What future for Pulteney Bridge flood gate?

What future for Pulteney Bridge flood gate?

The future of the flood gates at Twerton and Pulteney Bridge could be a short one as a newly funded £50,000 B&NES  flood management project with the Environment Agency will be looking at all the options as the structures reach the end of their life.


Pulteney flood gate

The local authority is proposing to allocate up to £150,000 to support projects to improve the river corridor in Bath over the next year.

This will  includes developing options and a business case for the two gates, both of which, constructed as part of Bath’s flood alleviation scheme in the early 1970s, are now getting a little old.


It may be art but is the flood gate still useful?

The Twerton flood gates continue to protect around 200 Bath properties from flood risk.

This is the second part of a phased city-wide flood management strategy, in partnership with the Environment Agency. The phase one flood alleviation scheme is now under construction at Bath Quays Waterside; the design includes upper and lower level river promenades, natural landscaping and a new large riverside public space. The new environment will provide an attractive waterfront for Bath that can be used and enjoyed by thousands of people all year round. 


How the river bank will be re-shaped.


Work underway on re-shaping river bank.

A detailed business case will now be prepared with the Environment Agency, to unlock up to £5 million funding to deliver this phase 2 project. For an updates see www.bathnes.gov.uk/riverandcanal

Cllr Liz Richardson, Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Homes and Planning, said “The Council is working in close partnership with the Environment Agency to put together a business case aimed at accessing £5 million of Government funding to help manage flood risk in Bath. 

Ed Lockington from the Environment Agency said: “Building upon the successful partnership developed through the Bath Quays Waterside project, it’s great to be progressing further work to manage flood risk in Bath”.


River Avon at Bath Quays Waterside site

The Council has also agreed to develop a business case to re-open the Pulteney moorings, between Pulteney Bridge and North Parade Bridge, which it is hoped, will lead to an £80,000 investment in River Avon moorings on Council-owned land. This would include the additional safety improvements needed before the Pulteney moorings can be re-opened for boaters.

The Council has already spent over £150,000 on safety works in accordance with an independent Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) assessment, including putting in new railings, access gates and river safety cabinets. In addition there will be considerable investment from the Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency.

river avon

Looking up the River Avon towards Pulteney Bridge and Weir.

£20,000 has also been earmarked by the Council to contribute towards a Bat Habitat Strategy for development sites within the Enterprise Area. This will help to meet the planning requirements from Natural England, the Government body responsible for looking after biodiversity and nature. 

Alongside this, a Water Space Study, looking at new ways to use the river and canal system around Bath, is underway. Bath & North East Somerset Council, the Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency, and Wessex Water are working together in the jointly-funded study, to identify projects to transform and revitalise the waterways along the River Avon between Bath and Keynsham, and along the Kennet and Avon Canal between Deep Lock and Dundas Aqueduct 

The study will not focus on strategic flood projects, but will instead look at all other aspects impacting on the river and canal, including boat moorings, river navigation by boats, leisure and recreation opportunities and wider wildlife and habitat enhancements. You can see the results of the community engagement and project ideas put forward to date on the website: www.waterspacebath.org.uk

Reading this report, Dan Brown of www.bathintime.co.uk  reminds me – with one of his fantastic images – that there were plans to build a restaurant on top of the Pulteney Weir flood gate.


An artist’s impression for a restaurant on the platform on Pulteney Sluice, 24 April 1985. © Bath in Time

Says Dan: ‘In 1973 a prospectus invited tenders to develop the site as a licensed premises or a restaurant. It also stated that planning permission was granted in 1969 and that the platform was designed to support a full restaurant development. This seems to have resurfaced again in 1985 when this was discussed again. It remains an ugly empty eyesore.’

 Meanwhile, Cllr Martin Veal, Cabinet Member for Community Services and Chair of the Council’s Strategic River Group, says of the project:  “This  is also about enhancing Bath’s river corridor and making greater use of one of Bath’s most underused assets, whilst at the same time improving river safety.

“As part of this, we are working with the Canal & River Trust, Wessex Water, the Environment Agency and the River Regeneration Trust to look at projects which could transform and revitalise the waterways along the River Avon between Bathford and Keynsham, and along the Kennet and Avon Canal. Both the Water Space Study and the River Corridor Fund show the Council working with our partners to improve the River Avon and the Kennet & Avon Canal for residents and visitors alike.”

City-Wide Flood Strategy Phase 1 (Bath Quays Waterside) details:


Putting the Mill on stream.

Putting the Mill on stream.

Bath & North East Somerset Council is investing in a new hydro-electric community-owned energy project on the River Avon.

