Brush up on industry

Brush up on industry

Yesterday – Saturday, September 24th – l popped along to the seventh Industrial Heritage Exhibition  – held at Bath City Football Club in Twerton – and designed to make people aware that this was very much  an industrial and well as a grand residential city.


The idea of organising such events – giving information on everything from brass foundries and coal mines to crane building – came from Bryan Chalker – a former mayor, councillor and B&NES heritage champion.


Organiser, Bryan Chalker.


With seven exhibitions under his belt – and another one planned – l asked him how pleased he was to see the event continue.

If you think you can help Bryan and his gang with repainting the old steam crane at Western Riverside – and have some time to spare next weekend – October 1st and 2nd – you can contact Bryan via

Empire building

Empire building

Bath’s continued faith in its tourist industry is born out by plenty of evidence of new hotel building in the city.

Elsewhere, established businesses are being given make-overs to increase both capacity and appeal.


But it’s a hotel from a previous age l want to talk about – and a building that has split public opinion ever since it soared onto the city skyline in 1901.

It’s also one partially obscured by scaffolding at present while repairs are made to the roof and fabric.


The old Empire Hotel – like it or loath it – is described by Michael Forsyth in the Pevsner Architectural Guide to Bath as ‘ an unbelievably pompous piece of architecture.’

It was designed by the Bath City Architect, Major Charles Edward Davis for the hotelier Alfred Holland – a wealthy entrepreneur – and built during 1900/1.

According to Professor Barry Cunliffe – Director of Excavations at Bath for many years – Major Davis was fulfilling a professional dream.

In a paper he wrote – ‘Major Davis: Architect and Antiquarian’ – Professor Cunliffe says of him…

‘Throughout his working life in Bath Davis had two particular ambitions, to create a new road along the Avon between the Orange Grove and Bridge Street, and to build a large hotel.

His several hotel schemes had come to nothing and his plans for a link road failed to receive Council approval on more than one occasion.

At last, at the very end of his life, these two ambitions were realised in the great scheme which saw the erection of the Empire Hotel and its fronting Grand Parade’.


As Professor Cunliffe explained it was the era of mega hotels. Major Davis had already – in the 1880’s – led the uncovering of the city’s Roman baths.

It was a new attraction to encourage people to the spa city and Davis has already missed out on building the new Grand Pump Room Hotel nearby.

‘A wealthy entrepreneur, Mr Alfred Holland, came forward with the money and the hotel company he formed entrusted the task of design to Davis having made clear in approaching the Council that it was ‘taking it for granted that there are no restrictions as to height’.


Davis seems to have been mildly concerned by the problem and did, in fact, go to the trouble to prepare ‘skylines’ showing his proposed new building in relation to those immediately adjacent.

In the event, his seven-storey ‘Jacobean’ monster, crowned with an eclectic ensemble of gables and turrets, towers above the city directly challenging the grandeur of the Abbey and all else’.


Professor Cunliffe continued: ‘It is fashionable at the moment to treat the Empire Hotel with contempt and ridicule but it has a distinct quality and even a fin-de-siecle charm.

It is the only truly grandiose High Victorian building that Bath can boast and for all its faults the city would be the poorer without it.’

Major Davis died in 1902 – a year after finally building his hotel. He was 75 and had served Bath as its Surveyor of Works for forty years.

The Empire occupies a large L-shaped block. It is six storeys high plus the octagonal corner tower. The front of the building onto Orange Grove has eight bays and the side overlooking the River Avon has nine bays.


The architecture of the roof shows the three classes of people, Castle on the corner for Upper Class, A House for the Middle classes and a cottage for the lower classes.

During World War 11 it was used by the Admiralty as postal sorting offices and remained in their possession until the 1990s.

It was then was refurbished and became luxury retirement flats and a restaurant.

It is a Grade 11 listed building.

It stands alongside the old Police Station and Lock-up that Davis had built in 1865 – in the Italian palazzo style. A station that functioned as such until 1966 when the new one opened in Manvers Street.


The old police station and lock-up next door.

I have a handy little Lumix camera – with an impressive Leica telescopic, telephoto lens – and was able to get some close up details of very worn carvings – just below the parapet – and one appears to have an heraldic animal ‘rampant’ –  that’s standing on one leg.


The badly weathered roundel with an heraldic animal rampant?


Meanwhile – on ground level – some detail from the elegant glazed wrought and cast iron canopies by A.J.Taylor – added in 1907.


Taylor also did the ornamental canopy over the entrance to The Corridor in the High Street in 1927.


