Novel idea

Novel idea

How about a selfie with Jane Austen?  That’s on offer in the reception area of Bath Guildhall where a bust of the writer – sculpted by Charlotte Hern and cast in the Modern Souvenir Company workshop in the city – is on display.


The gold covered bust currently on display at Bath Guildhall.

It commemorates the 200th years since the death of Ms Austen – a resident in Bath for nearly six years. It has been gilded in 24 ct gold leaf by Robert Grace of Grace of London. The bust will be on tour over the summer and auctioned for charity in the autumn.


You are invited to take your photo with Jane and post on social media using #janeontour or #janeausten200

Stand by Bath – for the ‘battle’ of the pews.

Stand by Bath – for the ‘battle’ of the pews.

Bath Abbey’s plans to permanently remove the 19th-century pews in the church nave – after the floor has been repaired – have not gone down well with The Victorian Society.

It’s a London-based organisation that campaigns for the preservation of Victorian and Edwardian architecture.


Looking up the centre aisle of the nave towards the East end of Bath Abbey.

This autumn – probably October – it will be sending a barrister to ‘square up’ against the Abbey’s own legal team in an ecclesiastical court hearing which will decide whether the pews stay or go.


Should they stay or should they go? The ‘battle’ for the nave pews in Bath Abbey.

Church of England churches are exempt from the requirement to obtain listed building consent from local councils. Decisions are instead made by the Chancellor of each diocese – a lawyer appointed by the church to adjudicate on these matters.

The pews were designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott – the architect of St Pancras Station and the Albert Memorial. He was one of the most successful and highly respected church architects of the period and his major restoration of Bath Abbey in 1859-74 was intended to ‘complete’ the church as it would have been if the Reformation had not stopped its construction.

Scott completed the stone fan vaulting above the nave and designed a chandelier lighting system for the church – as well as designing the pews, which were modelled on those in other 16th-century Somerset churches.

Christopher Costelloe, Victorian Society Director, said: ‘Bath Abbey is one of the best examples of Victorian church restoration by perhaps the era’s most prominent architect – Sir George Gilbert Scott.

There is no doubt that removing these pews would harm this Grade 1 listed church’s significance, and there is no need for such drastic changes in a thriving church when other options are available. The last decade or so has seen Victorian church schemes ripped out all over the country and once they’re gone they’re gone for good.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey interior

Bath Abbey has a different point of view and is at the start of a massive multi-million-pound project – boosted by the Heritage Lottery Fund – to deal with the threat of the church floor collapsing because of massive holes discovered beneath it. They have been created as a result of the six thousand odd people who have been buried below the stone flooring.

It means all the fixed furniture – including the pews – will have to be lifted as the repair is carried out – section by section – so the Abbey can stay in business throughout.

According to Charles Curnock – Director of the Footprint Project – once the floor has been stabilised and underfloor heating, powered by energy from the hot spring nearby, installed – they intend reinstating the hand-carved Corporation Pews and most of the machine-tooled pews behind them.


An illustration showing how the nave might look without its pews.

However, they want to leave the nave clear – the way it was when the church was built. It would mean people would get a clear view of the hundreds of ledger stones that have been hidden beneath the pews for nearly 180 years.

It would also give the Abbey more flexibility in how the space was used – with chairs replacing pews for seated events – allowing different layouts for gatherings big and small. It would improve access for those with disability issues and allow visitors more freedom in exploring the church.


Chairs would replace the nave pews – making for more flexible use of the space. These chairs were just spotted in the Abbey. I am not saying they would be the type that would be used.

The Victorian Society argue that the pews have protected the ancient ledger stones from heavy foot traffic and that just removing the pews from the aisles would ease the flow of visitors.


The removal of the pews would allow people to see more of the ancient ledger stones, says the Abbey. The Victorian Society says the pews have helped protect them.

They have launched an online petition – which has attracted over a thousand signatures – and say the complete removal of the nave pews would ‘ strip the Abbey of a major layer of its interest and richness, permanently harming the interior.’

