Bowling & tennis to make way for ball games & Tai Chi at Sydney Gardens.

Ball games and Tai Chi are due to replace bowling and some tennis courts at Bath’s historic Sydney Gardens if B&NES if successful in its bid for funding to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Parks for People scheme to support a rejuvenation project.

This area of parkland – behind the Holburne Museum –  is thought to be the only remaining 18th Century  Vauxhall – or pleasure garden – in the UK, and the project will help protect and celebrate the unique and nationally important heritage, and provide better facilities for modern users of the park.

sydney gardens
Sydney Gardens became a municipal park in 1909.

A project team including Landscape Design Associates, Aileen Shackell and Inspire 2 has been working alongside Bath & North East Somerset Council and local stakeholders – including the Friends of Sydney Gardens, The Holburne Museum and local residents – to develop new designs for the landscape and provide a programme of activities to engage new audiences with the unique heritage and provide play and volunteering opportunities for young and old alike.

Bath & North East Somerset Council has already committed £250,000 as matched funding towards the project.  If successful, the lottery bid would multiply contributions from the Council and other partners by up to 85%.P1150720

Besides conservation work to protect listed structures, the project includes proposals to create a new landscaped amphitheatre for small events, a woodland garden, a new café, an exciting new play area with a multi-use ball games area and play equipment for all ages.

The bowling green in Sydney Gardens.

Following the decision by the bowling club to end their lease at the end of 2016 bowling season due to a falling membership, the project will convert the pavilion into a new café and the former bowling green will provide a venue for informal play and activities such as yoga, tai chi and salsa.

The latest design also includes a multi-use ball game area within the footprint of the current bottom courts – creating space where a wide range of informal and other ball games can be played; such as basketball, football, volleyball and table tennis. Ultimately this would provide a more flexible space for a wider range of different types of active play than can currently be accommodated by six permanent tennis courts. 

The bottom courts in Sydney Gardens.

  The design also includes provision for the refurbishment of the top tennis courts which would ensure people can continue to play tennis in the park throughout the year. 

Cllr Martin Veal (Conservative, Bathavon North) Cabinet Member for Community Services said: “Our aspiration is for the famous Sydney Gardens, one of the iconic features of 18th Century Bath, to be renovated and made-over.

If our Heritage Lottery bid is successful, it will become suitable for 21st Century use and will give the community a wonderful green sanctuary behind the magnificent Holburne Museum.”

The design team have undertaken an extensive consultation – sharing initial plans with around 150 people at a public event in the park on 2nd June and then hosting an online survey for teenagers.

sydney gardens
MInerva’s Temple – brought from the Empire Exhibition at the Crystal Palace and re-erected here in 1913-14.

This informed the final stage one masterplan which was available for comment from June to August; and the design team shared the plans publically at drop-in sessions in a local supermarket and at Sydney Gardens on 9th August.

Feedback from the consultations  is being used to inform the plans and as a two-stage funding scheme: if successful at Round One in September, the Council will undertake further consultation and discussions in 2017 and 2018:  leading up to the development of a final, more detailed design – in advance of work starting in 2019.


Laid out in 1795 with an outer ride, bowling lawns, night-time lantern parades and even a labyrinth and hermit’s grotto, Sydney Gardens is the last remaining Georgian pleasure garden – or Vauxhall – in England.

The gardens have undergone extensive changes over the years, with the arrival of the Kennet and Avon canal and the Great Western railway line in the nineteenth century and the creation of a free public park in the nineteenth century. 

Sydney Gardens is home to a number of structures and features of cultural and historic importance and today the space is a popular, and much loved, public park with champion trees, flower beds, a play area, bowling club and tennis courts.