The Corridor canopy by A.J.Taylor

I found the image of a pegasus – a winged divine stallion from Greek mythology. Always depicted as white in colour and according to legend, every time his hoof struck the earth an inspiring  spring burst forth. Is that the reason he is here? Celebrating Bath’s hot and cold springs?

Dan Brown from tells me the contractors who did the conversion into luxury flats were called Pegasus. Not quite so romantic eh.


The Pegasus figure.

Elsewhere another close up found me trying to make out lettering. Do l see initials here – for Charles Edward Davis?


Should we be seeing a C and an E and a D?

Certainly the spirit of the man hangs heavily over what remains a grand and confident building of its time.

Bringing the East Bath to life.

Bringing the East Bath to life.

The East Baths area of the Roman Baths, adjacent to the famous Great Bath, will be updated in early 2017, with new interactive displays immersing visitors in the sights and sounds of the Roman bath house.

roman baths

The Great Bath – part of the Roman bathing complex built around the thermal waters.

Projections, soundscapes and CGI reconstructions will show the Roman Baths at the height of their popularity as a working, living and leisure space. Roman characters of all social classes will interact with each other and visitors will be invited to watch, listen and step into the Roman Baths as they would have looked in the first to fourth centuries.

Considered by many to be the women’s quarters of the Roman Baths, the East Baths contained a large tepid bath fed by water that flowed through a pipe from the Great Bath. A series of heated rooms developed and grew until the site reached its maximum extent in the fourth century. There was a plunge pool (balneum), hot room (caldarium), warm room (tepidarium) and changing room (apodyterium).

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “These imaginative new displays will transform the East Baths, bringing them to life for visitors of all ages. This is part of an ongoing programme of development designed to enhance the award-winning visitor experience at the Roman Baths.”

The project includes conservation and protection works to the Roman monument, which will be carried out this autumn. The new displays will then be revealed in March 2017.

Event Communications, a leading experience design company, has been appointed to create the new interpretation, while locally-based Sally Strachey Conservation will carry out the conservation works.

Public talk

Members of the public are invited to find out more about the East Baths development at a free talk on Wednesday 26 October 2016, 6.30pm-7.30pm at the Pump Room (entrance via main Abbey Church Yard entrance). There will be a chance to hear presentations and see plans. Just turn up, no need to book.                                                                                                                                      

Photographic coup for BRSLI

Photographic coup for BRSLI

A bit of a photographic coup coming up at Bath’s Royal Literary and Scientific Institution with an exhibition of platinum prints taken from the work of Brazilian-born Sebastiao Salgado – who is considered one of the most important documentary photographers working today.


A local collective, PhotoBath have been working with the Institute and Dursley-based 31 Studio – who are the foremost specialists for Platinum and Platinum-Palladium printing in the Uk – to exhibit eight large-format prints at the BRSLI’s central Bath venue in Queen Square from Friday November 11th to Saturday, November 19th and admission will be free.


Performer at the Mount Hagen Sing Sing festival, Papua New Guinea, 2008 ©Sebastiao Salgado/Amazonas Images/

PhotoBath coordinator, Jon Leahy, said the project was ‘a unique opportunity to exhibit a selection of images from one the world’s greatest living photographers.Thanks to the fantastic support from individuals, via our crowd funding campaign, we are now able to make the event happen.


© 31 Studio

Although we have had contributions from USA and Europe, the vast majority of pledges have been from local people and I would like to thank them for their support so far.

In recent years Bath has lacked regular exhibitions from high profile photographers and this is our chance to start the ball rolling again’.

Sebastião Salgado is considered one of the most important documentary photographers working today. He has recently completed ‘Genesis’, a profound and ambitious eight-year project.

It is a remarkable ‘visual tribute to our fragile planet’ represented by a series of wonderfully crafted, black and white images of many still undiscovered locations on our planet.

The critically acclaimed ‘Genesis’ project has already spawned a best-selling book and major exhibitions around the world, as well as Wim Wenders’ Oscar-nominated film,‘The Salt of the Earth’.


The BRSLI in Queen Square

PhotoBath is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving
the profile of fine art and documentary photography in Bath and surrounding areas.

Bath has a long association with photography dating back to the early days of Fox Talbot and, more recently, as the home of the Royal Photographic Society.

Along with the ‘Salgado’ exhibition, PhotoBath are hoping to run a programme of talks and events including a showing of ‘The Salt of the Earth, movie.

Listen to the man himself – and his concerns for humanity and our environment – via the TED talk link below.



Railside bloomers.

Railside bloomers.