Bath Abbey feels this is an opportunity to change how the floor space can be used to better serve the city, its visitors and future generations.  That an open nave will release the Abbey’s potential as a place for worship, celebration and community events in a way it previously hasn’t been able to offer.


Bath Abbey

The Victorian Society will now be a ‘party opponent’ at a Consistory Court hearing later this year, regarding the permanent removal of pews from Bath Abbey.

They will have a barrister present to argue their case before the Chancellor makes his decision.  Bath Abbey will also be legally represented.

Both sides seem confident they will win the day. A date for that has yet to be announced.


How Georgians spent their pennies.

How Georgians spent their pennies.

Fancy finding out more about Victorian Bath? Or how the Georgians spent their pennies? There’s the many famous people who tied the knot in the city or how this ‘town in the West’ stood up to wartime bombs.

Just some of the subjects to be covered by special walks – organised by the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides –

being held through July.

DP 5426 - Special Walking Tours Poster May 2017

Remember, these knowledgeable volunteers ask no fee and take no tips.

Find out more via

Meanwhile, daily generic walks – visiting many of the city’s historic sites – begin at 10.30 am and 2 pm each day (excluding Christmas Day)  from outside the Pump Room by Bath Abbey.

mayors guides

The new-look board for the Mayor’s Guides

All quiet again on the Western Front.

All quiet again on the Western Front.

Fears that 5 or 6 chalets, from this year’s Bath Christmas Market, could be positioned in Abbey Churchyard, and obstruct the view of the Abbey’s West Front, look like being averted.

The idea was included in proposals – including units arranged in front of the 18th century historic Cross Bath –  put forward in this year’s annual market application, to B&NES planning committee, for 174 temporary wooden huts.

christmas market

The usual arrangement of commercial units – which bring much-needed cash into the city from November 23rd through to December 10th – is being disrupted by work that has started at Bath Abbey as part of their multi-million-pound Footprint Project.

It means parts of Abbey Courtyard and Kingston Parade cannot be used and chalets have to be found sites elsewhere.

Bath Abbey

The tree in Abbey Churchyard. Chalets would have been in front of it.

I have heard Bath Abbey will be objecting to chalets near the West Front in Abbey Church Yard. It is a photo vantage point for thousands of people and even more so – with the town’s Christmas tree in place – during the festive season.

Meanwhile, the Council’s Senior Conservation Officer, Caroline Waldron, has also suggested stalls terminate at the end of Bath Street ‘and do not wrap the (Cross) Baths.’

Vicky Bunt – who is Head of Events for Bath Tourism Plus – the body behind the Market – told Bath Newseum that Bath Preservation Trust had also objected to the chalets being erected alongside the Abbey’s West Front.

She is due to have a meeting with them tomorrow (Friday, June 29th) and was also in discussions with Bath Abbey.

christmas market

Looking down Bath Street (last year) to the Cross Bath.

Vicky told me: ‘We think we can relocate the chalets. With a change of emphasis regarding the Footprint Project, it has been possible for the Abbey to release back some of the space on the North side.

We are in partnership with the city, after all, and would never go against peoples’ recommendations – especially at this time.

The chalets at the bottom of Bath Street would not be against the Cross Bath but on the pavement nearby.’

Hopefully, tomorrow’s meeting will bring an early bit of festive cheer and Bath Tourism Plus can re-jig things elsewhere.



The tree from a couple of years ago.


Meanwhile, l hear that Bath Rotary – who in recent years have been criticised for putting their collecting hut in front of the Abbey Churchyard Christmas tree – may also be slightly relocating it to a less picture-blocking spot.

Never one to knock their charity fundraising, l would applaud that decision as many people in Bath for the market love getting a picture of tree and Abbey at that point.




