Let your new lights shine.

Bath Abbey - the lantern of the west!
Bath Abbey – the lantern of the west!

Bath Abbey’s nickname of being ‘The Lantern of the West’ refers to its many giant windows and the light shining through them.

There are 52 altogether and they occupy around eighty percent of the wall space on this – the last great Gothic church to be built before the Reformation.

However, it’s the light shining onto the building that concerns the Virtual Museum.

As part of their 19.3 million pound Footprint Project – which will tap the thermal waters for heating, stabilise the Abbey floor, provide a Refectory, Interpretation Centre, Choir School and public toilets! – the church wants to replace the current floodlighting with an LED-based system.

Part of the Abbey's floodlighting system.
Part of the Abbey’s floodlighting system.

One which (1) matches the lights that are planned for the rest of the city centre, (2) uses less energy, (3) provides better quality lighting which can be varied in intensity and (4) reduces the maintenance load.

This has also involved a transfer of ownership from B&NES to the Abbey and – while the Abbey might radiate outwards as a giant ‘lantern’ – it’s also Bath’s ‘time-piece’ for anyone walking in High Street below who wants to know how late they are!

Bath Abbey clock.
Bath Abbey clock.

The Abbey’s clock – moved from the north face of the tower to its current position in 1834 after fears that its weight would damage the structure – was until recently the only real piece of the church fabric that it did not own. B&NES have handed that over too.

The clock now positioned at the end of the North Transept was designed and installed in 1888. It was driven by large weights that had to be wound up by hand.

The weights were attached to long ropes inside the Abbey’s tower. Once they were wound up they began to lower very slowly.

It was this energy which powered the clock, until it was fitted with electric motors at the end of the twentieth century.

As discussed the ownership (and cost) of the floodlights along with the clock and carillon has been transferred from B&NES Council to the Abbey.