Major coup for Bath museum

Major coup for Bath museum

I cannot do this particular artist justice in reproducing some of the amazing contemporary ink paintings that are now on show at Bath’s Museum of East Asian Art – just across the road from the Assembly Rooms and on the edge of The Circus..


Wu Lan-Chiann’s wonderful examples of East-West art fusion are exhibited behind glass and your Director was having problems with reflections. I seriously suggest you go and see them for yourselves.


At the core of her work is a personal contemplation of universal themes that connect people across time, space and culture – using a painting tradition that is centuries old.


Wu Lan-Chiann is centre in this picture from the special preview opening.

She blends eastern and western creative processes into an authentic style marked by decisive but delicate brushwork and a subtle use of colour.P1140254 (1)

Wu Lan-Chiann has exhibited her art in the United States, Taiwan and Japan. This is her first solo exhibition in the UK and a bit of an honour – if not a major coup – for the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath.

Wu Lan-Chiann now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.

She has missed Thanksgiving this year – to launch her Bath exhibition – and l could see was a little sad to know her family were so far away.

She is a graceful and talented artist who has successfully brought two worlds together in  her work.

The exhibition  continues through to May 15 2016.

Link through to for more information on this and other attractions at one of Bath’s most unusual and nationally-important museums.



I don’t want to be everyone’s ‘best mate’ says MP.

I don’t want to be everyone’s ‘best mate’ says MP.

Ben Howlett MP

Ben Howlett, MP for Bath.

Bath’s MP Ben Howlett is a busy man but – six months into the job – has still been able to find time for all the  people who want his attention or support.

So l was surprised to hear him tell me that he wasn’t setting out to be everyone’s ‘best mate’ in Bath but preferred to be known as the MP who gets things done and who keeps to the plan he said he’d deliver.

Fighting talk which came during an interview the Virtual Museum was granted and which covered his views on a tourist tax for Bath and merging West-Country police forces.


Theatre Royal, Bath.


But first we were discussing the Chancellor’s ‘Autumn Review’ and the fact he had ducked a ‘luvvy bashing’ after he pulled back from making savage cuts to the cultural department.

How would this help a city like Bath where history and heritage and arts and culture was so important.


Farewell to the tennis court trees

Farewell to the tennis court trees

There’s a lot to be said about the ‘shock of the new’ and l suppose – as an old codger – the panic that sets in when something regarded as being so permanent – disappears.

I am talking about the felling this week of a line of conifers in front of the upper tennis courts in Sydney Gardens.


Down comes another conifer lining the upper tennis courts.

Just recently Heritage Lottery money has been thrown at cutting down laurel and opening up dodgy spots in this historic public space where undesirables are alleged to do undesirable things.

It’s a fair excuse for letting in some light. Laurel will regenerate and in the meantime other parts of this much-loved park will benefit from some extra sunshine!


Pruned laurel opens up views and lets in more light.

However, I don’t know why the ‘felling disease’ has spread to the conifers. There is no notice saying why they are coming down.

Meanwhile, a much larger tree to one side of the gate leading out to the road and the Bath Spa MacDonald Hotel has born a notice advertising its demise for some time now.

sydney gardens

The notice on a maple due to be felled.

A conversation with one of the team doing the tennis court work extracted the comment that it would open up a view of the park to the people living in that quite high block of flats behind on Sydney Road – and there was me thinking how the trees were doing a good job of hiding this brutalist architecture from park users.

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Now you can see the flats or maybe it’s more now they can see into Sydney Gardens.

Of course – down the bottom end of Sydney Gardens – similar thinning of vegetation has opened up the rear gardens of the Holburne Museum.


Looking at the clearance work from the Sydney Gardens side of the Holburne Museum.

Here though the building – in its original form – was always part of this Georgian Vauxhall or pleasure garden. It had curving side-wings that reached out to embrace the ‘green’ attractions that lay before it.

