First pictures of Keynsham dig.

First pictures of Keynsham dig.

The excavation. the ashlar block wall on the left and the presumed blocking with large stones on the right.  Click on images to enlarge. © An tony Beeson

The excavation. the ashlar block wall on the left and the presumed blocking with large stones on the right.
Click on images to enlarge. © Anthony Beeson

The Virtual Museum is now able to bring you images of the archaeological dig now underway in Keynsham Cemetery on the site of a possible Roman temple.

It’s where – in the 1920’s – that mosaics from buildings making up a substantial Roman settlement were first discovered by workmen digging graves.

Known as the Durley Hill Roman Villa archaeologists revealed a building positioned around the largest court of any rural Roman structure in the country and embellished with exotically designed rooms.

The ammonite on one of the blocking stones. © Anthony Beeson

The ammonite on one of the blocking stones.
© Anthony Beeson

Members of the Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society and the Association for Roman Archaeology have now dug a broad trench across part of the buried remains after extensive geophysical surveys indicate a building which may prove to be a detached temple fronting the great villa building.

Bristol-based Anthony Beeson – who is an acknowledged Classical iconographer and an expert on Roman and Greek architecture – has been to see the excavation and has sent the Virtual Museum of Bath this report.

The new sondage being cut to ascertain if the blocking fills an entrance way and if the wall continues on the same alignment.  © Anthony Beeson

The new sondage being cut to ascertain if the blocking fills an entrance way and if the wall continues on the same alignment.
© Anthony Beeson

The Keynsham complex is the most architecturally elaborate known from Roman Britain. It contained many fine mosaics including a central rosette of a quality unsurpassed in Roman mosaics in Britain and now in Keynsham’s One Stop Centre.
The purpose of the new excavation is to learn more about a presumed building, that has appeared on geophysical surveys of the site, that lies at the bottom of the hill, below the main complex. It may have been a temple.

The ashlar block wall built over upright foundation slabs on the left. Presumed rough blocking appears at the left.  © Anthony Beeson

The ashlar block wall built over upright foundation slabs on the left. Presumed rough blocking appears on the right.
© Anthony Beeson

The present small excavation has uncovered a substantial unmortared wall faced with ashlar blocks and resting on a foundation of smaller stones founded in the natural clay.

At the end of the ashlar wall what appears at present to be a blocking of an entrance has been discovered. Unworked, large stones were used for blocking – including one featuring a large ammonite for which Keynsham is famous.

The town itself is named after St Keyna who is said to have turned the numerous serpents in the area (ie Ammonites) into stone.

A new sounding has been started this afternoon to ascertain if the rough stones do actually form the blocking of an entrance, or something else, and if the wall continues in the same direction and is made of ashlar blocks.
A lack of roofing materials and nails at present suggests that the structure was unroofed. Some ancient temples were unroofed courtyards around a sacred pool or tree.

There have been few finds so far beyond some pottery, animal bone and mosaic tesserae. The latter (of all qualities) have almost certainly washed down from the rooms in the main complex”

Thanks for that Anthony. You can follow the dig via http://www.facebook.com/durleyhill

Free Art & Performance at Museum of Bath at Work

Free Art & Performance at Museum of Bath at Work

Artist,  Julie McCalden

Artist, Julie McCalden

Bristol-based artist Julie McCalden has camouflaged an entire display room at the Museum of Bath at Work within a contemporary, but traditional, wallpaper pattern.

From floor to ceiling, the surfaces, furniture and artefacts are all bathed in a busy grey and silver damask in a new installation – Working from Home.

Working from home depicts the living space of an early 20th century worker, from a time when the most impoverished of families would have eaten, slept and lived in a single room.

 Now you see it - now you don't! An example of Julie's work.

Now you see it – now you don’t! An example of Julie’s work.

On Sunday August 2nd – from 2pm – artist Julie McCalden, Museum Director Stuart Burroughs and the Halfpenny Theatre Group are collaborating to present and explain the artwork with guided tour and talk by the artist and a theatrical reading by actors, inspired by the installation. The event will be free and will last around an hour.

The Museum of Bath at Work.

The Museum of Bath at Work.

Director Stuart Burroughs said ‘Having a large artistic installation at the museum is a new departure for us and we were delighted when Julie approached us with the idea.

The Halfpenny Theatre Group have been involved since the start and it seemed quite natural to have the artist, myself and the actors to each give our perspective, in our own way, on the artwork. It really is quite something and we are only doing it once, so blink and it’ll be gone!’

For more details contact Stuart Burroughs at the Museum of Bath at Work on 01225 318348 or mobaw@hotmail.com

Portraits and Identity @ Victoria Art Gallery

Portraits and Identity @ Victoria Art Gallery

Mrs Siddons in the Character of Zara, engraver John R Smith Artist Thomas Lawrence, mezzotint

Mrs Siddons in the Character of Zara, engraver John R Smith Artist Thomas Lawrence, mezzotint. Click on images to enlarge.

