In the swim for Cleveland Pools

In the swim for Cleveland Pools

Bath’s historic Cleveland Pools have held their first swimming event – at Bath Leisure Centre!

That’s where around 650 of Bath’s young swimming fraternity from 8 different swim schools and clubs turned out  for a Sponsored Swim which raised nearly £7,000 for the two hundred year old open air former Georgian lido beside the River Avon at Bathwick.


Parents urging their youngsters on at the swimathon.

The restoration process for the Cleveland Pools will begin later this year to bring back open-air swimming to the people of Bath, and this is the first big swimming-related event held off-site.  Its success is due to the growing interest in this remarkable heritage site on the riverside in Bathwick which was closed for swimming 1984 due to lack of funding.   

The parents of the swimmers have really helped spread awareness by asking friends and families to sponsor their youngsters.  Both LocalGiving and social media have played a huge part in helping them reach their goals.  

The Bath Dolphin Swimming Club session was chosen for the Swimathon’s publicity night due to their longstanding association with the Cleveland Pools;  the Dolphins were founded on the riverside next to the Cleveland Pools in 1899. 


The Bath Dolphin Swimming Club at the Cleveland Pools in 1910. © Bath in Time.

The Bath Dolphins are now based at the Bath Sports & Leisure Centre and this is where the club members carried out their sponsored swims.  Ironically, it was the building of the Bath Sports & Leisure Centre in 1975 – with its brand new heated swimming pool – which essentially caused the Cleveland Pools to meet its gradual demise.  But things are about to change !

Cleveland Pools trustee Suzy Granger, who owns the Bath School of Swimming, co-ordinated the whole Sponsored Swim programme with coaches and teachers from the participating swim schools. 

 All the swimmers taking part in the sponsored swim were given a Well Done certificate to thank them for their efforts. 

Special guest Stephanie Millward MBE, the Paralympian swimmer who becomes the latest patron for the Cleveland Pools alongside their existing ambassador Sharron Davies MBE, presented some of the certificates to the children.  


Stephanie Millward MBE talking to some of the young swimmers.

The Cleveland Pools in Bathwick are the most intriguing open-air public swimming venue in the UK, and also the oldest.  Closed for swimming in 1984, a Trust was formed in 2005 by local campaigners to save the 200 year-old heritage site – with its crescent-shaped cottage and changing cubicles – and have it restored for the people of Bath and beyond to enjoy as a swimming venue and historic place of interest for the future.    


In order to meet the terms of their Heritage Lottery Fund Stage II grant of £3.7million, which will finally fund the cost of restoration, the Cleveland Pools Trust needed to raise £530,000 in match-funding.  With support from Bath & North East Somerset Council (B&NES), Historic England, and generous local donors they have already raised over two thirds!  

The remaining £168,000 is needed by the end of April so they are urging the public to get behind the project and donate any amount they can via their website: 

Bath Abbey 50 who’ll be recording the past.

Bath Abbey 50 who’ll be recording the past.

More than 50 volunteers have signed up to help record Bath Abbey’s historic ledgerstones, ahead of a long-term project to restore the Abbey’s floor which is collapsing.

Ledgerstones are flat stones placed in the floors of mainly parish churches which usually bear an inscription of the name and date of the person who is buried there. Many also include interesting inscriptions about the person, their family and their life in the local community.


A whole collection of ledgerstones.

In partnership with The Ledgerstone Survey of England and Wales (LSEW), the Abbey aims to record all 891 of its ledgerstones, some dating back to the 17th century, before these are lifted temporarily in order to repair the floor and secure the foundations beneath.


Volunteers at work.

This Autumn, building work will start inside the Abbey as part of the Footprint project, a £19.3 million programme supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund to secure the Abbey building and improve its hospitality, worship and service to the city. However, before any of the planned building work including floor repairs can begin, all 891 of the historic ledgerstones in the Abbey will need to be recorded accurately. This will ensure that once the stone floor has been successfully repaired and re-laid, each individual ledger stone is put back properly and in the right place. In addition, the ledgerstone recording will also form the basis for new trails, tours and experiences for visitors developed as part of the Footprint programme.