I wondered whether the conifers had provided a bit of a weather-break for tennis players but was told the winds don’t come that way. One regular user told me the trees gave a bit of privacy for people on the court but that dead material from these 20 to 30-year-old specimens was a bit of a nuisance.

Yes – as trees go – they are not very old – but it would be good to know why they have come down and what B&NES intend to do with the tennis court fencing now it has been exposed. It is pretty obvious the enclosure is in poor condition.IMG_5194

The Georgians set up this space with a clear idea of how it was going to be used. A place of almost completely open-air entertainment for which people paid admission.

It’s good to know we don’t have to pay these days and that the park is somewhere for everybody. It’s another of Bath’s ‘shared spaces’ which hasn’t quite settled down to being comfortable with itself and embracing all who use it.

Cyclists and skateboarders can sometimes be a nuisance. So can dogs charging about all over the place and filling the autumn air with the scent of their urine.

There are those who enjoy defacing the walls of Minerva’s sham temple and others who nip over the boundary fences with their spray cans to leave their mark on Brunel’s railway bridges.

sydney gardens

The graffiti grows in Sydney Gardens.

Just recently people were invited in to plant hundreds of spring bulbs. A lovely idea and a real ‘green investment’ that will provide much pleasure in the Spring.

I am just a little saddened to cover story after story of tree felling. I want to promote new plantings but – just recently – the only new sapling l had noticed in the area was one installed near the Laura Place Fountain at the other end of Great Pulteney Street. It replaced a diseased tree that had been felled.

laura place

The vandalized sapling in Laura Place.

The sapling is dead/dying. I have my suspicions that someone didn’t want a replacement. Maybe it gets in the way of parking a car? The tree was snapped off and new shoots also damaged.

This ‘old fogey’ has to accept change. I am sure the Parks Department has good reason for ordering the removal of the conifers in Sydney Gardens but it would be nice if park users could be kept better informed and maybe given hope for the future with news of where the ‘grand green plan’ is heading.

If someone at B&NES wants to do an interview along those lines the Virtual Museum will be pleased to publish it!




Norman masonry, gin shaker and putting archaeology to bed.

Norman masonry, gin shaker and putting archaeology to bed.

I was on hand – earlier today (Wednesday, November 25th) – to watch contractors put a little part of Bath’s industrial archaeology to bed.


The old pipe factory is being carefully covered with a blanket of small stones and a membrane.

It’s a good way of describing the careful way in which an important clay pipe factory – exposed by archaeologists during a dig on an area of the Saw Close that is now being redeveloped – is being carefully covered before it once again disappears below ground.

The site will eventually house a casino, hotel and restaurants but Sanctus the developers are letting Cotswold Archaeology delve into the history of this historic part of the old city before starting the re-build.

Knowing what is underground will also help the contractors work out where to put in the piles to support the new buildings – without too much disturbance.

The pipe factory – and its kilns – are the subject of a video interview elsewhere on the Virtual Museum and were also visited by nearly two thousand people during a special open day.

John Cossins-Price – the Sanctus Site Manager – gave me a hard hat and a special guided tour around the old Regency Garage which is soon to be demolished.

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Site Manager John Cousins-Price showing me the old car lift inside the Regency Garage.

The building was originally an 18th-century coach house and then a cheese warehouse, before becoming a garage in 1906. It operated until the late 20th century.

Interesting to read a section of a Historical Building Report on the area produced by Kay Ross of McLaughlin Ross llp for B&NES in 2007. She says:

‘The Regency Garage remains little changed since it was converted into a garage in 1906, and its distinctive shape can be traced back through a number of maps and plans to at least the late 18th century.


The old Regency Garage building.

Originally a coach house built in the 1770s, the east wall has a high blocked archway which would have provided access from the carrier’s yard. The angled west wall fronting the Saw Close was built in 1824 as well as the southern section of the rear east wall. The remaining walls are probably those of the 1770s building.

Both large doorways were inserted between 1906 and 1914 and the building has probably been 3 storeys since 1824.’

The historic walls linking it with the front of the former Music Hall Theatre next door will be kept. The theatre facade is listed and is absolutely assured of also being retained.