A free exhibition featuring portrait prints by artists as diverse as Hogarth, Dürer and Grayson Perry opens at the Bath & North East Somerset Council-run Victoria Art Gallery on August 20 and runs through to October 4th..

A highlight of the exhibition, entitled ‘Portraits and Identity’, will be Perry’s ‘Map of Days’, which was purchased by the Gallery in 2014, using grant-aid from outside bodies.

This unusual self-portrait takes the form of a map showing the inner workings of the artist’s mind. The river of imagination flows past a walled city made up of streets with names such as ‘Intuition’, ‘Revenge’ and ‘Churning Insecurity’.

Henry Bunbury Esqr Thomas Lawrence 1789

Henry Bunbury Esqr byThomas Lawrence 1789

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), the Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “Bath residents and visitors will have an opportunity to see this wonderful array of portraits for free. This exhibition gives a fascinating insight into portrait artists and their sitters.”

The prints on display will show how artists put clues into a portrait to tell us about the sitter’s life. For example, an intellectual might be pictured with books, while a doctor is shown with body organs and an artist holds the tools of his trade.

Clockmaker, Thomas Tompion - unknown artist.

Clockmaker, Thomas Tompion – unknown artist.

Often, portraits are commissioned by the sitters, so the artist has to create a flattering image. Alexander Pope, for example, was a difficult man with health problems that left him short and deformed, but there is no hint of that in the flattering depiction of him as a gentleman poet.

Caricatures, on the other hand, can be much more cutting. Gillray transforms naturalist Joseph Banks into a showy butterfly after receiving the Order of the Bath, while William Hibbard shows the Bath Corporation with symbols of their businesses for heads.

Portraits and Identity will run alongside the ‘Jane Austen’s Bath’ exhibition, which features many of Austen’s astute character analyses.

More information via www.victoriagal.org.uk

(Almost) No service is sacred in B&NES economy drive.

(Almost) No service is sacred in B&NES economy drive.

As a service provider, it seems almost nothing is safe and untouchable when it comes to economies forced on the new Conservative-controlled Bath and North East Somerset Council.

Cllr Tim Warren Leader of B&NES.

Cllr Tim Warren
Leader of B&NES.

I have just had my first interview with Cllr Tim Warren the newly-appointed leader of the Council and the man at the head of an elected body forced to look for savings of 38 million pounds in its budgeting over the next four years.

The tourist season in full swing.

The tourist season in full swing.

Central government is going to hold back 3.3 billion pounds from local councils in 2016/17 as part of its drive to balance the national budget – and all this is going to hurt somewhere.

The new B&NES administration was elected on a pledge to put residents first but it also publicly stated that it would strive to run an efficient authority and encourage others to  invest in the area.

A colourful corner of Milsom Street

A colourful corner of Milsom Street

New housing would bring extra rates revenue and they were not afraid to take on the transport/traffic issue.

Tim Warren – fresh from a very short break – seems motivated and enthusiastic – if a little nervous of what questions l might put his way.

The Virtual Museum of Bath isn’t there to play tennis with politicians but l was keen to see where things were going half way through what is a massive spending review.

The Corridor in Bath

The Corridor in Bath

He’s not saying much until they complete their examination and make some official policy announcements in October but he did make it clear that -be it bus subsidies or refuse collections  – nothing was safe from coming under an economic review.

The one ‘joy’ for B&NES ratepayers is that the Discovery card – giving free or discounted admission to many of the city’s heritage attractions – IS safe.

Also, there was praise for Bath’s independent traders who, he said, had helped the city ‘buck the recession’ and also vague talk of new developments and jobs to take some of the gloom out of the doom.

Speaking of which Cllr Warren was even a little upbeat about the savings B&NES was going to have to make.

Three years of medical life left for the Min?

Three years of medical life left for the Min?

B&NES councillors are to be asked  to give their backing to integration plans that will see all facilities at the historic Mineral Water Hospital moved to the Royal United Hospital site over the next three years.

The Mineral Water Hospital

The Mineral Water Hospital

Today’s (July 29th) meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Select Committee will hear that combining services is the most cost and patient effective way of moving forward.

A report on the acquisition of the site – and integration plans – to date states:

‘It is recognised that whilst the RNHRD building is highly regarded by the patients it serves, it is unlikely to be a cost-effective or suitable base for high quality service provision in the longer term.

It is expected that services will continue to be delivered from the existing RNHRD building for up to three years post acquisition. During this time work will be undertaken within the wider estates plans at the RUH to develop purpose designed environments which benefit patient experience and wellbeing whilst supporting improved efficiency and effectiveness of delivery through appropriate scaling, workflow design and co-location with other services.

Opportunities for branding of elements of the new estate will also ensure that the long-term legacy of the RNHRD can be protected.’

The ‘MIn” – as it is affectionately known in Bath – was founded in 1716 as a National Hospital for the ‘deserving poor’ and built in the late 1730’s to a design by John Wood and with money raised by Beau Nash.

