Bath’s Sydney Gardens has a long and illustrious history.
Laid out as commercially-run 18th century pleasure grounds – in which even Jane Austen herself would have strolled – the site was taken over by the old Bath City Council in 1908 and opened to the public.
These days – as we live in an age of austerity – the park has an air of faded glory.
It certainly needs some ‘TLC’ – which hopefully will come as a result of Heritage Lottery funding. An application for nearly four million pounds will be going in next year.
If successful – according to the B&NES website – ‘The funding will be used to restore historic buildings, invest in landscape and garden restoration works, and create new play areas for all ages, over a three year programme (2019 – 21).
Alongside the works, a programme of events and activities around art, nature, horticulture, wildlife, play, sport, archaeology and history will be put on.
The project will celebrate the fascinating history of the gardens, with its Cosmorama, Labyrinth, Merlins Swing, Concerts, Public Breakfasts, Galas and Illuminations.’
Someone who takes a keen interest in all this is Kirsten Elliott – a local author and historian – who also gives guided walks around the city’s parks.
She’s excited about one particular original feature – added when the Council bought the old Georgian ‘Vauxhall’ – but until now hidden and forgotten in the overgrown bushes.
It’s what celebrity author (Lady) Lucinda Lambton – who writes about architecture – would describe as a ‘temple of convenience.’ A cast-iron Edwardian ladies loo.
Kirsten took Bath Newseum along to have a look.
These days Bath’s public loos have been taken over by a private company who provide ‘well-maintained’ facilities that are accessed via a 20 pence piece.
We have come a long way since the days of ‘spending a penny’ haven’t we. Out of interest, l can explain where that description of the ‘call of nature’ came from.
It’s all to do with the Great Exhibition – the world’s first trade fair – which opened in Joseph Paxton’s amazing Crystal Palace in 1851.
Over six million people visited so it was, with some relief l am sure, that the exhibition also featured the UK’s first paid-for flushing toilet when visitors spent one penny to experience a clean toilet seat, a towel, a comb and a shoe shine.
Records show that 675,000 pennies were spent!