Shine a light on SouthGate.

Shine a light on SouthGate.

It may have decided it couldn’t afford the time or money to continue with organising the city’s annual lantern procession but Bath’s Holburne Museum has now got itself involved in another light show.

It’s being consulted by the design company behind radical new proposals to enliven and enhance the public spaces within the Southgate Shopping Centre.

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How the community might be involved in a lantern sculpture.

One aspect of the new design would involve a ‘sculptural lantern element’ – a community artwork ‘ to get input into the words and prose that could be used with the lantern design to represent the local area.’ The Holburne has been approached to ‘begin the dialogue on getting the community involved in this artwork.’

These details form part of a planning application that has been submitted to B&NES which is aimed at enhancing the large central space within the SouthGate Centre and in Brunel Square – alongside Bath Spa Station –  encouraging footfall with both permanent and temporary ‘interventions.’Screen Shot 2017-09-30 at 15.40.33Screen Shot 2017-09-30 at 15.41.04


In documents you can view on line the application explains:

‘SouthGate already hosts a successful series of events throughout the year, connecting in with the City’s busy festival programme.

The events hosted within Brunel Square and the colourful umbrellas, for example, show how contemporary, playful interventions within the public realm make a big impact on visitors arriving from the train station, showcasing the vibrant character of the City of Bath.

The proposed public realm placemaking initiatives aim to continue to foster these popular seasonal events whilst also enhancing the Centre’s public realm during ‘every day’ modes when there are no events on.

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The proposals look at the spaces and streets as a key journey from the train station to the City Centre, which SouthGate forms a key part of.

By enlivening SouthGate’s public realm through a series of temporary and permanent interventions, the aim is to enhance the experience for people as they pass through and dwell within SouthGate.’

The big central area within SouthGate would be transformed.

‘The Place’ is the central pedestrianised space at the heart of the SouthGate Centre. The intention is to create a ‘permanent’ Pocket Park to enhance the quality of this public space during ‘everyday’ mode.

There will also be a more exible space for events and for circulation, working in tandem with SouthGate’s events calender.

Within this exible space, it is proposed that planting / seating platforms populate this space when no events are on. These are designed to be de-constructed and re-located when the spaces is required for events to ensure that the space is a multi-functional and exible as possible.

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Proposals involve tying in with city festival events so that objects other than just coloured umbrellas can be used in the centre’s shopping avenues. There will be room for  music and even cinema.

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Bath Newseum is actively seeking a spokesperson to tell us more.

Pitching it differently.

Pitching it differently.

So what’s the gossip – this Friday, September 29th. Well for starters, l am hearing all those Christmas Market regulars who have grown accustomed to the same pitch each year have just had a bit of a shock.


Part of last year’s Christmas Market

They are being moved around bit. I think things got confused with work alongside the Abbey and the possibility of structural work in York Street. So its a slightly different street plan.

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Stalls around the Abbey this year.

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Stalls in Bath Street are extended and there seems to be a Zone 2 in Southgate Street.

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Here’s the whole planned layout.

Meanwhile with the Christmas Market in mind – the scaffolding company responsible for the work on the old Empire Hotel has been told the poles can’t come down until after the Christmas business is finished around the now luxury block of apartments.

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So the scaffolding stays into the New Year?

Seems there’s no room – with safety in mind – for the dismantling teams and their lorries.

A few years ago much money was raised  by auctioning the Bladud’s pigs that were dotted around the city. One was in place outside Bath Abbey until quite recently.


One of those pigs that raised so much for charity.

I am hearing there is a possibility of another set of colourful street creatures. This time owls.

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Bath’s springs were dedicated to the Celtic goddess Sulis which the Romans identified with their own goddess Minerva. Her greek counterpart is Athena who was often depicted with an owl – symbol of wisdom.

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The pediment of the temple to Sulis Minerva with its Gorgon head – also contains the head of a tiny owl. It’s in the bottom right hand corner of the piece of stone with the Gorgon’s head.. The rest is missing but it was almost certainly perched on top of another helmet.

‘Courtroom’ drama begins at Bath Abbey.

‘Courtroom’ drama begins at Bath Abbey.

Bath Abbey is going to be the unusual setting today – Wednesday, October 4th – for a ‘courtroom’ drama as the ‘battle of the pews’ gets underway.

