What future for Bath Record Office

What future for Bath Record Office

‘Bath Record Office is the only South West archive not to have had a refit in the
last 25 years. Its archive stores are full and it currently makes use of any additional
space that becomes available in the Guildhall on an ad hoc basis’.

The above is a quote from a report that will be considered at a meeting of the Planning, Housing and Economic Development, Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel next Tuesday – September 6th – at Bath Guildhall.

Bath Record Office

Bath Record Office at the Guildhall.

It seems – with no financial provision in the future Capitol Programme for any improved arrangement  – that there is little immediate hope of creating a new Local History Centre for B&NES in line with other authorities elsewhere.

The authority has been considering improving things since 2002 when the Culture & Leisure Time Best Value Review recommended that the Council create “a centre of excellence for local and family studies”.

Following on from this, Record Office and Libraries staff undertook a survey of Record Office and Library users which revealed overwhelming support for the creation of a dedicated Local Studies Centre in which the Record Office and the Library’s Local Studies and Special collections would be brought together.

Since then the Council established a working group to draw up a viable vision which would: ‘create a world-class History Centre that brings together the unique Record Office archives and the resources of the local studies library.

In an imaginative new-build or conversion, visible, accessible and situated in the heart of Bath, the History Centre will engage new audiences and improve the service offered to the existing very active user base’.

The working group had to seek advice regarding the likely availability and cost of suitable sites where a History Centre could be built or converted from an existing building.

The report says: ‘It became clear that opportunities for a stand-alone development of this kind, where there is limited space available and land values are high, are unlikely to be found in central Bath.

It was concluded that the best prospect of developing a History Centre would be as part of a larger development or regeneration project. This remains the current position’.

So far the only ‘improvement’ that has been approved is to: ‘amalgamate the Record Office archive collections with the Library’s Local Studies collection in the Guildhall using vacated space in the north wing basement.


The Bath Guildhall

Work on this project is under way but it is not seen as a long-term solution to the need for a Local History Centre fit for the 21st century’.

The report says the public appetite for information about building history and genealogy has never been strong – ‘driven in part by TV programmes about building restoration projects and family history.

Despite being home to a ‘Designated’ collection, the Record Office does not meet all the requirements of TNA’s Standard for Record Repositories. It scores very low in premises, facilities and governance, although it is approved to hold public records on TNA’s behalf.

However in CIPFA surveys the quality of public service at Bath Record Office has been voted by users the best of any archive in the South West region’.

B&NES is lagging behind many other authorities who through HLF grants or links with universities have managed to create ‘centres of excellence where their collections are stored in optimum conditions to ensure their preservation in perpetuity, and where people can study them in secure and user-friendly search rooms’.

The report concludes: ‘A single Local History Centre is the preferred choice of service users and stakeholders. It would achieve efficiencies and economies of scale and would provide 7 the storage conditions that the archive collections need and the search facilities that the service users deserve and have become accustomed to elsewhere’.

It remains to be seen whether there is the will or the financial means to take things any further on down the road towards such a Centre for B&NES in the very near future.

Also whether any existing central building such as the Guildhall, the old King Edward’s School site or even the Mineral Water Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases could be utilised to house such an undertaking.


New footbridge revitalises river front

New footbridge revitalises river front

The latest stage in revitalising a river frontage on the outskirts of Bath has been completed.

Now residents are being asked for ideas for new river projects.

Volunteers from the group Bathampton and Batheaston River and Footpath Friends (BABRAFFS), working in partnership with parish councils, secured a grant from Bath & North East Somerset Council’s River Corridor Fund to provide amenities such as seating, tables and notice boards.


A photograph of the volunteers working on the link by Mill Lane, with Cllr Martin Veal

Additional funding from the Avon Frome Partnership has also enabled the construction of a new path and footbridge to create a safe link that avoids the need to cross busy Mill Lane.

Peter Fear from the Bathampton and Batheaston River and Footpath Friends, said: “This small yet very important footbridge marks a major milestone in the volunteer led, Bathampton Meadows Riverside project. It provides a safe and easy pedestrian access from the riverside area to the west side of the very busy Mill Lane.

“The footbridge, expertly assembled by the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens, adds another excellent facility to the very popular and accessible stretch of the river Avon between the centre of Batheaston and the Bathampton Toll Bridge. The hard working volunteer group, well supported by local organisations, have contributed over 300 voluntary hours and have many plans to continue to improve the riverside space.”

