It’s our heritage!

It’s our heritage!


Local people and visitors are invited to explore Bath and North East Somerset’s fantastic heritage as venues across the area open their doors for Heritage Open Days (Thursday 7 September to Sunday 10 September 2017).

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The nationwide celebration of history, architecture and culture is a chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences – all for free.

Councillor Paul Myers (Conservative Midsomer Norton Redfield) Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to see behind the scenes at venues that are normally closed to the public – from historic buildings to gardens and museum stores.”

There will be something for all ages and interests during the four-day celebration, for example:

georgian garden

The Georgian Garden at Number 4

    • See inside No. 4 The Circus and explore its beautifully restored Georgian garden – the first of its kind in Britain
    • Take a tour of the archives and new Local Studies strong room at the recently refurbished Bath Record Office
    • Visit Cleveland Pools and learn about plans for the restoration of this Grade II listed pool – the oldest open air public pool in the country

An artist’s impression of how the restored ‘Pools’ might look like

  • Follow the Widcombe Chapel Trail to discover ancient churches, outstanding architecture and fascinating cemeteries
  • See inside the home of Haile Selassie at Fairfield House, an Italianate Victorian villa with an Arts and Crafts extension
  • keynsham roman store

    The Pixash Lane stores at Keynsham.

  • Explore archaeological finds from Keynsham, including Roman and Medieval objects, at Pixash Lane Archaeology Store
  • Visit the historic Saltford Brass Mill, complete with a working 18-foot water wheel
  • Head to Midsomer Norton Station to explore the Railway Museum, Anderson shelter and pill box

Opening dates and times vary. For more information visit

For information about the national event visit

Looking Back

Looking Back

Your chance to have a nosey around the recently refurbished Bath Record Office with a ‘Drop-In Day’ on Monday 11 September, 9am-4.30pm.

The public are invited to come and explore the revamped rooms and browse the Open Access book collection. They can also visit the new Library strongroom where hundreds of historic documents and books are stored.

The archivists and Local Studies Librarian will be on hand to welcome people and show them around.


L to R. Volunteer Kerri Sant and Hannah Tinkler,who is Project Archivist at Bath Record Office.

Councillor Paul Myers (Conservative Midsomer Norton Redfield) Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “The drop-in day is a great opportunity for anyone interested in researching local history or tracing their family tree to find out about the facilities on offer at Bath Record Office. The Record Office is a treasure trove of fascinating information about the local area, and is completely free to visit.”

Located in the Guildhall, and run by Bath & North East Somerset Council, the Record Office is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. 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.

The Council’s Local Studies collection ­– which includes local history reference books, manuscripts, maps, photographs and other historic items – was recently combined with the archives at Bath Record Office. At the same time, the Record Office was refurbished, with new public spaces, WiFi in the research rooms, and additional PCs, desks and book shelves.

Drop-in event, no advance booking required.

For more information please visit

Picnic in the Park.

Picnic in the Park.

Bet you’ve never thought about the Royal Crescent as Bath’s largest open air theatre or had the opportunity to step back in time to when this most famous of curved streets was clear of cars.

Well, just such an experience is coming your way on July 29th when costumed actors from the Natural Theatre Company in Bath will bring the lives of Georgian gentry and their servants to life.

RC Picnic in Park A5 leaflet WEB (dragged)

Come ‘Picnic in the Park’ from 11 am to 3pm, and experience a day in the life of the Royal Crescent.

RC Picnic in Park A5 leaflet WEB (dragged) 2

New chairman for Bath World Heritage Group

New chairman for Bath World Heritage Group

A new Chairman has been appointed to the City of Bath World Heritage Steering Group.

Professor Barry Gilbertson will lead the group, which brings together 22 representatives from international, national and local government, conservation, heritage, business and education organisations to oversee the management of Bath as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


As Chairman, Professor Gilbertson will be independent of Bath & North East Somerset Council, which acts as chief steward for the World Heritage Site under authority delegated from UNESCO to the UK Government through the Department of Culture, Media and Sport down to the local Council.

A Chartered Surveyor by training, his extensive career as a former equity partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and his subsequent experience as a corporate chairman or director of four public companies in Austria, Canada and the UK will support him well in this role.

