Round and round the garden.

The future development of the now redundant Holy Trinity Church on Chapel Row – just off Queen Square – has seen a large advertising board being erected promoting the ‘contemporary office space’ that is going to be created but also showing the grassed area beside it as an enclosed garden and extra amenity.

However, Bath Newseum regular, Roger Houghton pointed out the grass forms part of what was John Wood’s St Mary’s Chapel which was demolished for road widening. The area has been maintained by the B&NES parks team for many years and he wondered if the developers – who have purchased the church – can lay claim to the lawned area.

Roger contacted Martin Baker , who is the Property Records Co-ordinator for the council, and was told:

“You are correct that the area of grass and shrubbery adjoining Holy Trinity church and situated between the church and Queen Square is maintained by the Council’s Parks Team.

This is done so, however, under an agreement entered into by Bath Corporation with the then Rector of Holy Trinity to take over responsibility for maintenance of the shrubbery in perpetuity – recorded in the Parks and Cemeteries Committee Minutes of 4th November 1952. Consequently, I can confirm that the Council has never taken legal ownership of the site which we understand remains vested in Holy Trinity Church.”

I approached Spaceworks – who have planning consent to convert the church to studio office space – but they have not come back to me.

However, Louise Willmot – who is the communications officer for the Diocese of Bath and Wells told me that she had liaised with the Church Commissioners who have clarified the following: “Although the garden at Holy Trinity has been maintained by the local authority as a closed churchyard, its ownership remained with the Church of England. When the sale completes, BaNES’s liability to maintain the churchyard will cease.”

So now we know.


  1. I suspect we don’t know, Richard. As Martin Baker added, “In view of the wording of the Bath Corporation minute including the words ‘in perpetuity’ I have some doubts as to whether the Church owners could simply unilaterally decide to take back possession of the shrubbery. Certainly if they had any intention to do so they would need to serve notice on the Council and I think the matter would then need to be referred to Legal Services for determination as to a way forward based upon the terms of the agreement under which the Council has assumed all costs over the last seven decades”.

    That’s 70 years of maintenance at public expense. Also, the garden area is not included in the planning permission granted to Spaceworks.


    1. P.S. That large billboard would appear to be in breach of the Article 4 Direction prohibiting the display of sale and let boards within the conservation area.

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