Broad Quays Approval

Broad Quays Approval

Plans to relocate a coach park at Bath Quays North to Odd Down Park and Ride – costing £1.8 million pounds – is one of many projects across the region given the go-ahead today (Wednesday 28 June) by the West of England Joint Committee of the new Combined Authority.


Projects worth more than £17m were approved and awarded funding of just over £10m to improve walking and cycling links, public spaces, public transport and road safety in the region. They underpin the aims of The Local Growth Fund and Economic Development Fund of supporting economic growth and improving connectivity.

The projects are:

  • £2.8m towards speeding up a strengthening, maintenance and improvement scheme for the Bromley Heath Viaduct reducing the time taken from 52 to 33 weeks;
  • £2.2m towards a new single platform rail station next to the Park and Ride at Portway on the Severn Beach Line;
  • £1.8m to  relocate a coach park in Bath from Bath Quays North to Odd Down Park and Ride; and
  • £3.3m towards 14 separate transport projects across the region including new cycle paths and bus lane enforcement.

The Local Growth Fund is awarded to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) who consider competitive bids that demonstrate they will create new infrastructure to encourage growth, support business investment and create jobs. Any additional funding required has been found from other local and Government sources.

West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “Through the Local Growth Fund the Joint Committee can approve projects that will deliver much-needed infrastructure for the region. Today we’ve approved a range of large and small transport projects that add up to deliver a better-connected region.”

Local Enterprise Partnership interim chair Professor Steve West said: “Approval for these projects show that we can work together to make the West of England an attractive option for business and industry. As part of the area’s wider funding programme, these are important steps in ensuring that our transport infrastructure meets the growth needs of the region.”

The Joint West of England Committee met for the first time on June 28 and is the decision making body for issues relating to the four unitary authorities and the Local Enterprise Partnership.

Details of the meeting can be found at


  1. In February 2017 it was announced by the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid that the West of England had secured £52.8m through the third round of the Local Growth Fund to cover individual projects until 2020/21.
  2. The schemes approved in the sustainable transport packages 2017/18 are:


Bath and North East Somerset

A39/B3116 junction improvements (£400,000 from Local Growth Fund GF for £550,000 scheme).  Improvements to aid traffic flow at the ‘two headed man’ pinch point.

Cycle Investment Package – three schemes (£40,000 from LGF for £60,000 scheme).  Combination of improvements in Midsomer Norton and Bath City Riverside Enterprise Area and grants for employers to encourage cycling and walking to work.

Safer Routes to Schools (£75,000 from LGF for £125,000 scheme). Progression of design and delivery of schemes to benefit schools in the area .


Rupert Street Bus Priority (£200,000 fully funded). Re-allocating road space so buses take priority where bus passengers already outnumber car occupants by three to one.

Access to the Arena (£800,000 fully funded). Improving access facilities  and drop off points along Albert Road for coaches and taxis.

Airport Road Cycle Path (£75,000 fully funded).  Detailed designs for a continuous cycle route along Airport Road

North Somerset

Weston Town Centre Regeneration (£500,000 from Local Growth Fund for £700,000 scheme).  Visual and physical improvements around the Town Square, South Parade and Regents Street area for walking and cycling.

Coastal Towns Cycle Route (£10,000 from LGF for £33,0000 scheme) Preliminary works to improve a walking and cycling path, including a missing link on Uphill Road North.

South Gloucestershire

Access to Emerson’s Green Enterprise Area (£430,000 from LGF for £460,000 scheme). Further construction of the Yate Spur cycle route and design of the Pucklechurch Link for cyclists.

Access to Bristol North Fringe (£80,000 fully funded).  Start of project to improve walking and cycling along the A38 in Filton and Patchway.

Access to Avonmouth and Severnside Enterprise Area (£450,000 fully funded).  Walking and cycling improvements along the A403 between Ableton Lane to Central Avenue for commuter and leisure use.

Bus Network Enforcement (£240,000 fully funded).  Strengthened enforcement of bus lanes with eight poles for cameras and five movable cameras.


Better control of student housing.

