There’s one tree – on the west lawn – in Sydney Gardens that has a special connection with the end of the Great War.
It’s a ‘Peace Oak’ planted in July 1919 by the then Mayor of Bath Alfred W Wills as part of the city’s celebrations at the end of that terrible conflict.
The tree is a hundred years old now and its centenary is being celebrated in a special ceremony on Saturday, July 6th when a new stone plaque will be unveiled – beneath the tree – by Cllr Manda Rigby, the Deputy Mayor of Bath.
It’s all happening at 2.30 pm.
Cllr Wills’ granddaughter, Jane Tollyfield from Combe Down will attend the special dedication with other family members. She was last here in 2003 when the Peace Oak was rededicated.
Councillor Paul Crossley, cabinet member for Community Services, said “When it was planted 100 years ago the ‘Peace Oak’ represented new life and hope for the people of Bath who’d endured years of terrible loss and hardship. A century on the oak stands tall and proud, a permanent reminder to all who pass by of the role Sydney Gardens played in celebrating the end of those dark days. It’s fitting that this anniversary is marked at a time when Sydney Gardens is itself undergoing restoration to ensure it remains a focal point for residents for generations to come.”
Councillor Manda Rigby, added: “I am delighted to be asked to take part in this very special commemoration. I can only imagine the relief of Bathonians at the end of the war and the joy that must have been felt by those attending the Peace Celebrations in Sydney Gardens.”
Residents are being invited to attend the commemoration celebrations which will include a live music performance by Bath Classical Musicians, who will be playing the same pieces played 100 years ago. There’ll also be activities for all ages, including an Origami Peace Crane making workshop, and a display of artwork by children from Bathwick St Mary’s Primary School. A free commemorative booklet about the history of the Peace Oak and the Peace Day Celebrations will be available and there’s free tea and buns for all.
The Bath Peace celebrations in 1919 involved thousands of local residents as reported in the Bath Chronicle & Gazette at the time:
“There was a procession from Milsom Street in the morning and 30,000 people gathered at the Royal Crescent for a service of thanksgiving; there were brass bands, cheers for King and the troops, and the release of 250 pigeons supplied by the local Flying Club.
Further celebrations took place at Sydney Gardens in the afternoon, where 5,000 servicemen and their wives or lady friends were entertained to tea. The Peace Oak planting ceremony was at 5.15pm.
The gathering gave three very hearty cheers for the Mayor, who then, accompanied by the Mayoress, Town Clerk, Sir Harry Hatt and Mr C.H. Hacker, proceeded to the Queen of the West Lawn, where he planted a promising young oak to commemorate the celebration of Peace.
There was then music and dancing in the evening from 7.00 till 10.00pm. It rained incessantly, though not heavily and some people carried on dancing on the wet grass.”
Sydney Gardens, which are the UK’s only surviving Georgian Pleasure Gardens, were a focal point for the Peace celebrations which continued throughout the summer of 1919. Today the gardens remain popular with local people.
The Sydney Gardens Project has been awarded money to restore the gardens from the National Lottery Heritage. The three year project to restore the gardens will involve extensive heritage and wildlife conservation work and areas of the park that are currently closed to the public will be reopened.
Historic features including the Loggia, Minerva’s Temple and the Edwardian toilets will be restored. Flower gardens will be replanted and wildlife habitats, viewpoints will be improved.
The gardens will also host a year round programme of activities and events for local residents.
Regular free activities in the Sydney Gardens:
After School Play – Every Wednesday, 3.30pm-5.30pm
Led by play rangers from Bath Area Play Project with games and fun! Running until the end of the summer term and then on through September. For children aged 5yrs+. Under 8’s must be accompanied by an 18+yr old. Meet by the London Plane Tree Trunk on the Lower Lawn.
Tai Chi in the park – every Sunday, 12.30pm-1.30pm
Every Sunday until 11th August (except in rain) led by teacher Paddy Nisbett.
Meet at the park entrance behind the Holburne Museum. Arrive 5 mins early to register. 14 yrs+. Any under 18s should be accompanied by an adult. No need to book. Beginners welcome.
Mindfulness in the park – Fridays
Take time in green space with Huw Griffiths of Mindfulness Bath. For further information visit: www.bathnes.gov.uk/sydneygardens
Friends of Sydney Gardens Volunteer Gardening
Every Second Sunday of the month 10am til 12 noon. Tools provided, please bring your own gloves if you can. Meet at park entrance behind the Holburne.
To join the Friends and support the park and the project visit: www.friendsofsydneygardens.org or email
The Archway Project’s Roman Archaeology Day:
Saturday 20th July from 11am to 3pm
Come and find out about the amazing Roman history of Sydney Gardens.
Help mark out the spot where Calpurnius’ tombstone was originally found!
There’s a stone carving demonstration, activities for all ages and a special talk
about burial rituals and ceremonies with Helen Frisby.
For more information visit: www.bathnes.gov.uk/sydneygardensactivities
Over the summer and early autumn the Sydney Garden Project will also be hosting visits from older people partnering with Age UK B&NES, starting a weekly Sydney Gardening Club, holding Dementia Friendly walks and talks, Hidden History talks and a Nature Tots group.
The project works closely with the Friends of Sydney Gardens, a community group dedicated to supporting the park. To join the Friends visit: www.friendsofsydneygardens.org
For more information visit: www.bathnes.gov.uk/sydneygardens