Bath’s role in a monster novel.

Bath’s role in a monster novel.

Bath finally gets around to honouring the creator of the dark gothic novel Frankenstein next week with the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to its author  Mary Shelley.

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Mary Shelley

It’ll be attached to the outside wall of the building housing the main entrance to the Roman Baths. This former Concert Hall was built on the site of a lodging house – next to the Grand Pump Room – where Mary stayed after she arrived in the city in September 1816.

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The Abbey Church Yard 1889-90. Mary lodged in the premises to the right of The Civet Cat and to the left of the Grand Pump Room. © B&NES

While she was here she attended scientific lectures by a Dr Wilkinson in the nearby Kingston Lecture Room. He suggested that one day electricity – then in its infancy – might be used to bring inanimate matter to life.

This idea resonated with Mary who had made notes of the nightmares she had during a stormy night in Switzerland earlier that year when staying with the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. Out of these experiences came the novel Frankenstein.

Mary and Percy married in December 1816. By the time Mary left Bath in February 1817 much of the novel had been written. It was published anonymously in London in January 1818. Mary died in 1851 when 54 years old.

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The former concert hall – turned Roman Baths entranceway​ now stands on the site of Mary’s lodgings. The Grand Pump Room is to the right. It’s my understanding the plaque will go on one side of the entrance way to the ticket office.

The unveiling will take place at 6pm on Tuesday, February 27th and everyone is welcome to attend.

 

 

Bath and the Suffragettes.

Bath and the Suffragettes.

A special mention for six of my fellow Mayor’s Guides who are helping to celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day by giving a special tour around the centre of Bath which will tell people more about the city’s links with the Suffragette Movement.
As this year commemorates the Suffragettes and the fact that it is 100 years since women over 30 got the vote we are concentrating on those suffragettes who are linked to Bath.
The talk is free and will last about 1 and a half hours.
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Meet Ali Barran, Anne Twitchett, Carole Boardman,  Maggie Fallon,  Lesley Castens and Joy Roberts outside the main entrance to the Roman Baths in Abbey Church Yard. at 2.30  on both Thursday, March 8th and Saturday, March 24th
Ring my bell!

Ring my bell!

Bath Abbey’s historic Tower was the site of 38 marriage proposals last year as individuals climbed 212 steps to the top of the city landmark to pop the question to their loved ones.

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Bath Abbey

The Abbey has been offering visitors tours of its Tower for nearly ten years but only launched its Romantic Tower Tours a few years ago. Since its first Romantic Tower Tour in 2012, over 180 couples have enjoyed this experience. The couples range from those who live locally to as far afield as Australia and the United States with reasons for taking the tour including being on honeymoon or wanting to celebrate a wedding anniversary. Increasingly, the Abbey’s Tower Tour Guides have reported a trend in visitors surprising their partners with marriage proposals while on a Romantic Tower Tour.

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Looking down on the Christmas Market and Roman Baths

Holly Doughty, Events and Tower Tour Lead, said: “We usually get special requests from one of the couples, so we tend to know in advance but we of course never give the surprise away. Usually, we’re hidden around the corner waiting for the “Yes!” before we appear with a bottle of champagne to congratulate the happy couple.

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Looking across to the Rec and Bath Rugby ground.

We’ve been running Romantic Tower Tours for more than five years now and usually get a couple of proposals each month but it’s always still really fun for us. The best part is that we can claim a 100% success rate. All proposals made up here have ended up with a happy engagement! At 49 metres high, surrounded by stunning 360-degree views of Bath, love definitely must be in the air up here!”

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Bath Abbey – the lantern of the west!

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, why not book a Tower Tour for two for a fun and imaginative way to celebrate the day? Tailored for two, couples will get to spend quality time together at the top of the tower enjoying glasses of champagne surrounded by spectacular views of the city. Other highlights include sitting behind the Abbey clock-face, chiming the Abbey bells and standing on top of the famous vaulted ceiling.

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A view from the top of the tower – looking towards the Guildhall.

To book a Romantic Tower Tour, contact Holly Doughty, Bath Abbey’s Tower Tour and Events Lead, today on: 01225 422462 ortowertours@bathabbey.org. Prices start from £100 (per couple) depending on timings and availability.

Bath Abbey also offers Tower Tours for individual visitors and groups. Tickets cost £8 per adult, £4 per child. The fully guided tour takes 45 – 50 minutes and tickets can be purchased from the Abbey shop on the day only. Group bookings need to be booked in advance.