Councillor Martin Veal (Conservative, Bathavon North), the Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: “I was delighted to see the volunteers in action as they installed the new bridge and lend a hand. The Council’s river corridor fund has really helped to revitalise this beautiful stretch of the Avon and ensure many more people can enjoy using it.”

The work follows the installation a new bridge spanning the River Avon at Batheaston in December 2013.

A connecting cycle path was opened to the public in June 2014.  It was funded by the Department of Transport’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund. 

The new route links the villages of Batheaston and Bathampton and makes it easier to walk and cycle between Batheaston and Bath.


As well as improving access, the route has created a new riverside nature area which is being developed as part of a shared community project bringing together volunteers from the two parishes.


Councillor Veal added: “If people have suggestions for further improvements along the Avon and the canal then there is on-going call for ideas. It is run by Bath & North East Somerset Council, the Canal & River Trust, Wessex Water and the Environment Agency. People have until September 8 to put forward ideas and there could be funding available for the best ones.”


For more information about the call for ideas visit www.waterspacebath.org.uk


What plans for Newark Works?

What plans for Newark Works?

Members of the public are being encouraged to find out more about Bath & North East Somerset Council’s plans for Bath Quays South.

The Bath Quays South development is being led by the Council in consultation with local employer BMT and regeneration specialists TCN.

newark works

The old Newark Works

Plans include:

Refurbishment of Newark Works for creative workspaces

Two new buildings, one for BMT’s four Bath-based design, technology and management consultancies and one for residential / specialist office use

Completion of flood defence and river walls, new public spaces and landscaping.

Following a design competition in 2015, plans for the Bath Quays Bridge that will connect North and South Quays will also be available to view, although these will be submitted via a separate planning application.

Drop-in sessions will be held as follows:

Thursday 8 September, 3pm – 7pm

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s One Stop Shop café, 3 – 4 Manvers Street, Bath

Friday 9 September, 1.30pm – 6.30pm

Bath Bus Station (Dorchester Street)

Saturday 10 September, 10am – 4pm

Bath Bus Station (Dorchester Street)

At each session there will be display boards outlining the plans and members of the public will be able to put forward their views and comments.

Plans and an online consultation will also be available on the Council’s website from 8 – 16 September at www.bathnes.gov.uk/bathquayssouth

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “The Bath Quays South planning application includes new business space and a new bridge across the river, and represents an important step in the Council’s Economic Strategy to create jobs and opportunities for local people. I would encourage as many people as possible to come along to one of the drop-in sessions to find out more.”

The applications are currently targeted for submission this autumn. Subject to approval, it is hoped that building work will commence in the spring of 2017.

This process is part of the standard pre-planning application consultation.

The Bath Quays development is divided into Bath Quays North which is currently home to Avon Street Coach Park and car park on the north side of the river and Bath Quays South, the derelict Newark Works buildings on the south side of the river and adjacent to A36/Lower Bristol Road.



Is Monks Mill a blooming mess?

Is Monks Mill a blooming mess?

Oh dear. I thought the electricity sub station in Parade Gardens was enough of a blot on the landscape – but now it’s got a rival down amongst the tree-lined lanes, lawns and flower beds.


The ugly sub-station which apparently would cost £60,000 to get shifted? I am also looking forward to the so-called purple ‘throne’ being moved soon too. It’s a bit tacky. Plans to encase the sub station in photographic boards seems also to have been dropped for this year.

B&NES Parks Department staff have worked wonders with these historic pleasure grounds beside the River Avon and l am delighted to see this has included the erection of information boards which tell something of its history.


One of the 3 new notice boards. 

In the 13th century these gardens belonged to the Abbey and would have been accessed through a gap in the old town wall. On the notice board is a copy of the late 16th century map which shows the grounds and also the Abbey Mill which straddled the river between the bank and a small island.


The information board with a mention of the ruined Monks Mill but the relic itself is on the other side of the gardens!

According to the information sign near the cafe at the North Parade end – ‘Some small ruins of the mill remain within the gardens today’.


Close up of the information.

Indeed they do. On the other side – away from this notice – and with no sign anywhere near them to explain what this pile of stones is.


