, and research shows, that creativity and imagination can enhance wellbeing and transform lives.

The Forest of Imagination is an invitation to adults and forest of imaginationchildren to come and explore their own creativity and imagination. We want to put Bath on the map as a constellation of creative activity.”

Bath-based creative partners involved in creating the magical experience include children’s charity 5x5x5=creativity, award-winning architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, design studio Ideas of the Mind, Herman Miller Cares, Bath Illuminate, Carpenter Oak, Bath Spa University and The House of Fairy Tales.

Artists and designers already signed up to the event include Edwina Bridgeman, Jono Burgess, Jessica Palmer, John East, and students from Bath Spa University.

forest of imaginationThe Forest of Imagination runs from 15-18 May 2015 and features a playful programme of installations, artworks and activities for all ages.forest of imagination

The House of Imagination runs alongside offering a creative learning programme of workshops giving children and adults the opportunity to be immersed in creative enquiry alongside professional contemporary artists, designers and architects.

This is the second year that Forest of Imagination has been staged in Bath, after a successful debut in the grounds of Bath School of Art and Design, Bath Spa University on Sion Hill in July 2014.

The Virtual Museum met Andrew Grant from Grant Associates in Queen Square and asked what was the thinking behind the event.

For more information visit

Here’s some information on the partners involved:


5x5x5=creativity, is an arts-based action research organisation with charitable status that supports children and young people in their exploration and expression of ideas, helping them develop creative skills for life.
Grant Associates

Grant Associates is a British Landscape Architecture consultancy specialising in creative, visionary design of both urban and rural environments worldwide, working with some of the world’s leading architects and designers.
Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios is an award winning practice with an international reputation for design quality, for pioneering environmental expertise and a radical architectural approach.

Illuminate Bath

Illuminate Bath is free, inclusive and accessible to all with over 30,000+ visitors. The projections and installations throughout the city are an inspiration to photographers and filmmakers alike.

Ideas of the Mind

Ideas of the Mind is a graphic design, branding and web design agency based in Bath.

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) is an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges. Through its ideas, research and 27,000-strong Fellowshipit seeks to understand and enhance human capability to close the gap between today’s reality and people’s hopes for a better world.

Bath Spa University

Three schools from Bath Spa University are collaborating for the Forest of Imagination – The School of Art and Design, Education, and Humanities and Cultural Industries. Recognised as one of the UK’s top creative universities in the Which? University Student Survey, Bath Spa University is a leading university for creativity, culture and enterprise, offering a wide range of creative degree courses across visual arts and design, heritage and publishing, and education.

St Michael’s – with scaffolding until September.

St Michael’s – with scaffolding until September.

The scaffolding will be a feature - covering the Broad Street end of St Michaels Without - until September.

The scaffolding will be a feature – covering the Broad Street end of St Michael’s Without – until September.

More than four months work lies ahead on making repairs to the fabric of St Michael’s Without behind the one hundred feet high scaffolding that now clads the church tower.

The Virtual Museum has had an opportunity of putting some questions to the architect who is supervising the Heritage Lottery funded work.

The view from one hundred feet up the tower of St Michaels Without. Photo taken by James Preston.

The view from one hundred feet up the tower of St Michael’s Without. Photo taken by James Preston. Click on images to enlarge

She is Emma Green who is Associate Director of Benjamin & Beauchamp Architects Ltd of Wedmore in Somerset.

Q. First of all, what work is being carried out?

A. ‘We are repairing high-level masonry to the tower and spire.’

An image taken by James Preston - who will be working on the repairs as part of Sally Strachey Historic Conservation - high up on the tower face.  You can clearly see the damage ferrous metals cause to stone work when they are embedded.

An image taken by James Preston – who will be working on the repairs as part of Sally Strachey Historic Conservation – high up on the tower face. You can clearly see the damage ferrous metals cause to stone work when they are embedded.

Q. What is the problem?

A. ‘Typically for 19 th century buildings, the church was built using iron cramps and ring beams at high level. As the iron corrodes, it expands and puts pressure on the surrounding masonry, which can then make it more susceptible to general weathering.’

Q.What is being done?

Emma Green from Benjamin&Beauchamp Architects is pictured examining the balustrade masonry with Baas Aldred from St. Michael's Without PCC.

Emma Green from Benjamin&Beauchamp Architects is pictured examining the balustrade masonry with Baas Aldred from St. Michael’s Without PCC.

A. ‘With the generous help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the church has been able to erect this substantial scaffold and undertake repairs.

We will be removing the smaller pieces of ironwork and replacing them with stainless steel (which does not corrode); the larger pieces are being protected from further corrosion using the application of electrical current. Whilst this is not new technology it is relatively new in being applied to historic buildings.

More evidence of structural damage caused by rusting iron cramps. Another image taken by James Preston. Click on images to enlarge.

More evidence of structural damage caused by rusting iron cramps. Another image taken by James Preston. Click on images to enlarge.

Surrounding masonry will be repaired and re-pointed before the scaffold comes down. Whilst the scaffold is up the church are also taking the opportunity to repair the stained glass window at the base of the tower.’

Q. How long will it take?

A.’ The work will take until September 2015. The church and café will remain open throughout. There are also lots of heritage-related activities underway, including stained glass workshops and a heritage exhibition in July.’

I found out a bit more about those activities from Lisa Ware who is the Office Administrator and Assistant to the Rural Dean.

She told me : ‘ We will be holding various ‘History and Heritage’ events throughout the project, including a week-long exhibition from 6th July and a short series of stained glass workshops.

People will also be able to follow the progress of the project through our virtual ‘diary’ on our website – – which will go live in the next few weeks.’

You will be able to follow the work of the conservators via

The Gainsborough – open for business on July the First.

The Gainsborough – open for business on July the First.

The Gainsborough Bath Spa

The Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel. Click on images to enlarge.

Well the word on the street is that Bath’s newest five-star hotel is going to open for business on the First of July after a multi-million pound conversion of one of the city’s historic buildings in what has now become known as the Spa Quarter.

The Gainsborough's proposed Spa Village Pool

The Gainsborough’s proposed Spa Village Pool

Behind the Grade 11 listed facade of The Gainsborough Bath Spa lie 99 luxurious guest rooms and suites and the only natural thermal spa you will find in a UK hotel.

This 19th century building started life as the United Hospital and opened in 1826. It later became the city’s Technical School and lay empty until bought up by YTL – an international company that specialises in luxury spa hotels around the world.

It’s my understanding that staff are now actively being recruited and there are going to be a couple of months of hard training and familiarization before the hotel opens for business.