Roman removal men!

Roman removal men!

When it comes to calling in the removal men – there is one particular job in Bath that really takes the cake.

Cliveden Conservation were contacted by B&NES to help the Roman Baths to carefully empty their subterranean store below York Street of hundreds of large fragments of Roman Masonry.


The removal operation is underway in passages lying beneath the road surface of York Street

This is in order to enable repairs to be carried out to strengthen the structure supporting the York Street carriageway which has been assessed as having inherent weaknesses.


The specially created gangway to enable the blocks of masonry to be taken out across the footings of two original Roman walls.


Part of the original roof above the Great Bath.

It’s an operation that involves lifting and moving stones weighing up to ¾ of a tonne – 750kgs – and moving them across a specially-created scaffold pathway – laid across the top of important Roman remains –  then up through a small staircase and out of the side Swallow Street access to the Baths complex.

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Some of the pieces of masonry that have to be moved.

The material is being stored at the Council’s Pixash Lane Archaeological Depot in Keynsham until the work is done.


The stored material has been taken to the Pixash Lane Depot in Keynsham.

The area being cleared will eventually form part of the Archway Project – an ambitious undertaking, with Heritage Lottery funding, which will create  new Learning and World Heritage Centres in nearby buildings – and open up archaeological areas of the Roman complex not previously seen by the wider public.


A model showing the proposed conversion of the old laundry in to a Learner Centre and World Heritage Centre.

I asked Andy Hebden from Cliveden Conservation to explain exactly what they were doing.

Letting history take root.

Letting history take root.

Bath is a city of trees and this is certainly the time of year to view them at their best. However, while London Planes may tower above The Circus, there are three much more humbles tree specimens currently pleasing one local lady.

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Audrey’s still a volunteer greeting visitors to Bath Abbey.

Audrey Woods is a great lover of Bath’s history and heritage. She has just retired after forty years as a member of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides and has always enjoyed telling people about the city’s Georgian and Roman past.

Tours that have often involved pointing out some of the many brass plaques above doorways which indicate where some of the big names of history may have lived or visited.

Bath plaques

An example of a commemorative plaque erected to mark the home of Elizabeth Linley.

Not all the plaques are quite so grand. Three much more modest examples lie in front of three trees planted to remember a group of  early 20th century visitors who helped make history –  by standing up and fighting for their rights.

We’re talking about the Suffragette Movement which campaigned for votes for women in the years leading up to the First World War.

Bath was not a major centre of protest and had little of the activist displays seen in London and other cities but it did play its part in helping some of the women involved in this fight for equal voting rights.


Rose Lamartine Yates planting a tree with Annie Kenney looking on, taken by Col Linley Blathwayt of Eagle House, 1909 ©

Audrey told me about the Blathwayt family – who lived at Eagle House in Batheaston – and who offered their home to suffragettes who wanted to recuperate from the harsh treatment they received when imprisoned for their political activism in support of votes for women.

Many of them were force-fed when on hunger strike to protest against their conditions.

At Eagle House the suffragettes were encouraged to plant a tree in the grounds. There were sixty planted but this historic arboretum made way for a housing estate in 1960 – although one towering Austrian Pine does remain.

A view of the arboretum at Eagle House 1909. © Bath in Time

Audrey said that former B&NES Councillor and Heritage Champion Bryan Chalker – having found out about the story – had helped arrange to have     three new trees planted – back in 2011 – to commemorate the suffragettes at Eagle House. They were sited in Alice Park, Royal Victoria Park and Bath Spa University.

Since then Audrey has been keen to ensure the saplings and their story was not forgotten.

She had no idea if the tree at Bath Spa University was still alive, was unhappy about the condition of the tree in Victoria Park and worried about wire encasing the fir in Alice Park.


The tree in Victoria Park has been moved to a more prominent site but Audrey took this photograph while the plaque was still in the old position.”I found it very moving – last December – when l found someone had taken time and trouble to find a sliver of wood and write. ‘Thank you ladies’ on it “. © Audrey Woods

This week her concerns have been laid to rest. She took a tour of the three sites with the Mayor of Bath, Cllr Paul Crossley and last year’s Mayor, Cllr Will Sandry.

The tree in Victoria Park has been moved to a new, more prominent, site at the entrance to the Botanic Garden – where it has pride of place.


The commemorative tree at Bath Spa’s Newton Park campus. © Audrey Woods

The tree at Newton Park is in fine health  and, at Alice Park,  Audrey only allowed the Mayor and former Mayor to pose for a picture after she’d ensured the plaque – in front of the young fir – had been polished. A friend called Joy Roberts had seen to that!


