MP supporting Bath Workhouse campaign.

Bath’s MP Wera Hobhouse has joined local residents – and Cllr Steve Hedges – in a campaign to save Bath Workhouse Burial Ground and St Martin’s Chapel.

Mrs Hobhouse recently met with Odd Down residents and Ward Councillor Steve Hedges to learn about some of the more than 1,100 residents of the Bath Workhouse who are buried in an unmarked mass grave next to the chapel at St Martin’s Hospital. The chapel is currently derelict and the site is at risk of development. 

Local residents including Dr Jon Moon have done extensive research into the residents of the workhouse. These included craftspeople who built some of Bath’s iconic buildings as well as women, babies and children. They were the ordinary people who created our exceptional city which has the rare honour of being recognised with two UNESCO accolades, as a World Heritage Site and as one of the Great Spas of Europe. 

The site is at risk of development and campaigners have submitted an objection in the Local Plan Partial Update as the area is listed as being land available and suitable for housing developments. It’s thought that any new development would need the approval of the Ecclesiastical Court because the Chapel itself is Grade II listed but is in a sad state of neglect. Now, campaigners are calling for the area to be protected and a memorial to be built in memory of those buried there. 

Bath MP Wera Hobhouse commented: 

“The stories of those buried at the Bath Workhouse Burial Ground must be remembered, and their final resting place left undisturbed. I fully support calls to preserve the site. I am writing to the prospective property developer and to NHS Properties. I expect them to find a way of working with the local community to ensure that the site is restored and preserved for future generations.”

“I have launched a petition to save this important site that is of special significance to Bath’s collective heritage. The history of our city’s working people is a vital strand of our past and it must be recognised and honoured.” You can sign Wera’s petition here.

Dr Jon Moon, a local resident who has been campaigning to save the grounds, said:

“I and other local residents were delighted to have the opportunity to meet with our MP and inform her of the threat facing St Martin’s Chapel and the workhouse burial ground. The workhouse is a place of huge importance in the history of the city of Bath where those who built the city came when they fell on hard times. 

“These were the people who quarried the Bath Stone that the city crescents were built from. Here they faced a hard existence and after death were buried in unmarked communal graves, several bodies deep. Many of the descendants of the workhouse inmates buried at St Martin’s still live in Bath. 

“The consecrated burial ground needs to be kept as a local amenity green space open to the community. The listed, consecrated chapel, built by a workhouse inmate buried in the site, deserves to be restored, preserved and used. Its future could be as a community centre, museum and even a place for marriage. The chapel and burial ground must not be blighted by inappropriate property development.”

Councillor Steve Hedges said:

“I was so pleased to welcome Wera to Odd Down to meet with residents and to see this unique site for herself. Her support in the campaign to preserve this precious site will be crucial. Our city’s history belongs to everyone and we cannot leave working people out of our shared story.”

1 Comment

  1. One can but hope that any plans for redevelopment are blocked. What cock-eyed planning regulations can possibly allow a site such as this to be ‘listed as being land available and suitable for housing development’? Consecrated ground with more than 1,000 bodies buried there should surely be sacrosanct? One can imagine the fuss if there was a suggestion for a new housing development at Haycombe Cemetery (and that’s been in use for almost a century). The poor devils buried here at St Martin’s had miserable lives (thanks largely to so-called ‘Victorian values’) and should be left to lie in peace. Death probably came as a welcome release from the privations of the workhouse. The workhouse system is as big a stain on this country’s history as slavery.

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