Jane – the woman behind the books.

Jane – the woman behind the books.

Bath will be joining in celebrations this year to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of writer Jane Austen – whose six major novels of love amongst the landed gentry – at the end of the 18th century – eventually brought her an international fame she didn’t live to enjoy.


One of the boards in a public exhibition of some of the city’s ‘Greats’ held alongside Bath Abbey some time ago.

Jane lived in Bath for almost six years – after her father – the Reverend George Austen  -brought the family here on his retirement.

Local historian, author and journalist Diana White has decided to organise an all-day event at St Swithin’s Church in the city on Saturday, July 22nd. It’s where the Rev Austen is buried and – in the previous church on this spot – where he married his wife Cassandra.


Diana White

She has also just published a book which takes a different approach to much of what has already been written about Jane.

The life and Times of the Woman Behind the Books’ –published by Folly Books – explores both the person she was and the world in which she lived in.


The new book on Jane Austen.

Bath Newseum asked her how hard it had been to find something new to say about Jane.

Diana – who is also a member of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides – is Chair of the Bath and Bristol Jane Austen Group. Her book is published by Folly Books and the website address is http://www.bradford-on-avon.org.uk/

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Pavement protest by Bath pro-Europe group.

Pavement protest by Bath pro-Europe group.

A pavement protest outside Bath’s Bailbrook House Hotel greeted the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd MP, when she arrived to speak at a local conservatives dinner at the Batheaston-based venue.


Some of the banners.



Protesting outside Bailbrook Hotel where Amber Rudd was speaking at a local conservative dinner. Lively protest from Bath For Europe. Pictured here is Klaus Riekemann – one of the older protesters at 76. 

It was organised by members of the Bath for Europe group who have sent some photographs of their protest against Brexit for the Bath Newseum to publish.


The youngest protester arrived with her father and grandfather.




Wall of names finally reveals its story

Wall of names finally reveals its story

The mystery of the names  – inscribed on the side wall of the old and derelict school building in Bath’s Broad Street – has finally been solved.

It was built in 1754 to house King Edward’s School and was in use through to  1990 when the last of the pupils still based there left to  join their already relocated colleagues in a move to the school’s new 14 acre North Road site.

Since then the Grade 11• listed property in the city centre has remained empty. Sold for development – plans to turn it into an hotel or pub/restaurant have so far come to nothing.

Recently, I was in the car park behind York Buildings and could see the side of the old school wall above the boundary wall of the parking lot.


Quite a few names are carved into the side wall.

Etched into its surface – in very neat carved writing – are the names of various people and a range of early 20th century dates alongside them.

I wondered if these were former pupils at the school and hoped someone would read the piece l published and confirm – one way or the other.

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The names of former pupils at the old King Edward’s School.

Imagine my delight when l heard from two gentlemen – with a real interest in local history and a strong connection with the school. Dr John Wroughton is a former headmaster at KES and Mark Rutherford a former Chairman of the School’s Governors.


Former headmaster Dr John Wroughton (L) and Mark Rutherford, Former Chairman of KES Governors (R) outside the old school building in Broad Street.

Between them they have come up with a fascinating account of life before, during and after the First World War.

John told me: ‘ You have uncovered a fascinating piece of the school’s history…. During the period in question (1900-1920) the school (in Broad Street)  numbered around 160 boys. This included a very small Sixth Form, out of which one or two progressed each year to university.

It is highly probable that the privilege of inscribing your name on the wall was restricted by the headmaster – Mr E.W.Symons – to Sixth Form leavers. These would be boys who had distinguished themselves. They – or their parents -would then pay either the caretaker or a craftsman from outside to undertake the task.’


A closer look at some of the names carved into the Bath stone.

John and Mark then brought these names to life for me. The ten inscribed names on my images apparently went on to distinguished careers –  P.Dalzell became a surgeon, J.E.S.Read a BBC radio engineer, H.Cooper became a teacher, K.M.Waite was an electrical engineer, M.T.Shackell a farmer, K.W.Calvert a surveyor and M.J.Huntley went into hospital management for which he was awarded the MBE. Four of these had previously made it to university.

‘By then, however, six of the boys had endured the agony of fighting on the front in the First World War. King Edward’s had been one of the first schools in the country to form an Officer Training Corps during the Boer War in 1900 with half the school enrolled as members – including the six mentioned above.’


The side wall of the old school building.

John told me that this helped to account for the fact that no fewer that 560 Old Edwardians served in the war – 74 of who were killed in action.

‘The six boys who had inscribed their names, however, all survived although three were badly wounded – namely W.F.Darke (awarded a MC at Gallipoli), S.F.Simpkin ( who also gained a MC for bravery in France) and M.J.Huntley (on the front line in France).’

‘There is quite a bit more detail on all these boys. but we have extracted what we feel is the most interesting.’