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The church is having to remove its Victorian pews next year as the floor of the building has to be stabilised. Once the work has been done – it will be undertaken section by section – the authorities do not want to put the pews back.


What the nave would look like with the pews taken away.

The Abbey argues that  the church was built as a big empty space and – being able to return to that format but with removable chairs replacing fixed pews – the building will be made more flexible and improve access for all.

However, The Victorian Society believes their removal would have ‘an extremely detrimental effect on the historical significance of this important religious building.’

They will now be a ‘party opponent’ at a Consistory Court hearing being held over two days next week. The hearing will be held today and tomorrow – October 4th and 5th  – and each session will  last from 10.20 to 4.30 pm.bath abbey

Though the Abbey will be closed to tourists for those two days, Bathonians are allowed to watch proceedings – ironically from the pews in question. The hearing will be held on the crossing – under the tower.


The ‘crossing’ where the two-day hearing will be held.

Each side will have a barrister present to argue their case before the Diocese Chancellor who will make a decision based on the proceedings.

Church of England places of worship 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.


George Gilbert Scott’s nave pews.

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.bath abbey

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 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.

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Bath Newseum was there in 2013 when a trial section of the flooring was treated. A liquid concrete-styled solution was injected into the voids. Afterwards the memorial tablets were replaced. A lifting frame is being used to hoist and lower the slabs into place. This was taken through the plastic-covered observation window.

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.


The pews behind the hand-carved Corporation 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.


The whole Abbey floor is covered in ledger stones. They are all being recorded and photographed before being taken up.

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.

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Will it be chairs or pews? These are temporary seats and not a style that the Abbey would buy for permanent use!

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.

Floor trial and ledger stone recording - L-R-Volunteers Mark Hudson Sandra Brown and Priscilla Olver SMALL

Floor trial and ledger stone recording – L-R-Volunteers Mark Hudson Sandra Brown and Priscilla Oliver Small

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.’


The memorial stones on the Abbey floor.Many of them are hidden under the pews.

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.

It is going to be an interesting hearing. History in the making.

Choosing a site to remember.

Choosing a site to remember.

Well, it’s not a statue in our city – but we helped raise the money for its creation – so you may be interested to know that Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) is seeking the views of staff and local people on where a much-loved firefighter memorial statue should be moved to.

Statue at Headquarters

The memorial to firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty has stood at the Avon Fire & Rescue Service Headquarters at Temple Back in Bristol since 2003.

The statue was commissioned following a fundraising campaign in the wake of 9/11 attack in New York in 2001 in which 343 firefighters died. More than £19,000 was donated by staff, businesses and members of the public across the four unitary authorities served by Avon Fire Authority.


Since 2003 it has been a focal point for significant dates of remembrance during the year including Firefighters’ Memorial Day and Armistice Day.

In September 2017 the Avon Fire & Rescue Service Headquarters was relocated from Temple Back to the Police and Fire Headquarters in Portishead. With the former site due to be sold, there is a risk the statue could be lost if it remains in its current location. As a result the Fire Authority plans to move the memorial to a new home where it can continue to serve as a reminder of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

In recognition of the importance of the statue to the Authority, one option being considered is moving it to the new Headquarters where it would remain at the heart of the organisation.

As the statue was funded by donations by people from Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset AF&RS is also asking for the views of others before making a final decision.

To access the survey visit

Bath to lead way on new public art work.

Bath to lead way on new public art work.

Compared to other cities l think it fair to say Bath doesn’t have much in the way of figurative public sculpture. While, what is does have isn’t exactly in the public realm.

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Prince Bladud in Parade Gardens

If you are a visitor, you have to pay to go see the likes of Prince Bladud and his pig in Parade Gardens or a diminutive Mozart – while the former Empress of India, Queen Victoria, has been placed half way up the exterior wall of the Victoria Art Gallery.

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Queen Victoria’s niche at the Victoria Art Gallery

Her Majesty actually visited Bath – as eleven year old Princess Victoria – to open Royal Victoria Park!

Not before time, moves are afoot to honour another Bath celebrity. No – it’s not a life-size figure of Beau Nash or Jane Austen. While l know Chaucer’s Wife of Bath should get a plinth to stand on – it’s not her either.