L to R. The Mayor of Bath, Cllr Paul Crossley and former Mayor, Cllr Will Sandry with the tree at Alice Park. Complete with shiny brass plaque and NO wire enclosure. © Audrey Woods

How not to get lost in a listed building.

How not to get lost in a listed building.

Bath Preservation Trust has today launched a new publication giving guidance on how to make changes to listed buildings in Bath.

Endorsed by Historic England and B&NES Council’s Historic Environment team, the Bath-specific publication aims to assist householders who are thinking about changing or adapting their listed building and want guidance on best practice and how to go about getting the relevant permissions.

Authored by the Trust’s Conservation Officer Joanna Robinson, the easy-to-read guide has two main sections, one looking at an overview of listed buildings and how to approach making changes, and the second looking in detail at individual house features such as paintwork, ironwork, roofs, windows etc. There is also a ‘jargon-busting’ glossary to assist in the understanding the planning system.


Chairman of Bath Preservation Trust, Thomas Sheppard, said at the publication’s launch today at No. 15 Great Pulteney:

“Much of Bath’s heritage is looked after by private individuals, carrying the cost of repairing and maintaining their listed homes to secure these heritage assets for the future. Bath Preservation Trust wishes to help householders have the information readily available to do the best for their properties and to ensure the conservation of the city into the 21st Century and beyond”.

Trust Chief Executive, Caroline Kay, said:

“Bath is a very special place and Bath’s 5000 listed properties need specific advice. We are delighted to be able to provide this and are grateful to Historic England and the World Heritage Site Enhancement Fund for supporting the publication of this guidance. The Trust will also continue to give free advice to individual householders by ‘phone or email when we can, so this supplements rather than substitutes for our continuing service to the people of Bath”.

Hard copies are obtainable by sending a stamped (£1.50) self-addressed A4 envelope to Sacha Hunter, Bath Preservation Trust, 1 Royal Crescent Bath BA1 2LR together with a suggested donation to Bath Preservation Trust of £5, to support the free advice that BPT continues to offer householders. Copies will also be given through estate agents, lawyers and architects’ firms to new purchasers of listed buildings in Bath or those intending to make changes to their buildings. Professional companies dealing with such clients are invited to order copies from the Trust.

A PDF of the publication can be downloaded (free) from

The Trust is extremely grateful to its sponsors as follows:

Publication sponsors:

Historic England

The public body that looks after England’s historic environment.  It champions historic places, helping people understand, value and care for them.

World Heritage Site Enhancement Fund

The fund is a partnership between the World Heritage Site Steering Group, B&NES Council and Bath Preservation Trust.

It has three aims:

  • to initiate and organise minor enhancements to Bath’s heritage;
  • to assist and encourage others to undertake such work;
  • to organise volunteers for the same purpose.

Launch sponsor:

No. 15 Great Pulteney

Bath’s newest boutique townhouse hotel

Bath Preservation Trust

Bath Preservation Trust is a local amenity group and registered charity. It was set up in 1934 to safeguard the historic city of Bath, now the only complete city in the UK afforded World Heritage Site status. Its aims are:

  • to encourage and support the conservation, evolution and enhancement of Bath and its environs within a framework appropriate both to its historic setting and its sustainable future, and
  • to provide educational resources, including museums, which focus on the architectural and historic importance of the city.   Twitter  Facebook  Instagram

Go ahead given for redeveloping last part of Walcot Yard.

Go ahead given for redeveloping last part of Walcot Yard.


Planning permission to redevelop the North Range building in Walcot Yard has been granted by Bath and North East Somerset Council. It’s the last part of the old yard left for developers to tackle.

Walcot Yard, a site off Walcot Street in the centre of Bath, comprises three main components: The North Range, the Riverside Buildings (North and South) and Upper Yard.

The site is within the City of Bath Conservation Area, the World Heritage Site and is close to a number of listed buildings.

The application to redevelop the building was submitted by planning, design and regeneration consultancy Nash Partnership on behalf of the site’s owners, London & Argyll Developments, who purchased the yard from Bath City Council in 1996.

The North Range component of the yard is in poor structural condition. Studies supporting the recent planning application show the building’s conversion would require the replacement of most of its structural elements.

In 2009, the Council granted planning permission for the re-development of the upper part of the yard – subject to the conclusion of a Section 106 legal agreement for planning obligations. This scheme, which includes a courtyard of eight three-bedroomed houses, is being commenced by Bath-based developers Kersfield.

The recent permission addresses the last part of the yard, known as the North Range. This is the site of former workshops which look only onto the yard, and into the riverside gardens of Ladymead House, now in residential use.