The Council is making a loan to the Old Mill Community Hydro project located at the Old Mill Hotel at Bathampton Weir on the River Avon. The project has been developed by award-winning local community enterprise Bath & West Community Energy (BWCE) in partnership with Mongoose Energy.

bathampton weir

The weir at Bathampton Mill

The existing, decorative water wheel at the site (installed c1987) will be replaced with a new modern water wheel, capable of generating enough electricity to meet the annual demand from over 20 typical homes. The new water wheel will include screens to protect fish and eels in the river.

Cllr Martin Veal (Conservative, Bathavon North), Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: “Our investment into the Old Mill Community Hydro project, which is within my ward, working with local community enterprise BWCE, will help our area make the most of its renewable energy potential. It will also support further local community projects through the Community Fund.”

The Council’s £130,000 loan will cover half the capital costs of the scheme, with the remainder (£131,000) made up by investment through a community share issue.

BWCE’s community-owned energy model means that local people have had the chance to invest relatively small amounts of money in local renewable energy projects through a community share offer. This enables them to own a stake in the company and get a reasonable return on their money.


Bathampton weir

The scheme will contribute towards around 20 megawatts of renewable energy already being generated in Bath and North East Somerset. Collectively this is enough to power over 4,500 homes. 

The scheme will generate an estimated £50,000 funding over its lifetime for BWCE’s Community Fund which, by the end of the year, will have re-invested nearly £100,000 of BWCE’s surplus income back into local community organisations delivering low carbon and fuel poverty reduction projects in Bath and the surrounding area.


The archway that housed the mill’s  original water wheel

Pete Capener, Chair of BWCE, said: “From a standing start in 2010, BWCE will soon become England’s largest community-owned, clean energy company by generating capacity. From the start our relationship with Bath & North East Somerset Council has been a significant factor in that success. We look forward to continue working with the Council in the future to create more opportunities to bring clean energy and ethical investment opportunities to the area.”

The Old Mill Community Hydro scheme is currently under construction and is due to be completed in December.

The Council has carbon reduction and renewable energy generation targets in its Community Energy Strategy and Core Strategy. This latest investment is designed to support the delivery of these objectives. 


No 4

No 4

Bath has hidden historic gems – as well as its big architectural set pieces. One of them is the restored Georgian Garden behind number 4, the Circus.


Looking down to the Georgian Garden from the house.

Between 1985 and 1988 the overgrown and inaccessible garden behind the house was excavated by Bath Archaeological Trust and many of its original features discovered.


Information boards in the garden show the public the excavations made during the 1980’s

The decision was taken to restore it to its original 1760 form. It was thought to be the first town garden in the world to be scientifically excavated and re-created in situ.

In 1992 it won a Civic Trust Environmental Award and, in the same year, was opened to the public as the ‘Georgian Garden’, accessed from Gravel Walk in Royal Victoria Park behind the Circus.

This is a little ‘freebee’ l always offer to people in my group when l am out doing my Tuesday morning duties as a member of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides.


Looking towards the Georgian Garden entrance from the Gravel Walk leading up to the Royal Crescent

It’s also the point when l say the house at number 4 is where the Fashion Museum does its conservation and repair work. This is technically still correct but the house has a much more interesting history to recount.

One l have discovered through reading background detail to be presented to members of the Charitable Trust Board who will meet at Bath Guildhall on Tuesday next – October 4th – to discuss the appointment of new trustees to the charity which runs the house.

Back in 1958, Mr Charles Cooke and his wife Frances made mutual wills leaving their house – 4 Circus – to the survivor for life and thereafter to the Bath Preservation Trust.


The front of the Grade 1 listed No 4 in the Circus.

Two years later Mr Cooke died and Mrs Cooke approached the then Bath City Council to see if they would take over the property to make it available to the general public as a themed Georgian exhibition house.

The Council discussed the proposal with Bath Preservation Trust but they decided it was not for them – especially as they had recently acquired  more suitable and grander premises at No 1 Royal Crescent.

No 1 Royal Crescent

Number 1 Royal Crescent

The City Council considered converting number 4 for housing purposes but decided it would be better used as a much needed ‘accessory’ to the Museum of Costume which, at that time, lacked space in the Assembly Rooms for storage, public research and study purposes.

Then Mrs Cooke died and, as no joint scheme between the Council and Preservation Trust had been implemented to realise the wishes of her late husband, the matter was put in the hands of the Official Custodian for Charities.

A charity was formed in Mrs Cooke’s name and the Council had to appoint four trustees with the object of ‘ the preservation and exhibition to the public of the building on the said land as a place of architectural and historic interest.’

In 1973 a scheme was drawn up to lease the property to Bath City Council ‘ for purposes not inconsistent with the object of the charity which purposes may include use as a museum of costume.’

So a year later the Fashion Research Centre opened at number 4 – as the study and education arm of the Museum of Costume.

In the years that followed the house was also used for other purposes. It was the main offices for the Council’s Museum Service – until they moved to the Pump Room. Bath Archaeological Trust – at one time – also occupied rooms on the top floor.