Crest Nicholson – the developers who are rapidly transforming Bath’s  Western Riverside from industrial brownfield to a major housing development – are keen to show they care about the older communities nearby and the industrial heritage of the site they are working upon.

western riverside

Some of the first new homes at Western Riverside

Not only have they given £500 to the community group who look after the floral displays at Oldfield Park railway station, but they have even done a nice little YouTube feature explaining what has been going on there since a group of local residents decided to ‘adopt’ the station.

They were led by local independent councillor June Player – who is also this year’s Deputy Mayor of Bath.

It was nine years ago that she finally decided to do something about the state of the local station whose overgrown banks had become something of an eyesore.



What she and her army of volunteers have achieved has involved people from the retired to school children and has helped bring a real sense of community spirit.

The  YouTube video – filmed and produced by Alistair Rzeznicki of Bath’s Sunflower Creative Agency – can be viewed here.

‘Milestone’ charity grant for Roman Baths Archway Project

‘Milestone’ charity grant for Roman Baths Archway Project


The Archway Project at the Roman Baths has received a grant of £75,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation, a major milestone in funding for the building of a state-of-the-art Roman Baths Learning Centre.

Situated above the former spa laundry in Swallow Street, the new facilities will increase the space dedicated to education at the Roman Baths by 400%. Two new classrooms will enable the Roman Baths to develop formal and informal learning programmes, engaging a wide range of communities and audiences.


An artists impression of how the new Archway Project might look.

The new Learning Centre will be connected to the Roman Baths by an undercroft that passes through Roman remains beneath York Street. An underground Investigation Zone will provide hands-on access to Roman remains through facilitated learning sessions.

The Learning Centre will give more school children a higher standard of facilities and enable the Roman Baths to reach out to a wider variety of people locally and regionally with a range of new learning experiences.

The Roman Baths Foundation is a charitable company set up to raise funds for conservation and education work at the Roman Baths. Fundraising for the Archway Project is its first flagship project.

David Beeton, Chairman of the Roman Baths Foundation, said: “The Foundation is delighted that its efforts to raise funding for a state-of-the-art Learning Centre for the Roman Baths have been supported so enthusiastically by the Garfield Weston Foundation.”


The Archway Project will open up areas of the Roman Baths not seen by the public before.

The Director of the Garfield Weston Foundation, Philippa Charles, said; “We are delighted to be supporting this project, which will improve the learning experience for those who visit the Baths, which are such an important part of the UK’s heritage.”

The Learning Centre is the largest element in a project that also includes a World Heritage Centre and new access to Roman remains beneath York Street that have never before been on public display.

The Roman Baths has submitted a second stage application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to secure a grant of nearly £3.5 million towards the £5 million project. The HLF is due to make a decision later this year.

If the fundraising target is achieved, building work will start in summer 2017 and the new Learning Centre and World Heritage Centre will open in early 2019.

For more information visit


For your information:

The Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded charitable grant-making foundation which supports a wide range of causes across the UK, donating over £58million in the most recent financial year.

It was established in 1958 by Willard Garfield Weston and since then has donated over £900million, becoming one of the largest and most respected charitable institutions in the UK.

The trustees are descendants of the founder and the Weston Family takes a highly active and hands-on approach.


Mayor of Bath’s Art Show

Mayor of Bath’s Art Show

The Mayor of Bath and The Rotary Club of Bath West are encouraging artists to get their applications in now for the 11th annual Art Show being held at the Guildhall on Friday and Saturday 28 & 29 October. 

Last year over 200 pictures were hung, with sales raising funds for the Mayor’s and Rotary President’s charities.  Profits from this year’s show will be shared between The Mayor of Bath’s Relief Fund, which helps local people facing hard times, and Bath Stroke Support Group, the Rotary President’s charity.


The Mayor (Cllr Paul Crossley) & President, Rotary Club of Bath West, Stella Tonks

The Mayor of Bath, Councillor Paul Crossley, said “Bath is blessed with a very large number of artists.  This enables local artists to display their work and also raise money for worthwhile local charities at the same time.”

Semi-professional artists, members of amateur art groups, college and university students can all submit their work and keep 80% of the sale price, which must be a minimum of £30.  The hanging fees will be £3.50 per painting, but this increases to £15 for paintings priced at £200 plus.

Visitors will be asked to select their favourite picture or sculpture and this year a Trophy will be presented to the winning artist.

The free exhibition is open to the public from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm on 28 & 29 October and a Preview by invitation on the Thursday evening.

Application forms are available on the Charter Trustees’ website or from the Mayor’s Office, Guildhall, Bath, Somerset, BA1 5AW