Dr Oliver Taylor, Bath Abbey’s Interpretation Officer.

Ollie Taylor, Bath Abbey’s Intepretation Officer, said: “These ancient stones are an important part of the Abbey’s heritage, many of which have been part of the Abbey floor for hundreds of years without being fully recorded. If we don’t do it now, some of the inscriptions will have worn away so they’ll sadly be lost to future generations. Thanks to our volunteers, the stones’ positions, condition and inscriptions will be carefully documented, and the lives of those they commemorate will be researched. There are some fascinating stories to be told about the people who lived and worked within the parish, as well as the many visitors who came to Bath to use the spa waters in the 18th and 19th centuries. The stories contained in the Abbey’s ledger stones will be used as part of the interpretation plans for the Footprint project.


We were overwhelmed by the number of people who came forward to offer their help. These range from individuals from the Abbey community to groups such as BEMSCA, NADFAS and U3A. It’s great that there are so many individuals in Bath who feel a connection with the Abbey and are keen to help preserve its heritage and history.” 

Julian Litten, Chairman of LSEW which developed a template for methodically recording ledgers currently being used by Bath Abbey, explains: “Just over 250,000 ledgerstones survive in England and Wales, so it shows how important it is to ensure that any ledgerstones that remain, in particular the information they contain, is recorded, understood and appreciated. If recorded properly, they give us an important insight into the people and local communities that lived and worked around the Abbey through the ages.”

The ledgerstone recording will take place in the Abbey throughout February and March this year. Visitors are welcome to come in and see the volunteers on their hands and knees, as they record and document the hundreds of ledgerstones in the Abbey. 


Charles Curnock, Footprint Project Director

Charles Curnock, Bath Abbey’s Footprint Project Director, said: “The ledgerstone recording signals the start of a really exciting time as the Footprint project moves up another gear. Many churches have a similar problem with their floor but with the Abbey being an especially busy church, together with the urgent need to repair the floor, recording the ledgerstones is increasingly a priority for us. Most of the ledgerstones have been hidden beneath pews for nearly 180 years. By the end of this project, this important part of our city’s heritage will be available to be newly appreciated by and preserved for future generations. We urge local people to discover more about the Abbey’s historic floor and see first-hand the work taking place.”

If you would like to know more about the Footprint Project, please visit , email:  footprint@bathabbey.orgor follow @bathfootprint on Twitter.

About Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey is a flourishing Church of England parish church which technically serves a small city centre parish (Bath Abbey with St James). This parish has a small residential population and primarily consists of commercial properties; and most of the regular congregation and the 692 people on the electoral roll live in other parishes or come from outside the city of Bath. The Abbey holds daily services of morning or evening prayer or Holy Communion; and the standard pattern of Sunday worship is for five daily services attended on average by 630 people. Special services at Advent, Christmas and Easter are well attended; and many local organisations hold annual services in the Abbey. The Abbey has four choirs:  Men’s, Boys’ and Girls’ choirs support worship in services; whilst Melody Makers is a choir for younger children which performs in concerts in the Abbey once a term and at other events in and around Bath. The Abbey runs a successful Schools Singing Programme, an outreach activity which supports singing within local schools and holds regular workshops and concerts in the Abbey. The Abbey welcomes approximately 400,000 visitors annually and is open daily all year round; many of these visitors being families and school parties. Apart from being a place of prayer, worship, weddings and funerals, the Abbey has an important role as a visitor destination, a performance space (for audiences anywhere between 10 and 1,000), a general civic space and an exhibition space.

About Bath Abbey’s Footprint

The £19.3 million Footprint project aims to carry out essential repairs to the Abbey’s collapsing floor, install a new eco-friendly heating system using Bath’s unique hot springs as a source of energy and enlarge capacity by creating 200 sq metres of new facilities to fulfil the Abbey as a place of congregation, equal access and hospitality. A programme is also planned to record and interpret the Abbey’s 1,200 years of history and this iconic church for millions of visitors including educational visits.

