Giving thanks for the memories.

Giving thanks for the memories.

National Lottery funding to capture a century’s memories

A community project to mark the First World Ware Centenary is being organised by B&NES thanks to an award of over £7,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. 

‘A Century’s Memories’ is part of the Council’s commemoration of the Centenary throughout 2014-2018.


King George V inspects the troops in Bath, 9 November 1917 © Bath in Time – Bath Central Library Collection.

Made possible by National Lottery players, the project starts in September and will involve small groups of older people sharing family memories and stories of the First World War passed down through the generations. 

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “Personal stories, photos and keepsakes are a powerful way of understanding what life was like in 1914-18. Older people will have memories of their parents and grandparents talking to them about service in combat or on the home front. It is very important that we share and treasure these unique stories, the last connections to a world of 100 years ago.”

The project will also involve young people and volunteers, who will learn how to research local history and record interviews with the participants. The stories will be gathered into an illustrated book in 2018.

Nerys Watts, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we’re pleased to support this project which will see stories and memories of life in Bath and North East Somerset during the First World War shared – many for the first time – and passed down through the generations.”

To find out more about Bath & North East Somerset Council’s First World War Centenary commemorations, contact  or visit

In tune with a Bath barrel organ.

In tune with a Bath barrel organ.

A famous portable barrel organ, first wheeled around the streets of Bath over 70 years ago to help raise money for the City’s original ‘Alkmaar Appeal’, may soon sound again – if enough funds can be raised to pay for its repair.

The venerable instrument – actually a barrel piano, with strings, not pipes – has resided in a place of honour in Alkmaar Town Hall for many decades after it was presented to the Dutch City by the Rotary Club of Bath.


The portable barrel organ.

While well maintained, it has not been played for decades, and is very out of tune.  Now the Bath-Alkmaar Twinning Association (BATA) wants to restore the instrument, record it playing again, and upload the historic sounds to the Association’s online digital archive.

BATA Chairman, Martin Broadbent, explained:

“The barrel organ is an historic artifact which embodies the link between Bath and Alkmaar, first forged during the Second World War.  In these politically unsettling times, remembering how two cities in different countries helped each other is arguably more important than ever. 

“We’re trying to raise £500 to allow the required work to be done, and we hope people in Bath will help us and our colleagues in Alkmaar give this wonderful old instrument its voice back.”

What the out-of-tune organ sounds like now!

Donations can be made online at

With the permission of the Mayor of Alkmaar, a trained technician has examined the barrel organ. It is in good mechanical condition, and should be re-tunable.  It seems the instrument  may have up to 10 different tunes stored on its metal barrel – more than expected.

Barrel pianos are not subtle instruments: they were designed in the 19th and early 20th centuries for public performance on the street or in pubs, long before the days of electric jukeboxes, let along personal hi-fi.

A library lesson from the past.

A library lesson from the past.

The proposed move of Bath Central Library from The Podium to the One Stop Shop in Manvers Street had prompted a letter from Anthony Beeson, who lives in Bristol and worked in the library service.

bath library

Bath Central Library

Anthony is a world-renowned expert on Roman mosaics – and a prolific writer of local history – but it’s his thoughts on the history of the library service in Bath he wants to share with us.

Here’s his letter in full.

” I was working in Bristol Library as Fine Art librarian before the birth of Avon County. Bath then had its Lending Library in what is now the Art Gallery and Museum and its Reference Library occupied a house in Queen Square. The Lending Library needed more space both for stock provision and to fully function. Bath Reference library had a fine historic city collection accumulated over a long period.


This photograph of Anthony Beeson was taken in the basement Art Reference stack in 1997. He tells me that many of Bath Reference library’s weeded books were added to the stock of the Bristol Art and Reference libraries. Following the take over of the Bristol Central Library’s lower floors by the Cathedral school after 2013 these stacks were lost and the book-stock thinned out in order to accommodate the stock on new shelving elsewhere.

When the Podium was built under Avon to accommodate both departments the inevitable happened (as it always seems to in such cases) that the provision of storage space for the Reference collections was insufficient for the existing book stock. Poor Maria Joyce, who was the excellent Reference Librarian, was forced to jettison a great deal of Bath’s historic book stock, which was then sent to Bristol Central Library for dispersal.

Much the same thing happened at Weston super Mare Reference Library as well, as Bristol Library was Avon county’s central library, and withdrawn stock was sent into College Green for disposal.

That was before the days when books could legally be sold on and so any ex-library stock was literally disposed of. I grabbed as much of Bath’s stock as I could for the art department and this included anything that I could save if it was on the border line of my subject range.

The Reference library also did its best, but much was torn up by the stack staff dealing with it as they were not allowed to resell or pass it on. I am unable to damage books so you may well imagine how terrible it was to see sometimes 18th century volumes in pieces in the waste bins.


A possible view of part of the proposed new library set up in Manvers Street.

I fear that if this new move from the Podium goes ahead, the same lack of provision for existing stock will occur. It has occurred recently in Bristol with the usurpation of the book stacks by the Cathedral School at College Green. The authority gets over the withdrawal of books by saying that thinning the book stock is a natural part of a librarian’s duties, ignoring the fact that the exercise is really only to fit onto reduced shelving space.

Nowadays of course the excess will be sold at knock down prices to dealers and the public. Bath citizens must ensure that the new location for the library has the same amount of storage space for stock as at the Podium, if its library service is not to suffer another blow.’

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.