2016! Where does Bath go from here?

2016! Where does Bath go from here?

2016 and  – in terms of major engineering works affecting the fabric and day-to-day management of our city and its connections with the outside world – there are several schemes already underway. These will progress further this year either in planning, consultation or actual construction.

network rail

Work at Box Tunnel. Photo © Network Rail

The biggest engineering task is the electrification of the railway line to London  – one of Britain’s oldest and busiest – from Paddington to Bristol and beyond.

For Bath, it will mean the arrival of the pylons that will carry the high voltage cable which will power a whole new fleet of faster, cleaner and higher capacity trains.


TPOD 2-  Bath stakeholder event presentation (dragged)

It’s only an artist’s impression.


How they will look – passing through historic Sydney Gardens – remains to be seen. What safety barriers that will need to be installed in what was Brunel’s ‘theatre of steam’ is yet to be agreed upon.

His excavation across this Georgian built pleasure gardens was specially designed to be visible and act as a crowd-pulling spectacle of early locomotives.


The cast iron footbridge – the last Brunel-designed pedestrian crossing on the old GWR route to the capital – is due to be removed – strengthened and modified for safety reasons – and then returned to be slotted back into place.

There’s some work to be done at Bath Spa Station where platforms will be extended inwards to meet a slight rail re-alignment. Thank goodness for Brunel’s original broad gauge which means there is room for manoeuvre.

bath spa station

Onto our road system next and a January decision expected on exactly where the new park and ride to the east of the city will be built. Some may argue – whichever site is adopted – the riverside meadows have been already ruined by the Batheaston bypass.

park and ride

The route into town of the new park and ride. Click on images to enlarge.

We’ve got a new bridge over the river being built to link the Upper Bath Road with the residential development that is Western Riverside. This ‘coat-hanger’ designed structure replaces the old Destructor Bridge and is a ‘gate’ designed for pedestrians and cyclists – not cars.

destructor replacement bridge

The new bridge that will replace the old Destructor!

Between here and Churchill Bridge work to re-shape parts of the riverbank, re-align roads and build new flood barrier walls is all to be done in the name of flood prevention but will also open the Avon up to Bath citizens as a zone of recreation.

It’s all about involving the river in our future and not turning our backs to it.

newark works

The old Newark Works

Elsewhere – along its banks – what of realistic future plans for the old Pitman Press buildings, the Newark Works, Sainsbury’s development plans?

Elsewhere commercial interests are busy with more student accommodation, hotels and even a casino – bringing organised gambling on a grand scale back to Bath. Beau Nash would no doubt approve.

bath casino

The old facade of the Palace Theatre – tucked away in the corner.

I have been talking about no longer turning our backs on the river and – at this point – wanted to mention some of the areas in the city where backs have been turned for too long.

When are we finally going to secure the future of the old and long-disused King Edward’s School – a distinguished Palladian building by Thomas Jelly   – constructed 1752-4 – and gently fading away while there seems to be no desire to resolve the impasse over exactly what ‘use’ should be approved to save it.


The now disused King Edward’s School in Broad Street.

The old cattle market site stands empty. Not much of a gateway to the traders of Walcot Street who are so anxious to re-energise their unique ‘artisan quarter’ and increase footfall.

cattle market

A little along the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath we look across the railway line to Hampton Row where numbers 9-14  became derelict after Buchanan’s traffic plan for Bath was released in the 1960s, with a new road intended to pass through the site. The houses were compulsorily purchased, but the plan never came to fruition.


Derelict end of a terrace.

They are now in private hands but languish under corrugated roofing and graffiti waiting for someone to put energy into their renovation or demolition.

A little behind and beyond this sad end to the  terrace lies Britain’s last surviving Georgian lido and a treasure with a real chance of a new life as an outdoor pool and recreational centre.


Cleveland Pools

Here’s where Lottery money comes into play and a hopeful dip into the Heritage Fund part of it. Elsewhere fingers are crossed at Bath Abbey – with their Footprint Project – and at the Roman Baths – hoping for a new educational centre and extra exhibition space.

Genteel is not the way I’d describe my recently adopted city. Faded splendour isn’t good enough for a place that wants a stake in the region’s future. Bath is looking to build on its heritage assets – and they will have to earn their keep – but also is out to create new opportunities amongst the cleaner cyber industries of the future.

elected mayor

Collecting signatures in Kingsmead Square

It’s clear that – from now on – no one conurbation will develop in isolation anymore. We have a referendum in March to decide if we want to invite candidates to stand in a contest to appoint an elected mayor.

However, maybe events have already been overtaken by a Central Government that now sees Bath as just part of a greater metropolitan area which –  as a condition to be met to release funding – would require a ‘super’ Mayor.

VMB Clear background copy

This year the Virtual Museum of Bath welcomed 77,000 visitors. It hopes to generate many more in 2016 and aims to give them all – regulars and new friends –  something to read, listen to and talk about.

This isn’t a one-sided thing either. I want your input, ideas, comments and contributions. Happy New Year!

PS A little extra with next year in mind. Exactly what future for the Leisure Centre? http://www.southwestbusiness.co.uk/sectors/construction-and-commercial-property/30122015154205–17m-investment-in-new-sports-facilities-at-the-bath-leisure-centre-planned/




Storm damage to Weston’s Old Pier.

Storm damage to Weston’s Old Pier.


This is the section that led out to the steamers! Photo by Eddie Hancock

So very sad to hear that the north jetty on the Old Pier at Weston – super – Mare has collapsed in the currents gales.

This is the section on Birnbeck Island that led out to the Campbell Steamers.

See story in the Weston-super-Mare Mercury


‘Slow and Dirty’ celebration.

‘Slow and Dirty’ celebration.