For more information, please see www.bathabbey.org/towertours

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The Bath Abbey bellringers.

Top 7 facts about the Bath Abbey Tower

  1. The Abbey Tower is 49 metres tall and there is a total of 212 steps to climb before reaching to the top.
  2. Bells have been rung at the Abbey since before the 16th century, and this tradition is carried on to this day.
  3. There are ten bells in total. If an Abbey ringer from the 18th century entered the tower today, he would feel quite at home. Not much has changed: eight of the ten bells date from 1700, two smaller bells were added in 1774 to make the present ring of ten, and they still hang in the original timber frame.
  4. The heaviest bell – called the tenor – weighs about 1.7 tonnes (1,688kg) the equivalent of a 4 x 4 vehicle.
  5. In 1869, the Tenor bell unexpectedly cracked during ringing practice one night, and had to be recast. The replacement was examined by the Abbey organist, and given the go-ahead. However, when it was hauled up and reinstalled, it proved to be out of tune, so it had to be recast a second time!
  6. The Tenor bell bears the inscription: ‘All you of Bathe that hear me sound Thank Lady Hopton’s hundred pound’. What many people don’t know is that Lady Hopton only paid us £20 for the bell herself and her family were made to pay the remaining sum! But it’s her name that’s on the bell not theirs, what a clever lady!
  7. The bells are arranged in descending scale in an anti-clockwise direction and this is unusual, most towers have bells hung in a clockwise direction. This can be a little confusing for visiting bell ringers!

 

 

When Bath ‘bobbies’ went to war.

When Bath ‘bobbies’ went to war.

Seems Bath Newseum is not the only online website – dealing with history and heritage – you guys check out.

However, one of my followers – Roger Houghton – has drawn my attention to the Oldfield Park Junior School (Bath) Memorial Project site for a reason.

The youngsters have been researching the whereabouts of a memorial dedicated to Bath policemen killed during the First World War.

A terrible conflict – so costly in human life – that is being especially remembered this year as 2018 is the centenary of the end of the so-called Great War.

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On the school’s website, they explain that a memorial had been dedicated to the men in 1922 when a brass plaque was unveiled at Bath’s original police station in Orange Grove which is now a restaurant.

The police then moved to a new purpose-built station in Manvers Street where they stayed until just recently when the building was sold to Bath University. Our local bobbies moved to a depot on the Lower Bristol Road and Oldfield Park Junior School – when they enquired –  were told the memorial had been ‘placed in storage.’

Roger asked Bath Newseum to check this out and suggested – with this being a special year – maybe the plaque should be re-hung outside the old police station in Orange Grove.

I contacted Jenny Bigwood at the police press office at the Avon and Somerset Police HQ in Portishead and she said she would see what she could find out.

Within a day or so she was back with this!

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“I’m hoping this is the plaque in question? It’s on display at the Police Memorial Garden at our force HQ in Portishead, alongside the roll of officers killed on duty:”

What do Bathonians think? Should the plaque stay where it is or be brought back into the city?

 

 

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Awards for Roman Baths

Awards for Roman Baths

The Roman Baths & Pump Room has won three South West Tourism Excellence Awards: Gold for ‘Access and Inclusivity’ and ‘International Visitor Experience’ and Bronze in the ‘Venue and Business Tourism’ category.

The awards were presented last night (Thursday 1 February 2018) at a ceremony at the Riviera International Conference Centre in Torquay.

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Pictured l-r Penny Jenkins, Commercial Manager Katie Smith, Visitor Services Manager Stephen Clews, Roman Baths & Pump Room Manager

Councillor Paul Myers, Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “We are delighted with these awards, which are testament to the hard work put in throughout the year by staff at the Roman Baths to ensure an outstanding experience for all of our visitors. The Roman Baths attracts more than a million visitors every year, which in turn benefits the wider economy of Bath and the surrounding area.”

The South West Tourism Excellence Awards recognise the ongoing quality development of tourism businesses in the region. Judging is carried out by an independent panel of past winners, industry leaders and experts. The judges consider written application forms, websites and social media, and some finalists also receive a ‘mystery shopping’ visit.

The past year has seen a number of improvements at the Roman Baths. The East Baths, adjacent to the famous Great Bath, were revamped, with new projections, soundscapes and CGI reconstructions showing the Roman Baths at the height of their popularity as a working, living and leisure space.