The upper floor in the old Regency Garage with the winch winding gear to the right.

The rest of the building is near collapse anyway. The most interesting thing inside is a manually operated car lift that must date back to the early years of the 20th century.

One could imagine it taking the weight of a Model T Ford but not a modern day – and much weightier – car.


The old winding handle for the car lift in the old Regency Garage.

A car can be winched up to the second floor – to be worked on – by a man turning the winch handle on the floor above.

I have taken many pictures and will pass them on to Stuart Burroughs at the Museum of Bath at Work.

Meanwhile, Simon Sworn who is Site Director for Cotswold Archaeology showed me where the excavated pipe factory was now being carefully re-covered in readiness for development work to proceed above it.


Site Director Simon Sworn showing me the basement area they have uncovered.

Elsewhere he pointed out some carved Normal masonry that had been recycled as building material on the Saw Close site. He thought it came from a church. Could it have come from the Norman complex that lies beneath Bath Abbey?


The carved piece of Norman masonry that may have come from a Bath church.

The stonework is being removed and will be preserved.

We then went further down the site and – in the middle of a muddy and noisy construction area – Simon explained what new archaeology had been discovered in the basements of houses that used to line the Bridewell Lane.



Oh Christmas tree

Oh Christmas tree

Let’s talk Christmas trees and start by praising the Parks Department at B&NES for coming up with a really good specimen to erect and light in Abbey Church Yard.


The fine tree in Abbey Church Yard.

In a way, it stands defiantly outside Bath Abbey because the church isn’t known for having a Christmas tree inside.

A little fir in the entrance porch is as far as this historic building goes towards letting the smell of pine fill its portals.

Unlike the ‘mother’ church at Wells which always has a whopper to add colour and excitement to  those heartily-sung Christmas carols.

However, Bath Abbey will fall in line this Christmas – if only briefly. The BBC are filming a morning service – live on Christmas Day – and it is my understanding that they have asked for trees to decorate the joyful scene.

How long they stay after that is not up to me. At least when the great West Doors are opened during the run up to Christmas the wonderful fir tree in Abbey Church Yard will let its light shine in.

Meanwhile Bath Abbey has issued a Press Release about the Christmas Day service:

“Viewers across Britain and around the world will be able to join Bath Abbey on Christmas Day. The BBC will be broadcasting to homes across the nation at 10am on BBC One, the first time a Christmas Day service has been broadcast on TV from Bath.
The service will highlight the importance of hope in the Christmas story, how it continues to inspire to this day, and highlight how the Church and its community puts its faith into action – from supporting homeless people here in Bath, to sharing in the everyday lives of people in the West Bank.
The Abbey’s international links will be brought to life with personal reflections from James Playfair on the work of ‘Reaching The Unreached’ in Tamil Nadu, Southern India: supporting socially and economically excluded families. The Revd Prebendary Edward Mason will talk about his visit to the West Bank and his meeting with the Mayor of Beit Sahour. Closer to home, Gloria Ware of Lifeline, a project for homeless and vulnerably housed people in the Bath area, will speak about her faith and how it supports her work.
The service will feature Bath Abbey’s boys, girls and men’s choirs, as well as the Melody Makers, the Abbey’s choir for children aged 6 to 11.
The service will include favourite readings and carols, including classics such as O Come All Ye Faithful, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and In the Bleak Midwinter, as well as contemporary music by Jonathan Dove and Will Todd.
On the theme of the service, Revd Prebendary Edward Mason, Rector of Bath Abbey, said: “We are thrilled to be given the opportunity to help millions of people celebrate Christmas. We would like everyone who watches at home to feel part of the service and to catch something of the healing hope brought by Jesus Christ at Christmas. This has been a difficult year for the world and we also have our own personal needs. We hope that the service will be a great encouragement to millions.”
Speaking about the musical arrangements on the day, Dr Peter King, Director of Music at Bath Abbey, said: “The Missa Brevis by Jonathan Dove was commissioned by the Cathedral Organists’ Association and composed in 2009. It has quickly established itself in the repertoire of cathedral choirs up and down the country. My Lord Has Come by Will Todd was first published in 2011. Together, these two composers bring a contemporary feel to a service which includes more traditional carols. This year, we will be returning to descants composed by Sir David Willcocks who passed away in September this year.”