I am talking Adelard of Bath – a medieval scholar and England’s first scientist – who is the subject of a conference this coming week-end (Saturday, September 30th from 2 until 5pm) at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution in Queen Square.


You can buy tickets through Bath Box Office – and l think there might also be some left to buy at the door.



This 12th century English natural philosopher – and his connections to Bath- may not be too familiar to most Bathonians – indeed no one knows what he looked like – so Bath Newseum talked to the man in charge of this week-end’s symposium – Michael Davis.

Find out more about Adelard on the BRSLI website –

Who’s entering the Mayor’s art show?

Who’s entering the Mayor’s art show?

The Mayor of Bath and The Rotary Club of Bath West/Bathavon are encouraging artists to get their applications in now for the 12th annual Art Show being held at the Guildhall on Friday and Saturday 27 & 28 October.

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The Mayor (Cllr Ian Gilchrist) & Rotary members Gerry Rees & Mike Slade-Smith

Last year almost 200 pictures were hung, with sales raising funds for the Mayor’s and Rotary President’s charities. Profits from this year’s show will be shared between The Mayor of Bath’s Relief Fund, which helps local people facing hard times, and Bath Stroke Support Group, the Rotary President’s charity.

This year there is an additional feature a ‘Mayor’s Prize’ for the best painting illustrating a recognisable image of our lovely City.

The Mayor of Bath, Councillor Ian Gilchrist, said

“I’m very pleased to be able to support this event, carrying on a tradition that has been continuing so long. It is a welcome opportunity for our talented local artists to show what they can do, and most importantly helps raise funds for two extremely useful Bath-based charities.”

Semi-professional artists, members of amateur art groups, college and university students can all submit their work and keep 80% of the sale price, which must be a minimum of £30. The hanging fees will be £3.50 per painting, but this increases to £15 for paintings priced at £200 plus.

Visitors will be asked to select their favourite picture or sculpture and the Gordon Turner Trophy will be presented to the artist whose painting is selected as Best in Show.

The free exhibition is open to the public from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm on 27 & 28 October and a Preview by invitation on the Thursday evening.

Application forms are available on the Charter Trustees’ website or from the Mayor’s Office, Guildhall, Bath, Somerset, BA1 5AW
email:, Tel: 01225 477411.

Questions to Rotarian Mike Slade-Smith on 01225 859454 or email .

Bath – almost half a century ago.

Bath – almost half a century ago.

Found in a Bath charity shop. A folio of 12 prints from drawings by Martin Fisher – with a foreword by Sir Hugh Casson and dated October, 1969.

Sir Hugh – knighted for his work as Director of Architecture for the 1951 Festival of Britain – was architectural consultant to the old Bath Council. This was at the time the city architect’s department came up with the concrete framed Sport Centre on the Rec.

I cannot find out much about Martin – other than that he was an architect and cricket fan. However,  thanks to Ann Miles – who came though to the Facebook account – l have her permission to reproduce her comments on Martin.

“Martin was in the Navy but  came out and became an architect   Married Joan and had a family of ten children. They were both Roman Catholic.  He did work for Bath City Council e.g. Batheaston Roman Catholic Church plus others. I understand he did work at Buckingham Palace and  Windsor Castle.

He painted as a hobby. He did sell some paintings. Bath Cricket Club have portraits of past chairmans he did.  l gave the RUH some paintings he did 7 years ago. Martin was captured in japan when in the Navy. Got a medal for it but never talked about it. He was a  very modest man but a joy to be in his company. I think he led a interesting life. He did deserve to be recognised for what he did though his life.

I hope this gives you a little bit of a insight of a very talented modest man. He did a quick sketch of the tin church in Bailbrook Lane where l lived. He and his wife came to lunch. It took all of ten minutes – wow.”

Thanks for that Ann. Well, as a tribute to Martin – and to show you a little of how Bath looked  back in 1969 – l am publishing his folio of prints.


The front cover of ‘At Bath’ – published in 1969 – with some very young trees in Queen Square.


A detail from the Roman Baths.


Abbey Church Yard


Pulteney Weir and Bridge – before reconstruction.


Bath Abbey Choir and Chancel.


Bath Street with the Bladud fountain still in place.


Broad Street


Northumberland Passage


Lilliput Alley


Milsom Street


The Circus


Prior Park and the Palladian Bridge.

All the above drawings by Martin Fisher. Love to hear more about him?