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The North range

The replacement has been designed by Nash Partnership. It will be three storeys and create a row of terraced houses down the site using the same materials and colours that have brought character to the yard in recent decades.

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The proposed row of terraced houses.

Commenting on the permission, Nash Partnership’s Director of Planning Mike Fox said: “After nearly ten years of inactivity, Walcot Yard will be able to contribute to the vibrant and diverse range of shops and small-scale, independent businesses nearby. The North Range scheme will provide a distinctive new development of seven townhouses, which maximises the site’s use and minimises the impact upon surrounding heritage assets.

Providing new housing in this central location will also help to foster more sustainable lifestyles by providing housing within easy access to jobs, shops and services by foot, bicycle and public transport – a key Council policy aim.”

Bath’s heritage blooms amongst the flowers.

Bath’s heritage blooms amongst the flowers.

Many of  Bath’s museums and heritage interests took part in an open air celebration of World Heritage Day in the city’s Parade Gardens – alongside the River Avon and just below Pulteney Weir.


Looking down on part of the Heritage Day display in Parade Gardens.

It was a fitting location. as this year’s celebratory theme was ‘Waters of Bath’ and activities focused on the past, present and future use and significance of Bath’s hot springs, river and canal network.


This year’s celebrations included a marquee for special talks on local history and heritage subjects.

This year has special importance for Bath as the city celebrates 30 years of being a World Heritage Site.


Stuart Burroughs – who is Director of The Museum of Bath at Work – giving a talk about Bath’s bridges in the heritage site marquee. One of many lectures about local heritage and history.


The Cleveland Pools Trust display.

For the first time, there was a programme of short talks in a specially erected marquee. Local experts explored different aspects of the water theme, including the medicinal use of spa water, the importance of the waterways in the Georgian development of the city, Bath’s cold water springs and minor spas, the use of thermal water to heat the Abbey, and the history of Bath’s river crossings.

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Robert Delius – Author of ‘Waters of Bath’.

Amongst exhibitors was Robert Delius – a local architect with Stride Treglown – who is campaigning for more street-based water features to celebrate the city’s debt to its springs and river.

He had put together a 42 page report – entitled ‘The Waters of Bath” – to circulate amongst interested parties and , in catching up with him today (Sunday, April 23rd) it seems there have been some encouraging developments.

There was also plenty to keep younger visitors busy in the Parade Gardens – including a cardboard model of the Pulteney Bridge for them to complete by adding windows.


Some of the youngsters helping to put windows onto the cardboard model of Pulteney Bridge – part of the display by Bath Preservation Trust.

Plus guided tours offered by the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides, a walk to the Cleveland Pools and even a two hour National Trust trek to the Bath Skyline.


The Mayor of Bath’s Honorary Guides display and meeting point.

Even more exhibits underneath part of the Colonnades – a derelict area which may come back to life. That’s if plans to attract restaurants and extend the Victoria Gallery come to fruition.


Bath’s Record Office display in the Colonnades.

The city’s Record Office – currently closed (until June 5th} for redecoration and incorporation of the Local Studies Reference Collection from Bath Central Library – chose various stories from the archive collection to do with the river and local springs for their display.


Colin Johnston – Principal Archivist at the City’s Record Office.

Colin Johnston – who is is the Principal Archivist – told me they had deliberately chosen their niche in the Colonnades because it features in two old photographs in their collection.

Photographs showing it as a special water-based destination – as Colin explained.

How Bath’s heritage pays its way.

How Bath’s heritage pays its way.


While, on the one hand, the city’s summer tourist crowds might be a little difficult to manoeuvre through – on the other it has to be said that the attractions they come to see are big earners for the local authority.

Bath tourist

The tourist season in full swing.

In a report – prepared for next week’s Bath and North Somerset District Council’s Cabinet meeting – Wednesday, April 12th – members will read:

Heritage Services generates external income for the Authority of over £18 million p.a. If the stretch target is achieved, this will increase to £20.5 Million p.a. by 2022. This income is a strategic resource for the Authority, and represents a direct contribution to its finances from the local visitor economy.

There are also indirect contributions via parking fees and the impact on rental values of Commercial Estate shops. The economic impact survey undertaken by the University of Bath in 2012 indicated that the Roman Baths levers £107 Million p.a. into the local economy.’

roman baths

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

That’s an awful lot of money and, because the ‘department’ has been retained as an ‘in-house’ service, that has meant an annual profit growing by over 100% in the years from 2005/06 to 2016/17.

