Bath heritage secured – Preservation Trust triumph at auction.

Bath Preservation Trust today revealed that they were the mystery purchaser of John Wood the Elder’s beautiful set of drawing instruments, which were sold at Clevedon Auction Rooms last week for a total price, including commission, of £26,000. The works were acquired with support from the Art Fund, the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and several local donors.
The set, which is engraved with John Wood the Elder’s name and crest, is already on public display in the Museum of Bath Architecture, along with other items describing Wood’s contribution to the design and development of the World Heritage City.

He’s the local born man who – with his son – gave the city its iconic architectural masterpieces – Queen Square, The Circus and the Royal Crescent.

In case med res
The drawing set is engraved with Wood’s coat of arms and is made by Thomas Heath of London, the leading 18th-century maker of drawing instruments developed expressly for architects. It dates from around 1745, has a silver and fish skin case, and comprises: silver scale ruler, stunning ivory sector ruler with silver mounts, compass, dividers, bow, two pens and a pencil, and one vacant aperture which would suggest that there is one piece missing, 13cm high.

Made by leading C18th mathematical instrument maker Thomas Heath, the exquisite items were in private hands before the sale, their full significance lost behind years of tarnish.
Architectural Curator of Bath Preservation Trust, Dr Amy Frost, said:
‘As soon as we saw the drawing instruments, we knew that the most appropriate home for them was back in Bath and on public display so that all who love Bath’s buildings could get a further insight into how they were created. The set can be seen in the Museum of Bath Architecture which celebrates the 18th-century architecture of Bath and interprets the built heritage of this famous city.

Instruments out med res
‘We are immensely grateful to the Art Fund, The V&A Purchase Grant Fund and pledges from several local donors who responded in an amazingly short time so that we could secure the set despite determined bidding from others on the day’.
Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said:
‘Congratulations to Bath Preservation Trust for their success at a nerve-wracking auction!  We’re very pleased to have played our part in securing these instruments for public ownership and display in Bath, where they rightfully belong – surrounded by the very buildings they helped create.’
Julia Brettell, National Programmes Manager at the V&A, said:
“The ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund is pleased to be able to support this acquisition. Bath Preservation Trust made a strong argument for their purchase. It is highly appropriate that the instruments are shown close to the buildings they ‘helped’ design and in a display focussed on the architects who used them”.

John Wood the Elder (born and died in Bath 1704-1754) was the most significant architect to have worked in the city and was responsible for determining its future growth and architectural style which continues to define Bath today. Most famous of his projects are The Circus (1764) and The Royal Crescent (1776), completed to his designs after his death by his son John Wood the Younger. Earlier masterpieces were the North and South Parades (1728), Queen Square, Prior Park (1735-48) and the Royal Mineral Water Hospital (1738). His major works outside Bath were both the Bristol and Liverpool Exchanges.

Bath Preservation Trust exists “to preserve for the benefit of the public the historic character and amenities of the City of Bath and its surroundings”. In a City with such a wealth of heritage there are inevitably difficult challenges to be faced in reconciling the demands of a modern thriving City alongside the exceptional level of conservation care demanded in a World Heritage Site. Much of the Trust’s work involves engaging with those whose decisions determine the city’s future.