Immerse yourself in history at Bath’s American Museum

Immerse yourself in history at Bath’s American Museum


Things are definitely stirring at the American Museum after its winter sleep – and one unfortunately that came to an end rather suddenly with a damaging water leak.

Staff and volunteers have been up against it getting things back on track for the most unusual spring opening l can remember.  After a slight delay, the museum is about to launch a commemorative exhibition marking the centenary of America’s involvement in World War I on 29 March.

The museum, which is based at Claverton Manor  – the place where Winston Churchill made his first political speech – will be hosting ‘Side by Side: America and World War I’; an exhibition that seeks to tell the stories of ordinary Americans and their extraordinary impact on the war effort.

It’s a subject that is surely going to encourage more males to visit the only American museum anywhere in the UK.

Watch recovered from the wreck of RMS Lusitania - American Museum Side By Side Exhibtition - Peter Hall

The watch recovered from the wreck of RMS Lusitania.

It’s also going to be the museum’s first interactive exhibition and one with some extremely rare artefacts on display. Included amongst them is a watch recovered from the wreck of RMS Lusitania. The ship was torpedoed by the Germans in 1915, and over a thousand people lost their lives, including 128 neutral American citizens.

This star item is joined by a Purple Heart medal, awarded to the father of one of the museum’s two founders, Captain Alexander Pratt (1883-1947). The exhibition also includes some items which have previously not been on public display, such as a family archive, which includes a pair of French baby booties sent home by a US soldier to his pregnant wife.

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A Purple Heart medal

Each visitor to the exhibition will be given a personnel file, which details the war experience of a real person. These files include the stories of those often left out of America’s World War I history; namely women, African Americans, and Native Americans.

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Living history with an WW1 solider to talk to!

Head of Visitor Experience, Jon Ducker said, “We really want visitors to feel the personal impact of the war, and also to hear the experiences of those that have been forgotten. There are some amazing accounts of immense bravery from the Native and African American communities which have never been heard.”

There will be interactive spaces, including a field hospital and a life size model of a French Renault FT17 tank, which was used by the Americans on the Western Front. Doughboys,Tommys and Red Cross Nurses will also be appearing during the launch weekend of March 17, and on select dates throughout the exhibition; giving visitors a fully immersive WW1 experience.

Replica WW1 Tank in workshop - this will be available to film and photography at the press launch on 27 March

The replica WW1 tank which will be on display.

The overwhelming focus will be on the personal experiences of war through a number of primary sources including newspaper articles and soldiers’ letters, as well as artistic responses such as popular songs, novels by the likes of Ernest Hemmingway and prints by Montgomery Flagg and Kerr Eby.

Chief Curator, Kate Hebert said, “Our exhibition will explore the subtleties of how America joining the conflict helped to end the stalemate and bring about the end of the war, challenging the preconceptions of both British and American audiences. While the military impact of America’s involvement in World War I may still be a matter for debate among historians, what is certain is that the war had an irreversible impact on America: Civil Rights, universal suffrage, and world politics.

“As the only museum outside of the US dedicated to celebrating American culture, we felt it was only right to pay tribute to those Americans, both at home and in Europe, who fought so bravely in World War I.”

America joined the war in April 1917, and troops engaged in their first major land battle in May 1918, helping the Allies bring the war to its close on 11 November 1918. Despite their relatively short participation over 53,400 Americans were killed in action, an average of 820 a day.

‘Side by Side: America and World War I’ runs from 29 March 2018 – 28 October 2018. For more information please see:


CPRE President in Bath

CPRE President in Bath

Emma Bridgewater – President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) – is coming to Bath next month.

Emma Bridgewater

Emma Bridgewater.

She’ll be taking part in an informal interview with Caroline Kay who is Chief Executive of Bath Preservation Trust. The event will be held at St Michael’s Without in Bath on Wednesday, April 18th at 7pm.

A successful businesswoman and champion of British Industry, Emma is most recognised for her trademark hand-decorated kitchen pottery business.

Now employing over 300 people, she has refused to outsource manufacturing to low wage economies abroad and her company makes all of its pottery in Stoke on Trent, reviving these traditional skills.

The evening will take the form of an informal interview, chaired by Caroline Kay, Chief Executive of BPT. Topics will include the green landscape setting of Bath’s World Heritage Site and threats from development plus CPRE’s own national campaigns ‘the wrong homes in the wrong places’ and ‘roads to nowhere’ which also challenge Green Belt development.