Christmas market cheer but no carousel

Christmas market cheer but no carousel

Ceramicist, Rupert Blamire is one of hundreds of local businesses who were looking forward to today’s official launch of this year’s Bath Christmas Market.


Ceramicist Rupert Blamire in front of his market stall.


Over 170 wooden mini-chalets line the streets in the city centre and will offer an amazing range of Christmas gifts right through to December 13th.



It was a brisk start to this year’s Bath Christmas Market.


It’s an annual event that attracts thousands of people – many of them coached in from other parts of the West and Wales.


This year’s Christmas Market is now underway.

Rupert has a business based in Bristol and produces everything from olive bowls and oil dispensers to salt cellars and whisky water jugs. This year his artist wife Hope will also be selling her specially designed tea towels in colours which compliment the pottery range.

He sells to the National Trust and you can buy his wares at the Roman Baths Museum shop.


The carousel – pictured last year – and you won’t be seeing it this December in Bath.

Slight disappointment this year as the carousel that normally delights the young members of this market shopping crowd will not be in its usual place at the Pump Room end of Bath Street.

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Beer deliveries arriving for the new ‘rest and refuel’ lodge that replaces the carousel.

Instead organisers have installed a large wooden chalet  and told the Virtual Museum: ‘to keep the Market fresh this year we’ve got a new Lodge, a heated spot to rest & refuel during your shopping.’

I passed by there this morning and saw several beer lorries busy unloading – as if we needed another pub!

Sorry kids. It’s a shame.



Park & Ride extended Christmas services

Park & Ride extended Christmas services

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Park & Ride services will be running more frequently and later into the evening during the Christmas period.

Buses from Newbridge, Lansdown and Odd Down will operate until 10pm on weekdays during the Christmas Market.

christmas market

Last year in Abbey Green

More buses will also run at weekends which will double the frequency of services – on Saturdays there will be buses every 5 or 6 minutes, and on Sundays every 7 or 8 minutes.

Extra buses will also run on Sunday December 27 when Bath Rugby has a home fixture, and on the Bank Holiday, Monday December 28.

Councillor Anthony Clarke (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “The Christmas Market attracts thousands of visitors from across our area, as well as the rest of the UK and overseas, generating over £20 million for the local economy.

“However, the increase in visitor numbers into the city during the festive period inevitably puts additional pressure onto our highways network. We are therefore putting in place additional measures to accommodate this increased demand and ensure that the market is as accessible as possible.

“Our Park & Rides are a good way of getting shoppers and visitors in and out of Bath city centre without using their car, and laying on additional weekend buses and extended the Park & Ride opening times also help keep traffic moving in the city during this busy period.”

christmas market 2014

Abbey Green through the M&S archway.

Late evening services will operate on the following days:

Christmas Market – Thursday November 26 – Saturday December 12
Monday – Saturday late night operation, last buses will leave the city centre at 10pm.

On Sundays November 29 and December 6 and 13, the last buses will leave the city centre at 6pm.

Monday December 14 – Saturday December 19
Late night operation, last buses leave the city centre at 10pm

Sunday 20 – Thursday 24 December – normal service

Christmas Day & Boxing Day – no service

December 27 & 28 – Sunday service (last buses leave the city centre at 6pm)

December 29 – 31- normal service

New Year’s Day – no service

January 2, normal Saturday service

(*Normal operating hours are 6.15am – 8.30pm Mon-Sat and 9.30am – Sunday/Bank Holidays.)

The bus shelters at Odd Down Park & Ride have also been replaced in time for the Christmas Market. The new shelters are bigger and provide better weather protection for waiting passengers.
The shelter for the number 42 service to the RUH has also been improved.

Full details can be found here