Name that bridge.

We’re still waiting for B&NES to launch the competition they’ve promised to find a name for the new pedestrian bridge that will be installed across the River Avon as part of the Bath Quays Development.

What about calling it the Wilberforce Bridge – says John Batty – conscious of the debate about the region’s connections with slavery. William Wilberforce – who was married in Bath – brought about the end of the slave trade as operated by this country.

Meanwhile, a more detailed case for naming it after another individual has been sent in by former Natural Theatre artistic director and actor Ralph Oswick:

‘I understand that people are being asked to informally suggest a name for the new footbridge which will join the planned Green Park Road complex to the new Bath South Quays development. Here’s my tuppence worth.

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Ralph (almost) Oswick

My idea is to name the bridge after someone who reflects Bath’s glorious industrial heritage rather than the usual Georgian/Regency suspects. I swear if they call it Jane Austen Bridge I will move to Manchester. And Mr Beau Nash you have your cinema and your pump Room statue. Back off!

So, my proposal is to raise the local profile of the celebrated architect of the Newark Works building, Thomas Fuller. The historic works will be the last vestige of the world-famous Stothert and Pitt crane factory that once thrived on the site. Rather like Dredge’s Victoria Bridge downstream, some Philistine powers-that-be were determined to demolish it until its architectural significance was revealed. After all, it’s just a grubby shed with a bit of twiddly carving on the façade. But of course it is far more than that.

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© Wikipedia

Thomas Fuller was born in Bath in 1823, where his father was a carriage builder. As well as the Newark building, which represents the fledgling work of an illustrious career, he co-designed the delightful five-sided chapel in Smallcombe cemetery and more importantly created the former town hall in Bradford-on-Avon.

This latter is an extraordinary Italianate almost Disneyesque structure which has in its time housed a cinema, a police station, a bank and is now the town’s Catholic Church.

What is amazing is that Fuller moved to Canada and became that country’s Chief Dominion Architect. His most famous work is the incredibly elaborate and spectacular Parliament Building in Ottawa, currently, like our Houses of Parliament, undergoing a decade long restoration. Really you could say that Thomas Fuller, practically a household name in Canada, is that country’s Pugin.

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Parliament Building, Ottawa  © Wikipedia

What’s more, Fuller’s son took after dad and also became Chief Dominion Architect, and to top it all, his grandson is in charge of the current multi-billion dollar rebuild of the Parliament complex, including a temporary debating chamber in a glass-roofed space in the style of the British Museum courtyard.

In addition to this world-renowned edifice, on which you can actually see traces of ideas spawned on the Bradford building, Fuller designed grand gothic central post offices for almost every major city in Canada, several schools and even a prison. It seems the fellow could churn out the equivalent of Big Ben at the drop of a hat, thus his pinnacled clock towers pierce the sky countrywide!

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Most interesting to me, however, being an aficionado of all things Caribbean, Thomas Fuller designed the Anglican cathedral on the island of Antigua. The roundels on that crumbling gothic pile directly resemble the one huge circular window on the Lower Bristol Road façade of our very own Newark Works!

So, who better to commemorate in the form of the new bridge than this incredibly imaginative, highly creative and as yet rather overlooked Bath worthy?’

Thanks Ralph. Over to you folks.