While l am pleased B&NES have managed to get the Laura Place foumntain working again, regular followers of Bath Newseum will know l am criticial of this pathetic celebration of the ‘waters of Bath.’
While the present ‘ashtray’ manifestation is nowhere near as grand as the original fountain of 1877 – at least it’s back in action.
However, it’s taken an exhibition which has just opened at the Museum of Bath Archtecture, to make me realise how that imposing crossroads may have looked very different if a couple of other ideas for that using that spot had come to fruition.
The exhibition is called ‘Building Memory – the architecture of death and burial in Bath’ but it does look at other commemorative monuments to major events and personalities.
From high Victorian cemeteries through sombre war memorials to a peaceful garden for suffragettes, architecture has the power to commemorate the dead and captivate the living.
The celebration of great lives and commemoration of tragic loss has produced some of Bath’s most individual (and often forgotten) structures and spaces.
As we mark the centenary of the end of the First World War and the start of Votes for Women this is something that is examined in the exhibition which explores the architectural language of memory in Bath.
I came across an illustration of a magnificent column that they actually started to build on the Laura Place site eventually occupied by a fountain.
After completion of the main street local residents petitioned and successfully raised significant funds to build a grand column – rather like Nelson’s Column in London – to mark the passing of the Great Reform Act of 1832.
However, as construction of the column began, the residents realised that the addition would tower over the area – it would be 50% taller than the houses – and so they then petitioned for it to be cancelled.
After some negotiations, the column was pulled down and the much smaller fountain added instead.
Then – more recently – a sketch for a War Memorial in Laura Place – dating from 1923. The sketch was possibly made by architect Reginald Blomfield when the location of Bath’s war memorial was first being discussed.
From 1918 Blomfield has been the Imperial War Grave Commissions Principal Architect for France, and designed the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres in Belgium. Blomfiedl created the Cross of Sacrifice, on which he also based his design for the Bath War Memorial.
The exhibition also showed me the original location of the statue of Peace which now stands in Parade Gardens. It’s a memorial to King Edward V11 who died in 1910. A local committee was created to commission a memorial to him.
The king was popularly known as the ‘peacemaker’ due to his work on foreign policy negotiations, and building relationships between Britain and Europe.
By 1914 the committee felt it would be wrong to erect a statue to Peace during a time of war, and the project was postponed. The statue – by Newbury Trent – was finally installed at Edgar Buildings in September 1919. In 1933 it was moved to Parade Gardens.
The exhibition runs through to November 25th but do click on the museum’s website for details of opening hours and charges. That’s http://museumofbatharchitecture.org.uk