Almost a year ago, archaeologists uncovered the remains of a medieval wall and defensive ditch on the bank of the River Avon in Bath.
It was a massive ‘rescue’ dig as they were revealing the remains of a riverside community which would be swept away as part of a flood alleviation programme which involved reshaping the side of the bank.
There were homes, pubs, a bath house and industrial premises in a part of Bath famous for slums, prostitution and regular flooding.
Wessex Archaeology did a fine job of recording everything they had uncovered – including a little stone bridge from around 1700 which had been built over the defensive ditch as part of a riverside pathway.
It was hoped that – in amongst all the new walkways and plantings – there would be room to incorporate this little bit of the city’s past in the new Bath Quays scheme which will open up the area ass a sector for commercial regeneration.
Well, l am sorry to say this little ‘lump’ of local history will NOT be part of Bath’s future. It’s going to be re-buried.
A spokesperson for B&NES told Bath Newseum:
‘The 17th century stone bridge is undergoing some minor conservation work. The height of the new riverbank landscaping is to be raised in the vicinity of the bridge, burying the bridge beneath a layer of soil, geotextile and planting, to protect it from future flooding.’
Richard Sermon – who is the Senior Archaeological Officer for the B&NES Planning and Conservation Team – also told me:
‘Having discussed the possibility of displaying the bridge remains within the new landscaping with Historic England, the Environment Agency and the council’s project engineers, we had to accept that there was: (a) a high probability that annual flood levels would regularly reach and exceed the level of the bridge remains, (b) this would expose the remains to the regular erosion damage, along with the risk of them being washed away in a major flood, and (c) attempting to mitigate these impacts would probably result in a highly engineered and unsympathetic end solution.
This indicated to us that displaying the remains was unlikely to be in the best interest of preserving the monument or its appreciation by the public.
Nevertheless, given its historic importance, we recommended that the bridge should be consolidated and preserved in situ, being protected below a geotextile membrane and soil layer profiled into the surrounding landscaping.’
Meanwhile, the flood prevention work has also involved building a concrete barrier wall along the Lower Bristol Road bank near Churchill Bridge. An effective means of preventing flooding but – in its present state – not very attractive.
Well – the good news is – this new ‘wall of Bath’ WILL be faced with stone.