2016 will mark the 50th anniversary of the closure of the Somerset and Dorset Railway – a line with close links to Bath via the old Green Park Station terminus.


Green Park Station, Bath, before closure, c.1960s © Bath in Time – Bath Central Library Collection http://www.bathintime.co.uk/image/1108095/green-park-station-bath-before-closure-c-1960s

It’s also fifty years since the formation of the Somerset and Dorset Railway Circle, preserving the memory and heritage of the line, which subsequently became the present S & D Railway Trust.

To mark both events – and the legacy of the railway – there is to be a range of activities throughout the year including a travelling exhibition which will come to Bath.

Marking the anniversary of the founding of the S&D Circle, the Trust has arranged an anniversary lunch in the Function Room at Bath Green Park Station for Saturday 16th January 2016.

This is an invitation to you to share in this special anniversary meal, and where better to remember the wonderful Somerset & Dorset than at Bath Green Park?

The Trust is delighted that Paul Atterbury will join them as our speaker. Paul is well-known for his many and wide-ranging books on railways. He is particularly passionate about in lost lines of character and has a knack of discovering all sorts of fascinating details.

The lunch will consist of a three-course menu, including coffee or tea afterwards. Dietary needs will be catered for, and the venue is fully licenced. Cost £40.

That date is Saturday 16th January 2016, 12.30 for 1.00 p.m. The date was chosen as being the closest to the meeting that established the Somerset & Dorset Railway Circle – 15th January 1966.

If you would like to book or ask for further details, please email David Grimwood at dwgrimwood@gmail.com.

Find out more about the anniversary via http://www.sdrt.org/50-comm.htm

Bath at New Year

Bath at New Year

As the old year comes to an end – a time for reflection.


The Virtual Museum of Bath wishes all its contributors and followers a very happy 2016 with health and happiness in the year to come.

Continue to spread the word that this daily look at the area’s history and heritage is here and do remember that this is a feature for anyone interested in Bath – its past, present and future – to get involved with.

Contributions – articles, photographs, snippets of news – are always welcomed!

Memories of the Palace Theatre.

Memories of the Palace Theatre.

Virtual Museum coverage of archaeological excavations and chance discoveries in and around the old Palace Theatre site in the Saw Close has brought memories flooding back for follower Sam Farr.


The old Regency Garage building – and beside it the facade of the old Palace Theatre.

This is  an area that will be regenerated to house a casino, hotel and restaurants but – in the meantime -the old theatre building – which housed Gala Bingo when it closed a couple of years ago – had originally been built to house music hall entertainment and was known as the Palace for many years.

Sam sent me an email with his thoughts on the subject.

“Hi Richard
With your piece on the old Palace Theatre, thought I would add a few memories, My family lived over our newsagents in the Abbey Church Yard and in the days before TV were keen theatre-goers
We went regularly to the Theatre Royal to see Clarkson Rose and his Twinkle variety shows and the Pavilion for Music for the Millions, we saw A young Julie Andrews, Spike Milligan, Rob Wilton, Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, Peter Brough and Archie Andrews, Max Wall, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe to name a few.
My first memory of the Palace Theatre was being taken down to the Chronicle aged between 5 and 7 by my Dad and shown the old Lion living in a cage in the machine room as there was no room for it in the theatre, I often wondered how they got it across Bridewell Lane to the theatre.
Gerald Walker who was the chief sub was I think the last staff member to leave and remember the lion.
The show that sticks in my young mind was an Egyptian fakir act where he laid on a bed of nails and bent metal bars.
The drummer in the orchestra I seem to remember as being a very stout chap called Tommy Rod.
When I was at school in my early teens a school friend had a birthday and his mother gave him the money to take his friends to the Palace, it turned out to be a sort of Fan dancing Phyllis Dixie show and nobody even queried our age.”

January start for Bath Quays Waterside

January start for Bath Quays Waterside

Bath & North East Somerset Council and the Environment Agency are due to begin work on the next phase of the Bath Quays Waterside project this month (January).

Construction work will be phased over the next two years and, when completed, will reduce flood risk for over 100 residential and commercial properties; reconnect the city centre to the riverside with a new waterside park, and enable the development of Bath Quays, a new office and creative quarter.

Bath Quays

Improving the look of the River Avon through the city.

Contractors Alun Griffiths Ltd will begin work on a compound on January 4. Avon Street car park and Riverside coach park will remain in operation throughout the works. From January Riverside Coach Park will remain the primary visitor drop off and pick up location, but once passengers have disembarked, coaches will relocate to the First Bus Weston Island Depot.

Once the compound is set-up the contractor will start on highway and utility works in late January in Ambury, Corn Street and Green Park Road.
A new section of road will be built, connecting Corn Street with Green Park Road, which, on completion will carry two-way traffic. Traffic will be permanently diverted from a length of Green Park Road (next to Avon Street car park), allowing the river bank alongside to be widened, providing additional flood flow and a new public open space.

bath quays

The proposed tree-lined terraces

Ed Lockington from the Environment Agency said: “We are pleased to work with Bath & North East Somerset Council on this project which will reduce existing flood risk in Bath and help provide exciting redevelopment opportunities.”
Tim Warren, Council Leader, said: “I’m delighted that we’re now beginning works which will ultimately lead to the development of new space for home-grown and growing businesses in our new business district. The flood works will unlock an important next phase in our work to secure the city for future generations, and will help us to meet one of our priorities of creating more homes and jobs.”

bath quays

The information boards by Churchill Bridge

For detailed information about the construction works and its impacts on the public, please refer to the question and answer sheet attached on the project web page at www.bathnes.gov.uk/bathquayswaterside.Timescales for road closures, towpath and river access will be communicated later in 2016.