In 1985 a textile conservation studio was created in the basement – serving not only the Museum of Costume but museums throughout the South West.

Although the original intention of Mr Cooke was for public access to the house, the restoration and opening of the garden to the public was seen as a major contribution to the object of the charity.

The Georgian garden is administered and promoted by the Council’s Heritage Services and maintained by the Parks and Open Spaces team.


Another view of the Georgian Garden

Then, of course, Bath City Council became B&NES and in 2003 a new 21 year lease was negotiated. Also – at that time – the Fashion Research Centre’s collections and services were merged with those of the Museum of Costume at the Assembly Rooms.

This released space at 4 Circus and a search began for a partner tenant whose function would be compatible with that of the Museum and consistent with the Object of the Charity.

This brought about a new BA course in Fashion Design Skills and a working partnership with Bath Spa University who came to occupy part of the property.

The use of parts of the building for teaching the Fashion Design Skills course was deemed to be in keeping with the Object of the Charity in that it made the building accessible to BSU students and staff.

In addition, the house was opened for accompanied public viewing at certain times of year such as National Heritage Open Days.

‘In theory members of the public could request sight of the interior at any time and would have to be admitted, although the ability to do this has never been made public.’

That’s something l tested out this morning – Thursday, September 29th – when a very polite young man came to the door and told me entry wouldn’t be possible because there were students there having lectures.

I had missed the annual Open Doors access by a week or so, he said.


I wasn’t allowed through the door today.

I decided not to press my case.

Much of what l am writing has been taken from a document prepared as a briefing note for next week’s meeting.

New trustees have to be appointed to approve a new sub lease to Bath Spa University. The proposed terms provide for a lease ending early in 2019 which coincides with the end of the lease from the Trust to the Council, and one of the first tasks for the new trustees will be to consider what happens after this date.

The house is managed by Heritage Services, for which there is an operating budget of £34,120. Maintenance is undertaken through the Council’s Project Delivery Team at a cost of £19,960 in 2016/17.

These costs are partly offset by a rental income of £24,790 from Bath Spa University in 2016/17.

The terms of a new lease, under which the University will take on more of the running costs and pay a revised level of rent, is currently the subject of negotiation between the Council’s Estates Team and the University.


Number 4 is contained within the first segment of the Circus built. The foundation stone laid in 1754. Shortly afterwards John Wood the Elder died. His son completed the project.

No.4 Circus is a mid-eighteenth-century town house set within the south-west segment of the Circus, the first of the three segments to be built.

It was designed by John Wood the Elder (who died in 1754 before its completion) and built by his son John Wood the Younger. No.4 was completed in 1760. The house is Grade I listed.

The charity controlling its future has to work to its legal objectives of  publicly exhibiting the house and garden ‘as a place of architectural and historic interest.’

The new trustees have quite a task in front of them to find a novel and financially way to  secure its future.

The Museum of Costume has since become Bath’s world-famous Fashion Museum – and is based at the Assembly Rooms.






A ring to mourn a canal builder

A ring to mourn a canal builder

John Rennie was a Scottish civil engineer – a young East Lothian farmer’s son – and born in 1761. He made his name designing many bridges, canals and docks.


John Rennie 1761 – 1821

South of the border he will always be remembered in these parts as the designer of the Kennet and Avon canal which passes through Bath.

kennet and avon canal

The canal towpath through Bath’s Sydney Gardens.

The total length of the waterway he created – linking the Avon with the Thames – is 87 miles. The actual canal section – dug out of the earth by thousands of navvies – is 57 miles. The job was done between 1794 and 1810.

Today after restoration – and thanks to an army of volunteers who maintain it – this industrial water motorway is back in use for more recreational purposes.


Off the Wall Antiques in St Margaret’s Buildings.

With this in mind, Bath Newseum was interested to hear about a piece of jewellery that had come into the hands of Alexander Tennant who runs Off The Wall Antiques in St Margaret’s Buildings near the Royal Crescent.


Owner, Alexander Tennant.

It’s very much connected with the death of this great man – who died after a short illness at his London home in 1821 and was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.



Riverside crane is a painting marathon.

Riverside crane is a painting marathon.

The volunteers busy painting a crane at Bath Riverside are making good progress on what has now been described as a ‘painting marathon.’


That’s looking better. The roof of the old steam crane gets a protective coating of paint. Thanks to volunteer Peter Dickinson of Monkey Business Arts Consultants for both the work and the photograph!

They are helping to brighten up a ‘city treasure’ under the direction of Bryan Chalker – a Bath man who might just as well have oil and grease running around in his veins instead of blood.


Bryan Chalker posing with a brass plaque that was once attached to the crane but was taken off before it went to Washford. It will be refitted at a ‘topping out’ ceremony when the work is completed. Photo © Jim Warren


An ex-Mayor and councillor, he was Heritage Champion for B&NES during his years of public service and keen to promote the industrial history of a city – better known for Roman remains and Georgian architecture.