He served as the 123rd President of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in 2004/5 and has held advisory roles with the United Nations Real Estate Advisory Group, the Bank of England and the UK Government. His career has taken him around the world to 34 countries and has involved responsibility for major international schemes. He currently serves on the Council of the University of Bath, holds the title of Visiting Professor at Northumbria University in Newcastle and the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester and has been a visiting lecturer at 21 universities worldwide.

Professor Gilbertson lives in Bath and is the current Chairman of the Circus Area Resident’s Association. He stood down as a Trustee of the Bath Preservation Trust in order to ensure his independence in undertaking his new important role for the city.

Professor Gilbertson said: “It would be an esteemed honour to be appointed to this role at any time. However, I feel particularly honoured to have been chosen at a time when the future of our city’s prosperity requires such a delicate balance between the protection and enhancement of our heritage and the desire to expand our office business community, supported by more housing and commerce. Our city is the only European city, other than Venice, to hold the inscription of Outstanding Universal Value for the entire urban area.

“The way that our heritage has been protected is an acknowledged example of how a modern living city can successfully coexist with an internationally acclaimed World Heritage Site. We are not our past, but Bath’s past must influence our future, as an extraordinary place to live, work and play. Our unique Roman and Georgian heritage, the Scheduled Ancient Monument sites, our more than five thousand Listed Buildings, the Hot Springs and our beautiful green countryside setting, must all be passed on safely for the enjoyment of future generations of residents and visitors alike.”

Councillor Paul Myers (Conservative, Midsomer Norton Redfield), Bath and North East Somerset Council Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “I am delighted that Professor Gilbertson has accepted this key position. His experience and expertise make him uniquely qualified to undertake this role, so crucial to the future well-being of our city. We are entering a period of significant change and the World Heritage Site Steering Group provides an essential forum to ensure that the balance between conservation and change is properly considered and maintained.”

Professor Gilbertson began his voluntary role in early July and will serve an initial three-year term.

What is World Heritage?

World Heritage Sites are defined as ‘places of outstanding universal value to the whole of humanity’. There are currently 1052 World Heritage Sites world-wide. Famous sites include The Taj Mahal, Pyramids of Giza, Great Wall of China and the Grand Canyon. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee considers adding a small number of new sites each year.

‘Outstanding universal value’ means cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries. This is defined by the extent to which                 the site meets certain criteria.

The UK signed the UNESCO World Heritage Convention in 1984. In doing so it committed to identify, protect, conserve and interpret its World Heritage Sites and pass them on to future generations. 193 state parties have signed the convention.

The City of Bath World Heritage Site

UNESCO added The City of Bath as a ‘cultural site’ to its World Heritage List on 12 December 1987.   The main reasons for Bath’s inclusion are its:

  • Roman Remains – the Roman Baths and Temple thermal establishment;
  • 18th Century Architecture – neo-classical public buildings and set-piece developments such as terraces, crescents, squares and the Circus by Palladian-inspired Bath architects;
  • 18th Century Town Planning – its innovative and cohesive ‘garden city’ concept, harmonised with its green landscape setting;
  • Social Setting – its role as a destination for pilgrimage and the social aspirations of the fashionable spa culture that created the Georgian city.

In identifying these unique qualities, UNESCO also recognised the importance of:

  • the Hot Springs – the only ones in Britain and the reason for the city’s existence;
  • the Landscape Setting – the valley of the River Avon whose hills provided the stone to build the city and form the backdrop to the city today.

A few key facts

‘World Heritage Site’ is the correct designation. The term ‘World Heritage City’ is sometimes used colloquially but has no status of its own.

Unlike many other cities that include a World Heritage Site, the whole of Bath (approx. 29 square km) and not just its historic core is inscribed. Within Europe, only Venice provides a comparable example where the entire urban area is inscribed.

Bath contains nearly 5,000 listed buildings, including the highest concentration of grade l and ll* listed buildings outside central London. This generates approximately 1,500 Planning and Listed Building Consent applications per year – undoubtedly the highest of any UK site.