Better control of student housing.

B&NES is going to take a fresh look at better controlling student housing. The Council has published new proposals which seek to better control the growth of HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) in Bath and prevent there being further areas with high concentrations of HMOs from developing in the city.

The proposals would mean that, barring exceptional circumstances, applications for new HMOs would be refused in areas where 10% or more of properties have already been converted into multiple occupancy homes.

A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is, in principle, a house or flat which is occupied by three or more unrelated people who share facilities such as a kitchen and bathroom. Bath has seen a significant increase in HMOs and private rented property over the last 10-15 years with HMOs forming an important part of the local housing market, providing affordable accommodation for students, professionals and migrant workers among others.

Three years ago the Council removed permitted development rights to convert residential properties to small HMOs and planning permission for change of use is now required.  A framework was adopted to assess such applications with the aim of avoiding further high concentrations of HMOs developing in the city.  This framework is now being reviewed and, following consultation, includes a proposal to change the threshold from  25% to 10% in any one area for when the Council will consider refusing planning applications for conversion to HMOs.  Existing HMO’s will not be affected.

The leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council Cllr Tim Warren (Conservative, Mendip) said:  “These proposals are responding to concerns raised by residents about the proliferation of HMOs in parts of Bath and the impact this can have on the mix of available housing in the area.

As a Council, our aim is to ensure that Bath has a balanced mix of housing types to meet the needs of the city, and the growing number of HMOs in recent years has become an increasing concern for many residents. Our proposals

Our proposals would, therefore, limit the number of HMOs in a given area to no more than 10% of properties. In areas where more than 10% of properties are already HMOs, it would be expected that no new applications for HMO conversions would be permitted.”

Cabinet Assistant for Homes & Planning Cllr Bob Goodman (Conservative, Combe Down), who has been leading the review of HMO policy, said: “Whilst these proposals won’t prevent all new HMOs from gaining planning permission, it will help to control their growth and prevent further areas from developing with high concentrations. We recognise the role HMOs have to play as part of our area’s wider mix of housing stock, not just for students but particularly for young professionals as well.  However, we also believe it is right to control their growth and ensure a balance of housing types within communities. In the coming weeks we

We recognise the role HMOs have to play as part of our area’s wider mix of housing stock, not just for students but particularly for young professionals as well.  However, we also believe it is right to control their growth and ensure a balance of housing types within communities. In the coming weeks we will, therefore, be listening to feedback on these proposals, and depending on this feedback a full public consultation will be undertaken prior to adopting any changes in the autumn.

“These proposals on HMOs are also all part of our wider look at the issue of student accommodation in the city and the work we are doing to look at how the Council can control the growth in student accommodation and ensure a balanced housing mix in the city.”

The Council is reviewing the evidence regarding HMO’s using up-to-date data and surveys, has consulted with the Universities, undertaken public consultation with communities and held stakeholders’ workshops.

The meeting of the Scrutiny Panel on 4th of July is part of the process to help the Council come to a conclusion on the need for any changes to the planning policy for HMOs.  Any changes will be subject to public consultation scheduled for the autumn.


That chandelier moment!

That chandelier moment!

Twice a year the very expensive Georgian crystal glass chandeliers at the Assembly Rooms are lowered towards the floor for cleaning and maintenance.

The chandeliers in the Ballroom in their lowered position.

They are amongst the most important to have survived from the 18th century. The five in the ballroom and three in the Tea Room are by William Parker of Fleet Street.
It’s always been the same operation. Though we change light bulbs rather than candles.
Originally those little wax fed flames were capable of giving seven hours service for a ball – leaving four hours burning time for a concert.
Today’s illuminators last a little longer!

Looking towards the Ballroom.

Jonathan Collett made an earlier set for the Ballroom but, one month after the opening in 1771, an arm collapsed – nearly hitting artist Thomas Gainsborough. They were dismantled and salvaged to form a single chandelier in the Octagon – to illuminate the card players!