Gardens of delight? Watch this space!

Glad l picked yesterday – and not wet Thursday – for a detailed look at what is going on in Bath’s historic Sydney Gardens.

These former Georgian pleasure grounds are being transformed – with the help of Heritage and Community Lottery Funding – into a playground for all ages.

Everything from basketball hoops and panna football for kids to re-vamped tennis courts and a new boules pitch for the grown ups.

All this and plenty of re-planting to ensure the tree, shrubs and flower bed features of the grounds remain as strong a feature as they did when this former Vauxall opened to the paying public in May 1795.

What Jane Austen would make of it all l don’t know but l wanted to find out more about the scheme’s progress from Project Manager, Keith Rowe who l met near where there used to be a bowling green!

Meanwhile, in the southern corner of what will become the play area site, archaeologists have come across a Roman wall and associated Roman finds.

It’s thought to be the boundary of the Roman Cemetery that is known to be located in the lower part of the Gardens.

The area is under excavation at present and the archaeological team will be reporting on their discoveries in due course.

I first came across Andy Thearle and his team from Ironart of Bath – blacksmiths and metal workers who are based in Larkhall – when he was involved in the transformation of the bandstand in Parade Gardens.

This Edwardian loo is currently under cover!

His team are now involved with the restoration of the two redundant Edwardian loos in Sydney Gardens. They may not be used anymore but they have the same Grade 2 listing as the park.

This is how badly overgrown the old Ladies block had become.

The Ladies loo has been dismantled and taken away for repair but the Gents is getting its restoration in situ. Currently under a protective tent which minimised grit and dust from sand blasting.

Let’s give you a sneak preview of what is being done – courtesy of Mr Thearle.

Since publishing this piece, Andy has very kindly sent me a picture of a bear spout – it’s the embellishment that are going to put back on the corners of the restored Edwardian Ladies loo.

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.

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. 

The Sydney Gardens Project has a Homepage on Facebook and a Twitter address @SydneyGardensBath