Not sure about the finish of the ‘restoration’ as it looks a bit slap-dash. There is also no notice to tell people what it is.

I am also surprised by the ‘conservation’ that has been carried out on the ruins. While the correct lime mortar has been used it has been a bit of a slap it on job with no shaping to fit in with the stones. No doubt it’ll weather and fade in time?


Another view of the Monk’s Mill relic

This is an historic ruin – older than the Abbey – and maybe the only early medieval relic left in Bath – apart from the Norman foundations found beneath the Abbey itself.


The carved block of stone within the ruined walls. Is it the crossed keys of St Peter?

Set into the stones is a carved block which appears to bear the keys of St Peter. Did this come from another part of the building? Or from the great Norman church?


Another view of the Monk’s Mill ruins.

Are these ruins protected in anyway? What do others think. Please go and look.


What the ruins looked like before their ‘conservation’.

The flower beds have been magnificent this year and deserve admiration. It’s fingers crossed for this year’s Britain In Bloom competition results – which are due out next month. Let us hope Bath has done well.






Bridge access, bikes and buddleia.

Bridge access, bikes and buddleia.

Well the good news is that the new Destructor bridge – linking Western Riverside with the Upper Bristol Road – has now been lowered into place and is being secured.

The towpath beneath its span has also reopened.


The road surface of the new Destructor bridge is being checked over.

This comes after a delay in finally being able to roll out the prefabricated structure across the River Avon, because of alignment problems.

Now news yet on when the structure will be supplied with the made-up link roads to allow it to open, but already rumours about how it will be accessed.


The new Destructor bridge from the towpath.


The old Destructor bridge from a similar viewpoint.

The bridge is designed for vehicular, cycle and pedestrian use but one follower of Bath Newseum emailed me to say:

‘Are you aware of the restricted access that is planned when the new Destructor bridge opens?

I was chatting to a chap with a BANES hi-viz jacket whilst queuing at the ‘dump’ and he said there will be a bus gate on the south side of the river effectively stopping traffic flow from that side of the Avon.

I was kinda’ hoping the new bridge would ease the pain of crossing the river to the west of the city’!

I have approached the developers for to comment on this.


No slope or grooves to help you take a bike up or down on the steps by the new Destructor bridge

 I have also noticed that the new stairways that have been built to link the new bridge with the towpath beneath do not include a groove to help cyclists get their bikes up and down.


The steps down to the towpath by the Victoria Bridge. The groove is to help you take a bike up or down.

The Victoria Suspension Bridge – which is next in line going up river – has a staircase with a groove for bike wheels.


Weeds lining the approach to the Victoria Suspension Bridge.

 While we are talking about this bridge, l have to say it’s a shame to see the newly-restored Victoria Suspension bridge covered in weeds – so soon after its very expensive restoration.


Buddleia growing on top of the bridge tower.

This historical and listed structure is sprouting buddleia from its tower and weeds line the approach road.


A closer look at the weeds.

Look who is in Larkhall.

Look who is in Larkhall.

James and Jodie Vowles run a monthly community magazine in my area called The Local Look.


It’s delivered – free of charge – to doors in places as far apart as Ashley and Bailbrook to Tadwick and Woolley – with places like Claverton, Lansdown and Larkhall in between.

The magazine is packed with local information, events and editorials – along with advertisements promoting local businesses.


James and Jodie Vowles

I wanted to say a public thank you to James for coming along to have a chat with me and giving Bath Newseum some much needed publicity.


Larkhall – that’s my home.

I have just returned from a sun dappled walk through Bailbrook Lane to Batheaston and back. 

Half way through we stopped to chat to a lady who – suddenly recognised me – and said she had just been reading about me in her Local Look.


Thanks for the memories

Thought you would like to know that James and Jodie. All your hard work seems to pay off. People do read the magazine.

You can contact this family-run enterprise via www.facebook.com/TheLocalLook

Smoothing the way through Larkhall.

Smoothing the way through Larkhall.

What a difference a new road surface makes!

Here’s the main road – St Saviour’s – into the ‘village’ of Larkhall – after its recent tarmac renovation.


So smooth.

Before and after.


The former surface of St Saviour’s Road into Larkhall, Bath.

Drop the East of Bath park and ride scheme and you would have enough cash to re-do all the roads of Bath!



What do others think?