Work will begin this year on the Archway Project, which will create a brand-new Clore Learning Centre for the Roman Baths and a World Heritage Centre, as well as opening up new areas of the Roman Baths to visitors, including a laconicum (sauna) and exercise courtyard.

Thanks to recent major redevelopments, 90% of the Roman Baths can now be accessed by wheelchair users. Visitors with hearing or visual impairments can explore the site using British Sign Language guides and tactile displays, and visitors on the autism spectrum can find detailed guidance about what to expect on the Roman Baths website.

Audioguides are available free of charge to visitors in 12 different languages, and printed information leaflets are also provided in more than 30 additional languages. In 2017, Mandarin was the most popular non-English audioguide, with more than 108,000 visitors selecting Mandarin, an increase of 7% on the previous year.

The Roman Baths and Pump Room plays host to an increasing number of out-of-hours conferences, weddings and private parties. The Council’s Heritage Services department works closely with contracted caterer Searcys to deliver events for a wide range of customers, with a strong focus on local sourcing and sustainability.

The Roman Baths will now be entered into the national VisitEngland Awards for Excellence, which will be presented on 23 April 2018 at the Assembly Rooms in Bath.

www.romanbaths.co.uk

 

 

 

Uncovering more of Roman Bath

Uncovering more of Roman Bath

The Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society have been busy under York Street – helping prepare a part of the Roman Baths complex – normally unseen by the public – for upcoming excavations. However, during February, there will be special tours for people to watch the ‘dig’ in action.

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BACAS at work on the site under York Street.

Volunteers from BACAS have been carrying out geophysical survey work – using various techniques including resistivity profiling – to try and locate the route of a Roman culvert and identify any other underground features.

They have also been using temperature measurements to try and identify any hot spots on the ground that might suggest the presence of hot spring water beneath.

The survey work has revealed some interesting results. There is a lot of variation in materials below the Roman floor levels, which suggests the Romans were doing a lot below ground in this area of the site. This includes the presence of drains that would have drained water from the baths.

The results are currently being analysed and interpreted.

Meanwhile this month, as part of the Archway Project – new tours will take visitors behind the scenes to see the largest archaeological excavations at the Roman Baths for more than 30 years.8062afa1-7e81-4595-8ef2-3c9ccef8bcf0

Highlights will include:

  • Trenches that are being excavated by the archaeologists
  • A Roman exercise area
  • An in-situ stylobate – a colonnaded walkway which contains a Roman doorway leading through to a possible row of shops, where traders might have sold memorabilia to visitors, oil for the sauna, or food and drink
  • The other side of the south wall of the Great Bath, behind the curved alcoves (exedra) where people relaxed

The areas being excavated will be transformed as part of the Archway Project into an exciting archaeological investigation zone where schoolchildren will be able to participate in hands-on archaeological activities, due to open in 2019.

The tours, that will run every 30 minutes throughout February from 10.10am-3.40pm, will be free with admission to the Roman Baths. Please give a small, optional donation to the Roman Baths Foundation to support the excavations. (Charity number: 1163044).

Trust calls for action to determine historic building’s future.

Trust calls for action to determine historic building’s future.

A call for action in determining the future of the old King Edward’s Junior School building in Bath’s Broad Street has been made by  Bath Preservation Trust.

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The old KES School – by Thomas Jelly – in Broad Street.

It follows a recent attack by vandals on what is a Grade 11* listed property which has stood derelict for years.

The Trust’s CEO Caroline Kay says:  The recent break-in, as well as causing damage to the historic structure, shows how vulnerable a property like this can be when its owner leaves it unused, increasingly derelict and potentially at risk of irreversible damage through vandalism.

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A side door has been completely smashed.

The building is Grade II*, a high level of national designation, and is on the national ‘at risk’ register.  It is a poor advertisement both for a World Heritage City and for one of the South West’s leading independent schools, who sold the building in good faith over 20 years ago.

The Local Authority need to get on the front foot to inspect its current condition and determine whether or not the owner has any intention of carrying out the extant planning permission.

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Caroline Kay, CEO Bath Preservation Trust

 Also Historic England need to do as they say on their website, where ‘their  local Heritage at Risk teams strive to find solutions for sites at risk’.  We would urge them to demonstrate to the concerned public that Historic England, the Council and the owner are working actively to address this long overdue eyesore; and if not, what they propose to do about it.