In this centenary year of women getting the vote, Emma will also look at women who campaign and share some of her own relevant experiences of countryside campaigning.

Tickets are £5 via Eventbrite

Turning the clocks back on the London Road.

Turning the clocks back on the London Road.

Taking the majority of planters out of London Road is turning the clocks back and insulting those who walk or cycle to work.

That’s according to Walcot ward Cllr Richard Samuel who Bath Newseum has spoken to today about the Council’s decision to move the artist-designed metal planters installed – at great expense – as part of the London Road Regeneration Scheme.

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Artistically created they may have been – but ‘safety’ obstruction they turned out to be. That is the explanation that’s been given to Walcot ward Councillor Richard Samuel for the removal of trees and their designer planters and he’s not happy about it either!

He says – as the local councillor – he hasn’t been kept ‘in the loop’ and is shocked to hear the expensive containers – the work of local artist Jane Veveris Callan – are going to be scrapped.

On her website, Jane includes that work in her CV:

“She was recently commissioned by Bath & North East Somerset Council to create designs that were laser cut onto CorTen steel tree planters and grilles as part of the London Rd Gateway Regeneration Project Bath”.

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A still from Jane’s website. © Jane Veveris Callan

Meanwhile, cycle campaigner Adam Reynolds has waded in on Twitter with Highway Department plans that – he says – show there has been ‘ no secrecy’ and that the issue ‘has been discussed with many of the stakeholders over the last couple of months.’

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Adam Reynold’s tweet about the plans for removing some of the planters. You can also see Cllr Samuel’s response!

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Part of the Highway Department’s plans for removing the planters. Supplied by Adam Reynolds.

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Another Highway’s Department image – supplied by Adam Reynolds.


The young tree has been sawn down.

Bath Newseum took these pictures on Saturday, March 18th. It shows many of the artist-produced metal planters were without their trees. In one planter the tree had been sawn off!


This one completely uprooted!

These ‘tubs’ had been added to the road as part of an expensive ‘greening’ of one of the busiest and most polluted highways in and out of Bath.

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Cllr Richard Samuel, Walcot Ward.

We spoke to Cllr Samuel today – beside a busy and noisy London Road.



A row of treeless planters.

I have also asked Cabinet member for Transport and Environment,  Cllr Mark Shelford for comment.

This morning – Monday, March 19th – artist Jane Ververis Callan took to Twitter to have her say. She is the person who created the designs on the metal planter boxes.

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Well here’s a little bit extra on this story from a chance encounter this Tuesday morning. I understand the planters will not be scrapped. The Council’s officers have been tasked with coming up with a new role for them.

One suggestion is to replace some of the ugly concrete security barriers that have been installed around the city – following last year’s Christmas Market.

No trees this time but mini flower beds. Whether they would be enough of a deterrent to hostile vehicular acts would remain to be seen.

Bearing in mind l was told the planters were etched with lines from a Japanese poem and placed sequentially so you could read as you walked along – l am not sure how this will work around the city centre!

Name that place.

Name that place.

The shopkeepers of Bartlett Street – heading up towards the Assembly Rooms – cleverly utilised the old Evans and Owens sign across their pedestrian through-way to give themselves a sense of collective identity.


This once bore the name of the store alongside – namely ‘Evans and Owen’ – and now promotes all the traders there.

We need similar signs at the entrance to Walcot Street and also Northumberland Place. One promoting the city’s Artisan Quarter and the other the Bath ‘Lanes.’

What does it take to get this city moving again?

New Cancer Centre target reached!

New Cancer Centre target reached!

Thanks to the help of dedicated supporters, major donors and the goodwill of the public, the minimum £8.5million fundraising target needed for the pioneering new RUH Cancer Centre has been reached.
The Cancer Care Campaign was launched five years ago in response to the hospital’s Fit for the Future redevelopment opportunity to transform Cancer care for its patients and their families.

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How the new RUH Cancer Centre will look when completed.