66% of Bath is designated as a Conservation Area, giving a degree of statutory protection   to most of the city and its buildings.

88,859 people live within the site and approximately 4.5m people visit Bath each year, adding an estimated £380m to the local economy and supporting an estimated 10,000 jobs.

Other UK World Heritage Sites

There are 30 World Heritage Sites in the UK (and overseas territories) and 17 in England.

Other UK cities containing a World Heritage Site include Canterbury (Cathedral, St. Augustine’s Abbey and St. Martin’s Church), Durham (Castle and Cathedral), Edinburgh (Old and New Towns), and Liverpool (waterfront, commercial and cultural areas).

Within London, Maritime Greenwich, the Tower of London, Westminster Palace & Saint Margaret’s Church and Westminster Abbey all have separate World Heritage designations.

Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall in Scotland are the only Roman World Heritage Sites in the UK. They belong to a Frontiers of the Roman Empire group created in 2008.

Other west country World Heritage Sites include Stonehenge & Avebury, the Cornwall and West Devon mining landscape and the Jurassic Coast, the only ‘natural’ World Heritage Site in England.

The World Heritage emblem, designed by Belgian Michel Olyff and adopted in 1978, represents the interdependence of natural and cultural diversity.  The central square symbolizes human skill and inspiration, whilst the circle celebrates nature. The emblem is round, like the world, and symbolizes global protection for heritage of all humankind.

For more information visit





Bath Record Office recently celebrated its 50th birthday with a little help from two of the city’s oldest residents.


Alistair and Julie from Bath’s Natural Theatre Company.

Alistair and Julie – from The Natural Theatre Company – turned up to introduce Jane Austen and Beau Nash to a gathering of staff, former staff, volunteers and friends.

There were lessons in how Georgian society communicated without saying a word. It was all done through how you shook a hankie or positioned a folded or opened fan.


Cutting a celebration ‘Charter” cake is Mary Blagdon – who worked in the Record Office for 20 years. Pictured with her is the Principal Archivist Colin Johnston.

Bath Record Office – housed in the Guildhall basement – holds 900 years of local history – and recently welcomed the district’s Local Studies Collection.

The new combined service is officially called Archives and Local Studies. More information via

Take note of Jane Austen

Take note of Jane Austen

A rare £5 note, engraved with a tiny portrait of Jane Austen, is to be presented to a visitor centre dedicated to the author this month.


Detail from a note similar to the one to be presented.

The note, reputedly worth £50,000, will be given to the Jane Austen Centre, in Bath, by Graham Short, the micro-artist responsible for the engraving.

The presentation will take place at the Centre, in Gay Street, at 11am on Tuesday July 18; the 200th Anniversary of the author’s death.

The news puts an end to months of speculation that the fiver may have been put into circulation, after Mr Short paid an incognito visit to the well-known tourist attraction earlier this year.

Mr Short, who lives in Birmingham, said he visited the centre to learn more about Jane Austen as felt he “really ought to know more about her life than I do”.

He added: “It will be framed with glass on the back and the front so you can see through it.”

David Lassman, from the Jane Austen Centre said: “We’re obviously very appreciative of this gift from Graham and it will go on display where visitors to the exhibition can view it.”

Mr Short originally engraved 5mm portraits of Jane Austen on five £5 notes, along with classic quotes from her books, making each one worth thousands of pounds.


Graham Short known as the ‘world’s smallest engraver’ who engraves works of art on pin heads and the eye of a needle at his workshop near Birmingham. Picture David Parker 15.02.16

He then put four of them into circulation as a Willy Wonka type ‘Golden Ticket’, so members of the public who found them would receive an unexpected windfall.

The first £5 note was spent by Mr Short in a cafe in Blackwood, South Wales in 2016, and was discovered not far away just two weeks later.

A second one, spent in Scotland, was discovered after turning up in a Christmas card, while the third was donated back by a kindhearted pensioner to go towards a good cause.

The fourth £5 note, however, spent in Melton Mowbray, Leicstershire, has yet to be found.

The opportunity to see one of these unique engraved notes up close though, will now be afforded anyone visiting the Jane Austen Centre from July 18.