About LSEW

The Ledgerstone Survey of England and Wales (LSEW), chaired by Dr Julian Litten FSA, which aims to record all the ledgerstones of England and Wales, springboarded a Pilot project addressing the aim of recording the ledgers in churches now out of use for regular worship and in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT). The LSEW has developed a template for methodically recording ledgers and this has been tested by the Church Recorders of the National Association of the Decorative and Fine Arts (NADFAS). LSEW is keen to engage as many volunteers as possible to record ledgers before more disappear and to develop educational resources to enable anyone interested in their local ancestors, in letter cutting or the beauty of these stones, to access ledgers. By working on a defined group of readily accessible churches, led by a dedicated Development Officer, the aim of the Pilot is to fully explore the practicalities of recording with volunteers from a variety of backgrounds and interests.


What are ledgerstones?

Ledgerstones are the flat stones placed over a grave inside a church, usually incised with the name and dates of the deceased. They are often decorated with heraldry and many include interesting inscriptions about the person, their family and their life in the local community. Over 250,000 survive, mainly in parish churches, and most date from the late seventeenth to the late eighteenth centuries. The stones used are often from a local or regional source and the carving of the letters and any decoration is of high quality and a readily visible demonstration of the letter cutter’s art. A family group of ledgerstones may well be their only visible memorial, if their house has disappeared.




British Science Week events @ Roman Baths

British Science Week events @ Roman Baths


Families can enjoy a week of fun activities based on the science behind the Roman Baths and its museum objects as part of British Science Week (10-19 March 2017).

The week kicks off with Science Busking on Saturday 11 March, 2-5pm. From discovering Roman pottery found at the Baths to finding out how to test water temperature at the Great Bath, there will be a range of activities to take part in during the day.

roman baths

The Roman Baths.

Throughout the week (13-17 March, 2-4pm), hands-on science events will be running with the chance to explore coins, mosaics and bones from the museum collection.

The week ends with Bath Taps into Science (18 March, 10am-4pm) a day of science investigations at Royal Victoria Park, by the bandstand, organised by the University of Bath. Visitors will be able to find out how the Romans built arches, have a go at building one, and learn about the technology behind aquaducts.

Cllr Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “British Science Week at the Roman Baths is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and explore the science used by the Romans, with an array of activities for all ages. All events are free for local residents with a Discovery Card.”

No advance booking required. Children must be accompanied by an adult.



About the Roman Baths

The Roman Baths is located at the heart of the World Heritage City of Bath. Here, the Romans built a magnificent temple and bathing complex on the site of Britain’s only hot spring, which still flows with naturally hot water. Visitors can walk around the Great Bath where people bathed nearly 2,000 years ago, see the ruins of the temple of Minerva, and explore the Roman Baths museum. Run by Bath & North East Somerset Council, the Roman Baths attracts more than 1 million visitors a year, making it one of the most visited heritage attractions in the United Kingdom.

About British Science Week

British Science Week is a 10-day celebration of the best of British science, technology, engineering and maths, featuring fascinating, entertaining and engaging events across the UK. British Science Week is organised by the British Science Association; funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills; and supports the Your Life campaign ( For more information visit

More tales from the river bank.

More tales from the river bank.

A packed public meeting at the BRSLI in Queen Square this week to hear Cai Mason of Wessex Archaeology talk about discoveries made during rescue work along the north bank of the River Avon near Churchill Bridge.


More than 130 people turned up for the lecture at the BRSLI in Queen Square. One of the biggest gatherings recorded.

It’s where contractors will be doing some re-shaping at the river edge as part of a flood alleviation scheme in this quarter of the city – earmarked for business and residential redevelopment.


The re-shaped bank will be set out as a park area but, in recent months, archaeologists have been uncovering the evidence of those who worked and lived by the river.


