Sydney Gardens Project Underway

A year-long construction and landscaping project to rejuvenate the UK’s only surviving Georgian Pleasure Garden has begun in Bath.

Sydney Gardens, a favourite spot of Jane Austen dating from 1795, will benefit from a new large play area for all ages, improved tennis courts and a new Community Pavilion in a major project joint-funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.  

Conservation work will be carried out on the key listed buildings, the Temple of Minerva and Loggia and the Edwardian iron toilet facilities will be restored.

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s parks team is leading the refurbishment project, named Sydney Gardens: a 21st Century Pleasure Garden, with all design and contractor teams based in Bath or within the South West.

The works include:

  • Sand, water play and natural features for young children and new play equipment
  • Basketball hoops, panna football and table tennis
  • Resurfaced and re-marked tennis courts
  • Conversion of the existing toilet block into a Community Pavilion, including an accessible toilet facing the park and a specialist Changing Places toilet for disabled people and their carers, funded by the City Forum
  • Mobile refreshment stands

The new Community Pavilion will complement the existing community-based programmes that run out of the Gardeners Lodge and throughout the park.

The original scheme to provide a single large café kiosk has been altered to offer mobile refreshment stands to make it easier for visitors to follow social distancing.

The parks team and The Friends of Sydney Gardens have been working for the past three years with other organisations including the Holburne Museum, Residents Associations, the Canal & River Trust, Julian House, Age UK Bath and local schools on the project.

Park users may experience some disruption while works are ongoing but as much of the park will remain open as possible. The project is expected to be completed by September 2021.

Councillor Paul Crossley, cabinet member for Community Services, said: “Sydney Gardens is a remarkable historic location and a huge asset for our communities. Spending time outdoors and being active are so beneficial for our physical and mental health. It’s exciting that this project to refurbish and restore the gardens is now underway and I look forward to seeing residents and visitors enjoying the improved facilities.”

Stuart McLeod, Director London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We’re delighted to support this project to refurbish and conserve Sydney Gardens. Thanks to National Lottery players, the local community will be able to enjoy the benefits of a range of new facilities at this important heritage site.” 

Brief History of Sydney Gardens 

The gardens opened in May 1795 providing a range of entertainments as well as an opportunity for informal social mixing. Features of the early gardens such as the labyrinth and grotto, cascade, ‘cosmorama’, theatre, and hermit’s cottage complete with puppet, illustrate how ‘pleasure’ was interpreted at this time and the creativity and wit with which these features were designed. Patrons were delighted by grand firework displays, galas and music as well as enjoying the ‘sylvan delights’ of the gardens, taking tea, reading the London papers, walking or on horseback around The Ride (a surfaced area for riding which originally extended around the entire perimeter of the park).

Key Contractors:

  • The Building Contractor is Edgar Builders Ltd from Somerton
  • The Landscape Contractor is Parsons Landscapes Ltd from Taunton
  • The Heritage Conservation Contractor is Sally Strachey Historic Conservation from Wells
  • The Blacksmith is Iron Art of Bath 

Design Team:

  • The Architect is BBA Architects Ltd based in Darlington Wharf – Bathwick, a 5 minute walk to Sydney Gardens
  • The Landscape Architect is Greenhalgh Landscape Architects based in Sydney Wharf – Bathwick, a 5 minute walk to Sydney Gardens
  • The Structural and Civil Engineer is Mann Williams based in Queens Square, Bath. 

National Lottery and public parks 

Since 1996, more than £950million raised by National Lottery players has been used to support the regeneration, conservation and increased enjoyment of public parks and cemeteries across the UK. Find out more about how to apply at www.heritagefund.org.uk