While the chance to hear Mr Short talk about his work is also on offer, when he appears at Bath’s Jane Austen Festival, which runs between 8th-17th September 2017.

Stand by Bath – for the ‘battle’ of the pews.

Stand by Bath – for the ‘battle’ of the pews.

Bath Abbey’s plans to permanently remove the 19th-century pews in the church nave – after the floor has been repaired – have not gone down well with The Victorian Society.

It’s a London-based organisation that campaigns for the preservation of Victorian and Edwardian architecture.


Looking up the centre aisle of the nave towards the East end of Bath Abbey.

This autumn – probably October – it will be sending a barrister to ‘square up’ against the Abbey’s own legal team in an ecclesiastical court hearing which will decide whether the pews stay or go.


Should they stay or should they go? The ‘battle’ for the nave pews in Bath Abbey.

Church of England churches are exempt from the requirement to obtain listed building consent from local councils. Decisions are instead made by the Chancellor of each diocese – a lawyer appointed by the church to adjudicate on these matters.

The pews were designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott – the architect of St Pancras Station and the Albert Memorial. He was one of the most successful and highly respected church architects of the period and his major restoration of Bath Abbey in 1859-74 was intended to ‘complete’ the church as it would have been if the Reformation had not stopped its construction.

Scott completed the stone fan vaulting above the nave and designed a chandelier lighting system for the church – as well as designing the pews, which were modelled on those in other 16th-century Somerset churches.

Christopher Costelloe, Victorian Society Director, said: ‘Bath Abbey is one of the best examples of Victorian church restoration by perhaps the era’s most prominent architect – Sir George Gilbert Scott.

There is no doubt that removing these pews would harm this Grade 1 listed church’s significance, and there is no need for such drastic changes in a thriving church when other options are available. The last decade or so has seen Victorian church schemes ripped out all over the country and once they’re gone they’re gone for good.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey interior

Bath Abbey has a different point of view and is at the start of a massive multi-million-pound project – boosted by the Heritage Lottery Fund – to deal with the threat of the church floor collapsing because of massive holes discovered beneath it. They have been created as a result of the six thousand odd people who have been buried below the stone flooring.

It means all the fixed furniture – including the pews – will have to be lifted as the repair is carried out – section by section – so the Abbey can stay in business throughout.

According to Charles Curnock – Director of the Footprint Project – once the floor has been stabilised and underfloor heating, powered by energy from the hot spring nearby, installed – they intend reinstating the hand-carved Corporation Pews and most of the machine-tooled pews behind them.


An illustration showing how the nave might look without its pews.

However, they want to leave the nave clear – the way it was when the church was built. It would mean people would get a clear view of the hundreds of ledger stones that have been hidden beneath the pews for nearly 180 years.

It would also give the Abbey more flexibility in how the space was used – with chairs replacing pews for seated events – allowing different layouts for gatherings big and small. It would improve access for those with disability issues and allow visitors more freedom in exploring the church.


Chairs would replace the nave pews – making for more flexible use of the space. These chairs were just spotted in the Abbey. I am not saying they would be the type that would be used.

The Victorian Society argue that the pews have protected the ancient ledger stones from heavy foot traffic and that just removing the pews from the aisles would ease the flow of visitors.


The removal of the pews would allow people to see more of the ancient ledger stones, says the Abbey. The Victorian Society says the pews have helped protect them.

They have launched an online petition – which has attracted over a thousand signatures – and say the complete removal of the nave pews would ‘ strip the Abbey of a major layer of its interest and richness, permanently harming the interior.’

Bath Abbey feels this is an opportunity to change how the floor space can be used to better serve the city, its visitors and future generations.  That an open nave will release the Abbey’s potential as a place for worship, celebration and community events in a way it previously hasn’t been able to offer.


Bath Abbey

The Victorian Society will now be a ‘party opponent’ at a Consistory Court hearing later this year, regarding the permanent removal of pews from Bath Abbey.

They will have a barrister present to argue their case before the Chancellor makes his decision.  Bath Abbey will also be legally represented.

Both sides seem confident they will win the day. A date for that has yet to be announced.