It’s good to know that Bath Newseum has followers from all around the world but l am grateful to Steve – a regular from Cheshire in the UK – for the above postcard.
As he says in his accompanying letter: ‘It’s a very atmospheric photo of men at work in Bath. All properly dressed and – as you will see from the reverse – it’s Grandad Spicer in front.
Is the roadway in front of the Pump Room on a slight slope? The men all seem to have parked up with the front wheel at 90 degrees to the chair to stop the chair moving forward.
Real pity the postcard has not been posted to give us a date but possibly 1905 by the style of dress.’
Steve – you have made a good stab at guessing as this postcard also features in the Pevsner Architectural Guide to Bath by Michael Forsyth – and he gives it a date of circa 1900.
Elsewhere on the Web l have seen it dated around 1912.
According to Wikipedia the Bath chair – with a folding hood which could be open or closed – was invented by James Heath of Bath was. It carried the sick from their lodgings to and from the nearby spa and the rich about their business in the city.
The BBC’s History of the World website attributes the carriage to John Dawson of Bath – who was born in 1750 – but agrees its earliest antecedents were on the streets by 1760 when Dawson was just a boy.
The chair’s popularity eventually put the two-man sedan chair out of business – probably because it cut the labour costs in half.
Looking at the photograph one is aware of just how black and sooty the city was. Though one building – to the right of the Abbey – is less dirty than the rest.
We know it now as the entrance to the Roman Baths but it was built in the 1890’s as a concert room. Less time then to get covered in smokey grime before this photograph was taken.
Any other thoughts on the subject would be welcomed.