That paint has to go

Good to see B&NES planning officers taking action after Bath Newseum pointed out the repainting – earlier this year – of columns, frieze and cornices on one side of the Stall Street end of historic Bath Street.

This forms part of the link road – with colonnades on either side – designed by Thomas Baldwin (one of the principal ‘architects’ of Georgian Bath) – and built to link the Cross Bath with the Pump Room.

Contrast the left side columns with the recently painted right

A planning application has been submitted to B&NES, on behalf of M and G UK Property, for “external alterations for the removal of modern paint from the stone colonnade columns, frieze and cornice.”

Historic England list this part of the street as Grade 1 because it’s “part of a set-piece example of late-C18 urban design and architecture at the heart of the city of Bath” and for “its sophisticated architectural detailing, composition and planning with good quality stonework.”

The listing explains: “The new Bath Street provided a suitable urban setting which tied in with Baldwin’s new colonnades in front of the Abbey and the Pump Room, and with the Cross Bath at the other end of the new street.

Again the difference in colour is clear to see

At both ends there are large quadrants providing grand open spaces at the centre of this part of the city.

The buildings had shops with accommodation over and wide colonnades that provided cover for walkers and sedan chairs travelling along the street between the baths. The development represents the height of fashion in mid-Georgian polite urban architecture.”

Looking through the planning application – available for all to read via https://www.bathnes.gov.uk/webforms/planning/details.html?refval=22/02699/LBA#details_Section – it details the proposed works as “the removal of modern impermeable masonry paints applied to the unfluted ionic columns forming the colonnade with the plain frieze and cornice above.

A diagram from the planning application

Once removed, the stonework will be protected with the provision of a lime-bound sheltercoat with a finished colour/tone matching natural Bath stone as closely as possible should the stonework be found to be in a poor fragile and friable condition.”

It states the reason for this work as follows: “The proposed interventions to the property are limited in nature and are primarily born from inappropriate maintenance works utilising modern masonry paints which were applied to the columns and frieze associated with the colonnaded Stall Street/Bath Street and to reverse these measures using sympathetic materials appropriate for a building of this nature.”

It’s going to be a delicate operation to strip off the modern paint – once the formal planning approval is given – hopefully by the end of August.

I still find it ironic that one of Bath’s most important archaeological and architectural heritage sites lies literally across the road from this end of Bath Street and no one spotted the painting work being carried out in time for it to have been stopped.

The area is often used as a backdrop to period dramas and was seen recently on Netflix in a new adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion – with Dakota Johnson – daughter of Melanie Griffin and Don Johnson – starring as Anne Elliot

2 Comments

  1. Largely due to you, Richard. TY & well done! The 1995 version of JA’s ‘Persuasion’ (in my humble opinion, the best), starring Amanda Root & Ciaran Hinds, has even more iconic exterior and interior views of Bath.

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  2. Lucky escape for the landlord and the painter, who could each have received up to a two-year prison sentence and unlimited fine. But isn’t B&NES the freeholder (although I believe it was sold with a 999-year lease)? How can someone responsible for a Grade 1 building be unaware of the law or of the proper treatment of the stonework? And, as you say, why did no one spot the work at an earlier stage?

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