Want to hear how Bath was changed forever by the coming of the railways? Then don’t miss an upcoming talk at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution in Queen Square Monday 9th March.
Bath historian Dr Andrew Swift will help celebrate one of England’s great hero’s – Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He’ll also explain the impact this Victorian engineer’s new steam-driven transport system had on the city.
During work as Engineer for the Great Western Railway, Brunel was involved in the work at every level and part of this work included the design and detail of the part of the GWR that intersects the landscape at Sydney Gardens. Far from being universally welcomed, like with most large building projects the works invited much local controversy.
Features of the gardens and parts of the city’s architecture were destroyed to make way for the megalith that was the coming of the age of steam. Though it could not be said that the railway did not become a feature in itself.
Yet the impact did not just relegate itself to garden features and tea houses but could be said to have had a wider and more far-reaching bearing upon the city; both of an economic and social kind. The railway imposed itself upon the poorest neighbourhoods in Bath, whose daily life became interrupted by the arrival of drunken and disruptive Navvies who caused havoc in the shanty towns that stood on the edge of the city.
Swift argues that the Great Western Railway was the wonder of the age, but, far from reviving Bath’s flagging fortunes, it merely served to accelerate the city’s decline as a fashionable resort. Not only were the economic dividends of a resort economy disrupted by the turbulence on the streets, but also an economic downturn resulted as a consequence of the decimation of the coaching trade and the local weaving industry that had formerly flourished but were now destroyed by the arrival of cheap imports from the North which made their way to the South West via railway carriage.
Andrew Swift is the author of The Ringing Grooves of Change: Brunel & the Coming of the Railway to Bath. A renown local historian whose work on Bath has been gratefully received by the city’s inhabitants for many years, Andrew will be enlightening his audience on this rather hidden aspect of the city’s history and give the audience a chance to ask questions on the work of one of England’s greatest known figures, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Visitors £7.00 Members/Students £4.00 (£1.00 Booking Fee)