News of grant aid support has cheered one Bath group who are intent on preserving an important symbol of the city’s industrial heritage.
Bath Newseum is delighted to include this piece of news from Mary Sabina Stacey.
“What do the dockside in Thessaloniki, Greece, the Port of Antofagasta Chile and the dockside in Wellington, New Zealand, have in common? Answer: they all have restored Stothert and Pitt cranes, standing proud and tall there. The cranes were made in Bath on the Stothert and Pitt site along the Lower Bristol Road.
Stothert and Pitt were the ‘crane makers to the world’. This is the title of a book written by Ken Andrews and Stuart Burroughs in 2004. In 1980 the then Director of the Science Museum claimed that ‘the contribution by Stothert & Pitt as a supplier of heavy engineering across the world was Bath’s greatest contribution to world history’.
There is one saved (steam) crane in Bath that has been installed on the site it was built. It dates from 1904 and is in the Western Riverside development.
Now there is the opportunity for Bath to acquire another Stothert and Pitt crane. This one is a quarry crane which was built c.1864 and is the oldest known Stothert and Pitt crane surviving intact. This crane worked in Box in the Bath stone quarries and was saved in the 1980s from scrappage by the then chairman of the Bath Stone Museum Trust (David Pollard, d.2017).
Its condition is very poor and it is currently being restored by a group of volunteer experts, led by Peter Dunn and Arthur Feltham, former Stothert and Pitt service engineers. The trustees of the Bath Stone Quarry Museum Trust have expressed a willingness for the restored crane to be erected in Bath.
The team is delighted to announce that we have received an offer of grant from the Association for Industrial Archaeology (AIA). The AIA is a nationwide society that gives grants to assist in the preservation and restoration of the remains of the industrial past. The AIA has supported the study, preservation and presentation of industrial heritage in Britain since 1973. More information can be found at https://industrial-archaeology.org
This grant has been matched by the Bristol Industrial Archaeological Society and the Trust that owns the crane. So we now have the funds to treat the metal components so it lasts another 150 years.
At the time when major redevelopment is taking place on the Newark Works and Bath Quays South site, we think that this is a good opportunity to provide a visual reminder in Bath of the importance of Stothert and Pitt Engineers & Iron Founders and also of the stone quarrying to the heritage of Bath and Box.
Bath is well known for its Georgian elegance and its World Heritage Site status but the importance of its industrial history which includes the firm of Stothert and Pitt and its growth in the 19th and 20th centuries, should not be forgotten or underestimated. The crane is a very important visual reminder of what was produced by the firm.
Our vision is to see the crane returned to the place it was built. The Stothert and Pitt site was a large factory. In the drawing office, the drawings for the crane would have been drawn up, orders for the crane taken and progressed, parts of the crane then worked on in other areas of the building, in the yard the crane would have been tested.
Discussions are underway to find a suitable spot for the crane so that everyone can see and appreciate this iconic structure. The Museum of Bath at Work is the pre-eminent organisation championing the industrial heritage of Bath, and the museum is preparing to lead the interpretation of the Bath Quays South site. We hope that the crane will be a very awesome part of this story.
Stuart Burroughs, Director of the Museum of Bath at Work, says,
“The return of this crane, to its home town and to the site where it was manufactured, is important enough, but the display and interpretation of this item helps correct the perception of Bath as a city of Georgian elegance, by showing a product of its working life. Stothert and Pitt spread their cranes to many ports throughout the world, this crane brings home that manufacturing heritage.”
In the early winter months of 1983 my wife and I ran a B&B in Bath. Stothert and Pitt were about to install a huge crane at Nairobi docks. The dock authorities in Nairobi sent their crane supervisor – a young man in his 20s – to Bath for two weeks to learn the ins and outs of their new crane. However, he had never seen snow before, the winter temperatures were bitter, and he only had a thin summer suit to wear. So off we all went to M&S and fitted him out with top to toe winter clothes! He was a charming young man, the two weeks in Bath were a success for him and, as far as we know, the crane could still be working in the docks of Nairobi. Unfortunately with the passage of time we have lost contact with our Kenyan friend. However, i hope that this little snippet may add a little extra to the S&P world-wide legacy.
John Burton, Chilcompton
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