A unique document bearing a  list of original trustees - including architect John Wood

A unique document bearing a list of original trustees – including architect John Wood

Thermal waters were pumped up the hill from the hot water springs so that people could benefit from them in the hospital’s purpose-built hydrotheraphy pool. The tunnel carrying the pipe is still extant.

If and when the hospital site becomes vacant there is a feeling that – although the general public can already enjoy the contemporary surroundings of the new Thermae Baths for pleasure – the Min could become a hydrotherapy treatment centre again – with thermal waters once more pumped up and used – enabling Bath to take back its title as a spa city with medical services.

With an injection of private capital it could be quite a centre and attract customers seeking treatment from around the world.

Or do we just let market forces claim another victim and look forward to its transformation into a boutique hotel, another themed pub or restaurant or even luxury flats!!

The building IS listed so its exterior at least is protected. It also houses a Roman mosaic in the basement and an amazing collection of medical artefacts and historical documents that would surely go into a Museum of Bath – if the city had such a building!!!!

Late night opening at Bath’s Fashion Museum

Late night opening at Bath’s Fashion Museum

Visitors to Bath’s Fashion Museum will have extra time to browse the world-class displays this summer, as the museum will be open until 6pm every Thursday in August, with last exit at 7pm.

Fashion displays. Click on images to enlarge.

Fashion displays. Click on images to enlarge.

A select number of visitors will also have a chance to experience a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum collection. Tours for a maximum of four people will run every Thursday evening and can be booked via Bath Box Office (http://bathboxoffice.org.uk/, tickets £8).

The Thursday evening openings at the Bath & North East Somerset Council-run Fashion Museum have been made possible by funding from Arts Council England to the Bath Museums Partnership.

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), the Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “This will give visitors to the city and local people alike the chance to explore the Fashion Museum into the early evening, and a lucky few will also get to see behind the scenes.

The Roman Baths and Victoria Art Gallery are also opening later on Thursdays during the summer, offering a cultural addition to Bath’s vibrant evening economy.”

Look 41 - By Gareth Pugh -  2014 Dress of the Year.

Look 41 – By Gareth Pugh – 2014 Dress of the Year.

Current displays at the museum include ‘Georgians – dress for polite society’, featuring sumptuous Georgian dress alongside Georgian-inspired creations by some of today’s top designers; ‘Great Names of Fashion’, showcasing beautiful evening dresses by designers including Dior, Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent; and a chance to see this year’s ‘Dress of the Year’ by Gareth Pugh.

Tickets for the Fashion Museum cost £8.25/£7.25 concessions. Entry is free for Discovery Card holders. Find out more at www.fashionmuseum.co.uk

New eye on Bath

New eye on Bath

Backs of Georgian houses. © Tony McNicol

Backs of Georgian houses. © Tony McNicol

The city of Bath is a major tourist magnet – drawing in around four and a half million visitors each year and – as a member of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides – l am one of many local people who volunteer to show some of them around.

Alexandra Park, Bath, UK, May 16, 2015. © Tony McNicol

Alexandra Park, Bath, UK, May 16, 2015. © Tony McNicol

It is a place with World Heritage status – partly awarded for its architecture and setting – something our visitors are keen to record with cameras, smart phones and tablets.

Images – amongst many taken on their travels – that they will probably puzzle over when they get home.

But now for the more serious photographers amongst them – and of course for local people with an eye for an image – an opportunity to explore the UK’s most photogenic city in expert camera-company.

Professional photographer, Tony McNicol.

Professional photographer, Tony McNicol.

The ‘new kid on the Bath stone block’ is The Bath Photo Tour, a three-hour private walking tour,  guided by professional photographer, Tony McNicol, which takes in Bath’s most iconic locations, as well as some lesser known spots.

On the tour, participants learn to get the most out of their camera, whether a smart phone, a point-and-shoot, or a high-end DSLR.

Tours can include as much or as little instruction as needed, such as on the basics of composition and colour, aperture and shutter speed, the best lenses to use for different subjects and the skillful use of natural light.

Lansdown Crescent, Bath, UK, June 15, 2015. ©Tony McNicol

Lansdown Crescent, Bath, UK, June 15, 2015. ©Tony McNicol

Tours are led by Tony McNicol who grew up in Bath before spending 15 years working in the UK and Japan as a photojournalist and travel photographer.

His photos have been published in media such as the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Wired Magazine and National Geographic News.

Interior Bath Abbey. Bath, UK, May 4, 2015. ©Tony McNicol

Interior Bath Abbey. Bath, UK, May 4, 2015. ©Tony McNicol

“As everyone who has visited Bath knows, this is an incredibly beautiful and photogenic city,” says Tony.

“I want to help photographers get the most out of their visit. And it’s a great way for me to explore and document the city too!”

The tour is run by www.thebathphotographer.uk – an online resource for Bath-based and visiting photographers.

Custom tours to locations near Bath are available and special workshops are also being planned.