Cai Mason who led the dig.

Archaeologists uncovered and recorded the remains of  a parchment-making factory, foundry, public baths and laundry, tenement houses,  a pub and a cobbled slipway to the river.


How the river bank will look.

A careful study of maps – ancient and modern – helped them to know what to expect as the earth was removed.

This was an area – prone to flooding – which developed a bad reputation for slum dwellings and prostitution.


Cai Stands in the Bath House. This would have been a section of screened cubicles where people did their laundry and would have paid for hot river water by the bucketful.

But it was an area in which the ordinary people of Bath struggled to making a living and bring up families.

Bath Newseum was given access to the dig as it progressed. In fact, our first interview with Cai attracted five thousand hits in one day.

Though all has been recorded the remains have had to make way for the re-shaping of the bank.

All that is bar one special little piece of the past. A small stone bridge built to cross a ditch as part of improvements to an old riverside path.


The little 18th century stone bridge as excavated.

It’s hoped that it can be incorporated into the re-defined layout as a memorial to this previously unrecorded piece of Bath’s history.

Various artefacts – found during the archaeological work – are currently on display at the BRSLI in Queen Square and it’s free to go in and have a look.


They should be there for at least another week before Wessex Archaeology decide what to do with them.


Here’s a selection:





Every little helps

Every little helps

While Bath Abbey has every reason to be thankful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and philanthropists like Andrew Brownsword  in helping get their Footprint Project off the ground – there’s the day to day expenses involved in running such an historic building to take into account too.

bath abbey

Just recently l noticed the  ‘Welcome’ board outside this late 15th century gothic structure was displaying a sign suggesting slightly more in the way of voluntary donation.

Basically – it’s gone up from two pounds and fifty pence to four.


The ‘suggested donation’ board.

Thought l would just make inquiries and got the following official reply:

‘There is no charge to enter the Abbey, but we do invite visitors to make a donation at our entrance.

Every donation we receive helps enormously. As we do not receive government funding, we rely on the generosity of our visitors and our congregation to fund the work, outreach and maintenance of the Abbey.

We’ve been able to keep our suggested donation at £2.50 (or £1 per child/student) for nearly 17 years.

However, a visitor report last year which included consultation with visitors, market research coupled with inflation showed that a slight increase would be appropriate. At the start of the year, we changed our suggested donation to £4 per person (or £2.00 per child / student).

We are grateful for every donation, whatever the amount. The suggested donation is just that.

The main reason for suggesting an amount is that our experience and research has shown that many visitors find having a suggested amount more helpful than leaving it up to them.

It is important that our visitors know that their donations help us maintain the life the Abbey so that we can continue to welcome our visitors and best serve the city of Bath.’


It’s also good to know the busy Christmas season at Bath Abbey has shown just how popular this gothic wonder is with the general public.

An Abbey spokesperson told me:

‘We’ve definitely seen an increase in our general visitor figures from 2015 to 2016 in the last couple of month.’

And here’s a comparison of figures for November and December 2015 and 2016.  

                                                 2015                       2016

                November          22,170                   23,793

                December           23,272                   29,172

The Abbey provided me with the following points – which may be of interest – but stress these are approximate figures. 

•             The Abbey is full every day from Advent until Christmas Day. We can seat over 1,000 people in the Abbey and for our most popular services such as the Advent Procession, we have to ticket the service otherwise we could fill the church twice over, easily. 

•             Including our Advent service, we have around 40 different carol services and four huge Christmas concerts. All of these services and concerts are packed. A very rough estimate is approximately 24,000 people in total attend all these different services. 

•             There are 3 services on Christmas Eve and another 3 services on Christmas Day with several thousand attending in those 24 hours.

•             We also have Shoppers Carols four times a day on Saturdays during the Bath Christmas market and each service attracts around 700-1,000 people. 

•             The combination of services, rehearsals and the relatively small space of the Abbey makes November and December a very busy but amazing time for us especially as we try to make each service special. 

