Oh what a shady Circus!

A couple of years ago l featured a campaign, by historian and author Professor Tim Mowl, to get a statue of architect John Wood Senior installed in the middle of one of his greatest works in stone – The Circus.

I gave the story the headline – “You can’t see the Wood for the trees” – which was a play on words to be sure but – as Bath Newseum follower Richard Brown points out – there might not yet be a statue, but ……

“You will know that the trees, now over 200 years old, remain.  However, since 2012, their dominance in The Circus has increased.  The trees are now at record heights and their growth is hindering the appreciation of them and their ‘setting’.  

I have, since 2017, asked the Council to manage the trees, specifically lowering their top canopy (last done in 1990) and to raise the lower canopy. 

Although the Council’s own inspection report from 2017 recommended that the lower canopy be raised (to 3-4 m above ground level), this has not been done and, further, the Council is reluctant to reduce the height of the trees. 

The uncontrolled growth of the trees has resulted in a situation preventing both locals and visitors from enjoying the views across the Circus green to the architecture beyond.  The attached photos, taken today, provide evidence.  In parts, the trees extend to the ground completely blocking any view.

I am not sure whether you would have more luck than myself in getting the Council to undertake any effective tree management.

Surely, as a World Heritage City, we can do better in showing our heritage assets?’

Meanwhile, Councillor Jess David, cabinet assistant for Neighbourhood Services, told Bath Newseum: “The council removed some of the lower canopy of the Circus Planes in Spring 2018 as part of routine works. We do not routinely reduce height on any large, healthy trees as it risks infections entering and encourages the tree to rapidly grow to the same size as it was before, meaning the practice would need to be repeated regularly. 

“We welcome Mr Brown’s concern and as we mentioned in our correspondence with him in June 2021, the trees were last inspected in October 2020 which identified minor pruning as being desirable.

Our teams are currently catching up with tree works that are necessary for health and safety reasons following delays caused by the pandemic, as well as managing the rapidly spreading and hugely damaging ash dieback disease across the district. We will carry out the minor pruning at The Circus as soon as possible.” 


  1. I think dealing with the trees in Queen Square is much more urgent. Its architecture is far more hidden by trees and its magnificence greatly diminished. It is only in winter you can see how breathtaking it is. By all means keep some, though fellng the lot and laying out the garden as described by Wood in great detail, with espaliered hedges around it, would be a much better result and actually enhance the garden and reduce traffic noise. The trees in The Circus, on the other hand, in some ways can be said to add to it – old pictures show that without them, it looked rather bleak. And I speak as one who has probably spent more time than most people in studying the Circus and am doing a walk round it for Bathscape.

    1. I support Roger’s request for the bench to come back. I don’t think there’s anywhere to sit now.

  2. When I was chairman of the Circus Area Residents’ Association I promoted a scheme to build a memorial to both John Woods in the Circus, as this was the main project on which they were both involved. The idea was to have a low wall around the circumference of the grass area with a carved inscription explaining and commemorating the Woods’ achievements. This would have been helpful and interesting for visitors without being visually intrusive. Unfortunately the idea did not find favour with CARA members so I couldn’t progress it. Would someone like to take it up again?

  3. I think the Circus trees are wonderful. I tend to contrast them with Pulteney Street, where the uninterrupted vista looks rather bleak. It’s true that the trees have grown very large, but I think it would be a shame to lose them. What I don’t know is how possible it would be to trim them. Bath has some wonderful mature trees, in public spaces and private gardens, and I think they should be maintained and replaced where possible.

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