Bryan Chalker’s first volunteer was Abi Soady who is a Development Graduate at Crest Nicholson.

Fresh from organising the seventh Bath Industrial Heritage Exhibition – held at BCFC’s Twerton Park home – he’s now leading a group of volunteers who have given up their time to re-paint an industrial landmark.


The steam crane at Bath Riverside

It’s an old steam crane – originally made at the city’s famous Stothert and Pitt factory – and rescued  from the breaker’s yard by Brian – with the help of Crest Nicholson.


Volunteer Mark Wilson is giving the cable and cable drum a protective coat of grease to keep the algae at bay until it can be properly greased. Photo © Jim Warren

They are busy regenerating Bath’s former industrial riverside footprint and installed the crane as a symbol of past meeting future.


Getting down to work

Now they’ve given Bryan a bit of cash to help towards the cost of repainting the crane – and he’s also managed to get the paint for free.


It’s not just the volunteers helping with the job who are coming in for praise – though Bryan is very grateful to them all.


Really starting to notice a difference now with the jib being the last difficult part to tackle.

He told me today – Wednesday, October 26th – that many materials had been very generously donated.

‘The company supplying the special enamel paint is Hempel, based at Llantarnam Park, Cwmbran, South Wales, and they donated a total of 14 cans of primer, thinners and paint, without charge. 

Homebase have given us the loan of a flat-bed trolley to transport the paint back and forth from storage to the crane, and a  local and old-established Bath engineering firm, who want no credit, donated a drum of industrial grease for the jib’s cables.

  Thanks to the poor weather, what began as an estimated 4-day project, has developed into a painting marathon – but we’re slowly getting there. 

The crane is a superb example of Stothert & Pitt’s early engineering skills – built to last – and a credit to Bath’s great industrial past.’




Top to bottom. Mark Wilson, Peter Dickinson and Bryan Chalker. Photo © Rob Cole


Jim Warren chatting to Bryan Chalker while Peter Dickinson is busy with the brush! Photo © Rob Cole



Here’s Bryan in action. Photo © Jim Warren


Riverbank gives up more secrets

Riverbank gives up more secrets

Bath Newseum has made its final trip to the rescue archaeology underway beside the River Avon at Broad Quay in Bath – an area due to be reshaped as part of a flood alleviation programme and also opened up – and renamed Bath Quays – as a sector for commercial regeneration.


How the river bank will be re-shaped for the new Bath Quays zone.

It also happens to be where the ordinary working folk of Bath both lived and earned a wage in an area often prone to flooding and considered a notorious slum of crowded tenements.


This wall – beside the river – has a cellar beneath it. It would have always been flooded so archaeologists think this may have been a boat house.

Members of Wessex Archaeology have been allowed in to record what is left of that once buried and forgotten environment before it is all swept away as the river bank is remodelled.


Cai Stands in the Bath House. This would have been a section of screened cubicles where people did their laundry and would have paid for hot river water by the bucketful. This facility was set up by the Baths and Laundry Society in the 19th century to promote ‘cleanliness of dress and person among the poor inhabitants of Bath.’

With just weeks to go it seems the archaeologists have left the best to last. Not only have they been uncovering the remains of a bath house in which the the people who lived in overcrowded tenements both washed themselves and did their laundry but they have also confirmed finding part of a defensive wall and ditch shown as a spur off the city walls on an early 18th century maps of Bath.


The rusty elliptical shape is where one of the copper boilers would have stood. Coal would have been brought in from the river to feed the furnace to heat the water.

Here’s what Cai Mason –  Senior Project Officer at this site for Wessex Archaeology – had to say when Bath Newseum went down to collect another ‘tale from the riverbank’.

The discovery of the defensive wall and ditch – plus the footbridge across it  – is something B&NES should consider keeping and not sweeping away.


The defensive wall cuts through this image from top to bottom. Difficult to see but the stones slope towards Cai Mason – pushed over by flood waters.

This is an important relic that should be marked in someway. I will ask for a comment.

Autumn turn off.

Autumn turn off.

When do you know that summer is officially over.


Out goes the water and a good brush up for the basin.

Forget the Autumn Equinox and just look out for those very polite workmen from Zeta Services who are employed by B&NES to clean out the fountain in Laura Place and shut the system down for the winter.


Time to turn the tap off for this year.

There’s been quite an algae build up – and these experts in water monitoring – are going to investigate what bio-system might be introduced within the water flow to cut down on its growth next season.


Starting the business of pumping out the water.

While we’ve been enjoying recent sunshine, those  golden rays have been encouraging a rapid greening within the fountain basin. Something they’ve been dealing with today.


The green waters of Laura Place