Everyone has a great time and there’s genuine community spirit with giving and receiving and a lot of Christmas goodwill.


Welcome home number 68!

Welcome home number 68!

Good to see that at least one of the two genuine sedan chairs – that were on display at Bath’s historic Assembly Rooms – has returned to the building after a long absence.


Bath’s Assembly Rooms.

This late 18th century Bath ‘taxi’ is one of many licensed by the Corporation and bears the registration number 68.


Sedan chair – number 68 – returns!

As the notice alongside it declares, ‘chairs such as these would have brought people to the doors of the Assembly Rooms for concerts and assemblies’.

This new form of transport – introduced from the Continent in the 16th century – was well suited to Bath’s narrow and crowded streets.


The newly conserved sedan chair is positioned just outside the ballroom.

They were used to take people to the thermal baths for treatment and also to transport them to public entertainments like concerts and balls.

By the 1850’s most sedan chairs had been replaced by wheeled bath chairs for short trips in the city and fly carriages to take people to the suburbs.


When will this one be coming back too?

The chair – now back on display – is one of two that stood in the Concert Room. Last l heard that had been sent away for detailed conservation work.

Stephen Clews – the Manager of the Pump Rooms and Roman Baths – tells me:

‘We are holding back on putting the second sedan chair back on show as a precaution. The reason they were both removed in the first place is that they were infested by a bug.

Obviously anything less than putting them in a glass case (which we would rather avoid!) means there must be some risk of them re-infestation.

So we have simply put one back to begin with and will see how it gets on, so if there is a recurrence only one will be affected.

We have put bug traps next to it so should be able to discover any re-infestation at an early stage.’

Record Office at 50!

Record Office at 50!

A celebration to mark 50 years of Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Record Office is planned for 2017.

In 1967 the Record Office first opened its doors to welcome visitors to the collections of hundreds of historic documents stored in The Guildhall.

Bath Record Office

Bath Record Office at the Guildhall.

In the early days the archive contained just the Council’s own records, but since 1967 archivists have collected many thousands of documents from local businesses, families, private and public organisations, all of which tell the story of life in Bath over the centuries.

Local residents and visitors from across the world have been fascinated to find out more about life in Bath in earlier times. The Record Office is open to all – access to the documents is free of charge and staff are always on hand to offer advice.

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “Bath Record Office is a superb resource for anyone wanting to find out about the history of Bath, whether browsing through documents in the archive, attending a family history course, or interacting with archivists at one of the roadshows taking place across Bath and North East Somerset this year

“If you haven’t visited, why not call in during 2017? There will be a series of special anniversary events, where you can meet the archivists, explore the strong rooms, and see fascinating documents relating to the history of the area and its people.”


Assistant Archivist, Lucy Powell, at  Bath Record Office.  Photographer Freia Turland

Events during January-March 2017:

The Record Office reaches 50

Wednesday 18 January, 1.10-1.45pm
The Guildhall
Talk by Colin Johnston, Principal Archivist, Bath Record Office

Discovering Bath’s archives: a researcher’s view

Wednesday 25 January, 1.10pm–1.45pm
The Guildhall
Talk by Dr Amy Frost of Bath Preservation Trust

A Record Office fit for the future

Wednesday 1 February, 1.10pm–1.45pm
The Guildhall
Talk by Gary Tuson, County Archivist of Norfolk

Advanced Family History Study Day – Understanding Archives

Friday 3 March, 10.00am-3.30pm

The Guildhall


Beginners’ Family History Day

Wednesday 15 March, 10.00am-3.30pm

The Guildhall


History At Your Feet – Bath Record Office tours

Wednesday 22 March, 10.30am and 11.30am
The Guildhall
Free but booking essential
Explore 900 years of historic archives in the Bath Record Office strong rooms in The Guildhall basement. Your tour will involve negotiating uneven floors, steps and low headroom. Call 01225 477421 or email to book.