Though its good news,  fundraising efforts will continue. Tim Hobbs, Head of Fundraising said:
“Whilst we are taking time to celebrate this significant milestone, we are continuing the Cancer Care Campaign. Many of our donors are very much encouraging us to sustain the campaign into 2018 to maximise our fundraising efforts for the new Centre to ensure it is truly special in its design, facilities and equipment.
“I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank our supporters for their fundraising efforts and contributions towards the new RUH Cancer Centre. Fundraising in the fight against cancer never stops, therefore we will continuing to support this amazing project to achieve the very best care, treatment and quality of environment for our patients.”
The current RUH Oncology buildings were built in the 1940s to house injured service personnel. Nearly eighty years on, these buildings are still in use, obstructing rather than creating an environment that can actively support the healing process.
The new Cancer Centre will cost c£27m to build and construction is due to commence in 2019, once the new RNHRD and Therapies Centre is in place.
James Scott, Chief Executive, Royal United Hospitals, Bath said:
“Giving patients who are living with Cancer the best, most effective treatment and opportunities for surviving this disease is what this campaign is all about. Therefore, fundraising £8.5m is an incredible amount, and I would like to thank everyone who has made a contribution so far, your support is greatly valued.
“The new Cancer Centre will offer a highly beneficial healing environment, enabling our staff to provide clinically excellent care in an environment that is nurturing and therapeutic. With your help continuing to fundraise for the Cancer Care Campaign we can create an exceptional world-class Cancer Centre.”

Roman Baths moves up list of UK’s top attractions.

Roman Baths moves up list of UK’s top attractions.

Visitor numbers at the city’s Roman Baths continue to grow according to an annual report issued by ALVA –  the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.

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The Roman Baths.

In 2017 the Baths welcomed 1,318,976 people – that’s an 8.38 percent increase and puts them at number 23 on the list of top UK attractions.

Last year (2016) the Roman Baths were at 26 with 1,216,938 people paying to look around  (one can argue) the best-preserved Roman remains north of the Alps!

Number one in 2017 is the British Museum – despite an eight percent fall in numbers to 5,906,716.

In our area, Stonehenge stands at number 17 with 1,582,532 visitors – that’s up by 14.5 percent.

Barry comes back for new look at Roman Baths.

Barry comes back for new look at Roman Baths.

Down in the tunnels below York Street archaeologists have been finishing off their work ready for contractors to move in and start the job of making the lintels that support the road safe.

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The concrete and metal beams holding up York Street.

Problems with water seeping into joints within the concrete and metal supports were only spotted when work started on surveying for the Archway Project.


Water has been doing a lot of damage to the road supports over the years.

This is a multi-million-pound scheme to provide both World Heritage and Learning Centres and opening up areas of the Roman Baths not seen by the public before.


A section through the underground passageways which will link the Archway Project with the Roman Baths.

The World Heritage Centre will contain imaginative displays that explain why the World Heritage site of Bath is so special. Admission will be free for everyone.

The project will also open up areas of Roman remains that have never before been open for regular public access, including a rare laconicum (sauna) and an exercise courtyard, revealing fascinating new aspects of the ancient site.


How the area under York Street may look when the work is finished and the public let in.

The £5m development will be housed in former Victorian spa buildings in Swallow Street and York Street, next to the Roman Baths.

The Roman Baths Learning Centre will be a fully accessible, state-of-the-art centre where school children will participate in exciting hands-on sessions with Roman artefacts and where projects and activities will be run for members of the local community. It will be linked to the Roman Baths via an underground tunnel. 

The cost of the work is being helped by a grant of £3.4 million pounds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Other funding is being raised elsewhere.


Water has been seeping through into the passageways beneath York Street and causing metal to rust and expand within the concrete road supports.

In clearing the way for the roof support work to be done many hundreds of tons of Roman masonry has had to be moved. Archaeologists have also cleared away spoil left over from earlier excavations.

Excavations at Roman Bath stretch back over 200 years to the efforts of 18th-century antiquarians.

It is, however, the excavations of 1978-1983, directed by Peter Davenport and Barry Cunliffe, that have given us the most detailed account of the site.

After the work to shore up the road has been completed the archaeologists will return to do some new ‘digs’.

The project is in the hands of the professional members of Cotswold Archaeology – with help from volunteers from Bath and Counties Archaeological Society.


The strips of mosaic recently discovered.

It was one of their members – Fiona Medland – who found several strips of previously unknown mosaic.

Professor Cunliffe has now come back to see them and to inspect – with the help of much better lighting than he originally had – the cleaned-up results of his previous work.

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Professor Barry Cunliffe pictured on his recent visit.

Seems – with the aid of modern techniques – he has been revising some of his original finds in terms of their place in the time-scale of the development and revision of the bathing complex.

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Professor Barry Cunliffe revisits his excavation site.

I’ve been down under York Street for a chat with The Roman Baths and Pump Room Manager, Stephen Clews.