This Authority is unique in the country in operating its museums service at a net surplus (“profit”). The net surplus earned for the Council by Heritage Services since the inception of Bath and North East Somerset Council has totalled c.£79 Million.

In the financial year 2017/18 the target profit of £6.075 Million represents a reduction in each Council Tax bill in the district of c.£77. For example, the average Band D Council Tax bill would be c.£89 higher without this contribution to the Council’s

The Council’s still keen to make savings and in this new 5 year plan Heritage Services ‘incorporates two new Strategic Review initiatives totalling £340k. A further £50k p.a. will be removed from the cost base following an internal review.’

The report also states how aware the Council must be of assumptions regarding visitor numbers ,and how much they spend,  ‘together with the increasing difficulty that will be experienced in achieving further increases in profit in future years. The annual profit targets contained within the Plan are challenging, and their achievement is subject to a range of sensitivities and risks, including both local factors and world events.’

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The joint ‘saver’ ticket to the Roman Baths and Fashion Museum appears to have been a success. The report says: ‘The ticket to the Roman Baths and Fashion Museum was extended in 2015/16 to include admission to the Victoria Art Gallery’s large temporary exhibition programme. Gallery opening hours were temporarily extended in 2016 to align with those at the Roman Baths and Fashion Museum; this experiment was found to be commercially beneficial and the new opening hours have been made permanent.’

Money continues to be spent on the infrastructure pf the Roman Baths and Pump Room complex, ‘such as monument and building conservation, and will include in 2017/18 replacement of the site’s electrical distribution panel, which is old and at full capacity, and the replacement of the energy capture equipment installed in 1992 with a new state-of-the-art system below water-level in the King’s Bath.’

Here’s a bit more ‘forward planning’ involving the Roman Baths, Fashion Museum and Victoria Art Gallery.

‘Roman Baths Development: during the lifetime of the five-year plan, proposals will be drawn up to review and bring forward investment proposals to update the first round of ‘Roman Baths Development’ revenue and capital investment instituted in 2006-2011, including a major refit of the main Roman Baths Shop.

Fashion Museum: work will continue with the Regeneration Team and Property Services on a strategy for the sustainable long-term success of the Museum, now considered one of the top 10 fashion museums in the world. This will seek to build on the burgeoning scale and reputation of the Bath Spa University Fashion & Textiles courses, with which the Museum has a mutually beneficial partnership.

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 Victoria Art Gallery: work will continue on the current investigation into the business case for extending the Gallery into the void behind it and potentially connecting with the riverside colonnade and Guildhall complexes on either side, to reduce the Gallery’s carbon footprint and make it more financially sustainable.’

On the negative side – and this is where the Cabinet report lists some of its ‘risk management’ items. There are three paragraphs of interest – including  concern as to how much the noise of structural repairs in York Street will affect the quality of a daytime visit to the Roman Baths.

‘Significant economic, environmental or geo-political events during 2017/18 could cause a drop in visitor numbers with an adverse impact on income and therefore profit returned to the Council.


York Street closure.

The closure of York Street for structural repairs will not impair access to the Roman Baths and Pump Room complex for daytime visitor numbers or people attending evening functions. However coach groups offloading at North Parade may be re-routed via Orange Grove and Marshal Wade’s Passage into Abbey Church Yard. As groups are nearly all pre-booked the Service has contact with them and will be able to give them prior warning.

A bigger concern will be the effect of noise from construction work on the quality of the daytime visit to the Roman Baths. Evening work in York Street could also disrupt civic, corporate and private functions in the Baths below and ‘sunrise weddings’ at 8am could also be affected. Evening work will also affect the evening torchlit opening which extends to 10pm between 17 June and 31 August.’

It all makes interesting reading and , just to remind you:

‘This Authority is unique in the country in operating its museums service at a net surplus (“profit”). The net surplus earned for the Council by Heritage Services since the inception of Bath and North East Somerset Council has totalled c.£79 Million.’ 




New attractions at Bath’s Thermae Spa

New attractions at Bath’s Thermae Spa

They’ve been busy putting the finishing touches to the newly re-modelled second floor at Bath’s Thermae Spa – a major tourist attraction which is currently celebrating its tenth anniversary.


Last minute preparations for today’s opening.


One of the new and Georgian-themed steam rooms.

The middle-section – containing steam rooms – has been closed for some time while the old attractions are replaced with something new.


Guests get a chance to see the new Bath Thermae Spa attractions.


A sneak look around at what’s new.

People will be able to see for themselves from today, March 31st – but Bath Newseum went along for a sneak preview and a chat with Thermae Bath Spa’s Sales and Marketing Manager, Peter Rollins.