Archaeological investigations, funded by Historic England, have just been completed in the Ladies Perpetual Shower Bath building at Bath’s historic Cleveland Pools.
The following report – and photographs – have been supplied by Sally Helvey who is both a trustee and in charge of marketing at The Cleveland Pools Trust.
This is a group of people who – with their supporters – are actively campaigning for the restoration of this the only surviving Georgian open air lido in the country – which is hidden away on the banks of the River Avon at Bathwick.
According to their website – http://www.clevelandpools.org.uk – ” It is historically unique and located in one of the most beautiful spots in Bath. Many thousands of local people have learned to swim here, enjoyed their weekends here, and brought their families to this idyllic place. Sadly the lido closed down in 1984.
The Cleveland Pools Trust, a registered charity, exists to restore and reclaim the pools for outdoor swimming.
And now, thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, English Heritage and Bath & North East Somerset Council, we are part way to raising the funding to make this dream a reality. We need your help to raise the remaining £400,000 by Autumn 2016 so work can begin by the end of next year.’
Sally tells us : ‘The (recent) excavation work, carried out by Brian Gibbons and Matthew O’Donovan from Cliveden Conservation, took just over a week to complete.
The investigations took place to establish evidence of the Ladies Plunge Pool, a bath built just for women in 1817 when gentlemen had begun visiting the adjacent river-fed swimming pool with its 12 ‘changing apartments’.
Peter Davenport, from Cotswold Archaeology, was appointed to carry out the most delicate part of the dig and record his findings.
The pool shape and surrounding stonework were found to be in keeping with the historic maps the Trust have of the site so Peter and the team didn’t need to dig down very far.
When they tried, however, to find how many steps there were down into the pool, the space kept filling up with water. This is no doubt as to why the pool was called a ‘perpetual shower bath’!
Two interesting pieces of pottery were found amongst the soil and rubble: a small undamaged ginger beer jar (or possibly an inkwell), and part of a child’s alphabet mug. Despite being buried for about 150 years, the jar is in almost perfect condition.
Also, the existence of a doorway in the west corner was confirmed when the wall cladding was taken off and part of its threshold step was found, showing wear on both sides (the square-shaped stone is between the ditch and the entrance of the Ladies Pool Building in this picture).
The holes made are now covered over so that the Ladies Pool Building can now be reclaimed for visitors and site maintenance volunteers.’