Dr John Wroughton and Mark Rutherford. The gentlemen who have solved the ‘names’ mystery!

Gentlemen. Thank you for that.

Meanwhile, the building remains on the ‘Heritage at Risk Register’ – though repair work to the roof has at least reduced the risk to the property.

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The old King Edward’s School building.

What future for it? And for the reminder of those lives etched in stone?

Incidentally, King Edward’s School was not alone in chiselling the names of high achievers on a wall. There is apparently a similar tradition at Eton and at Winchester College.

Your say on that cable car idea.

Your say on that cable car idea.

People have been giving their opinions this week at a number of  organised information events on proposed transport improvements – including a cable car – that would link the city centre to the new housing development of Mulberry Park in the south of Bath.

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This ties in with the redevelopment by Curo – a property developer and social housing landlord – of the old Foxhill MOD site which is now known as Mulberry Park.

Though the company has been considering  all transport options – including improvements to local bus services and encouraging more walking and cycling – it is the idea of a possible cable car aerial route into town – carrying up to 800 people an hour – that has attracted most attention.

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Bath Newseum caught up with visitors to a display Curo had organised in Brunel Square – alongside Bath Spa Station.

I must apologise for the quality of the picture. The camera was dropped and the lens damaged. It means not all the images are in clear focus.

Curo say new transport improvements are required to help address key city challenges, including poor air quality, traffic congestion and the need to link people with jobs.

  I have asked for an interview with Curo’s Chief Executive, Victor da Cunha, and am awaiting a reply. In the meantime he has been quoted as saying  “During our public consultations at Mulberry Park, transport was often raised as an issue.  We believe that housing cannot be looked at in isolation and that a holistic approach to local residents’ quality of life and the sustainability of the whole city is important 


Victor da Cunha, Chief Executive, CURO.

“As a landlord and landowner in Bath, we have commissioned specialist planning and engineering firm Arup and a group of expert sub-consultants to identify and analyse potential transport solutions that could improve links between Mulberry Park/Foxhill and the centre of the city, providing a more efficient, reliable and affordable connection to jobs, education, leisure facilities and the central transport hubs.”

“We look forward to sharing these ideas at the exhibition and hearing people’s views.” 

For those unable to attend the events all of the information will be available via www.southbathtransportoptions.co.uk from March 30th where members of the public can also leave feedback.


Oldfield ‘pitch’ a winner?

Oldfield ‘pitch’ a winner?

Fourteen budding young entrepreneurs from Oldfield School, Bath, faced their very own ‘Dragons’ Den’ when they presented their business plans to members of the Rotary Club of Bath in a bid to win a “Top Business of the Year” award.

The young people, in four teams, had all reached the final of ‘The Big Pitch’, a Rotary Club project aimed at introducing pupils aged 13 and 14 to the challenges and enjoyment of running their own business. 

The finalists were chosen after an initial Enterprise Challenge Day in the school last October, involving 230 pupils, before the Big Pitch competition, in which 65 pupils in 14 teams took part.


The Big Pitch finalists.

All  the finalists created a successful mini-enterprise making and selling actual goods to friends, family, and the general public.   Products produced by the mini-Lord Sugars and James Dysons included cup-cakes, magic tricks, and self-contained jars of recipe ingredients.  The young people set up stalls and sold their products at various locations between November and February, including their school Christmas Fair and Green Park market in the City centre.

The Oldfied School teams gave presentations to an audience of 40 Rotary Club members, who voted for the winning team based on the success and sustainability of the business, and the quality of the presentation. Eventual winners were the  “Nifty Gifts” team, who created jars containing recipes and all the ingredients required to make a delicious meal.

Big Pitch organiser Richard Bush, of the Rotary Club, said he and colleagues had been very impressed by the creativity, energy and stamina of all the pupils who formed their own companies:

“Creating a business is not easy, and it’s even harder to keep it going.  The young people really embraced the challenge with verve and style, learning things like stock control, marketing, budgeting and the importance of teamwork.

 “They’ve told us the experience has shown that running a business can be fun, as well as an exciting challenge, and more now feel motivated to consider Business Studies for their GCSEs.” 

Oldfield School Head, Steven Mackay, said the involvement of members of the Rotary Club had made the whole project much more realistic for the young people:

“We’re very grateful to the team from the Rotary Club of Bath, who have put a huge number of hours over many weeks to support the students as they ran their businesses.  

“Having the chance to chat with people with experience of actually working in and running a business has been hugely motivating, and taught the teams new skills which will help them in the future, whatever they end up doing.”


Name that ‘Roman’ tile!

Name that ‘Roman’ tile!

The Roman Baths Foundation has launched a Sponsor a Tile appeal to support the Archway Project and future education and conservation projects at the Roman Baths.

This is a unique opportunity for local residents and visitors to the Baths to make and leave their own individual mark and message of support on a virtual tile for this ground-breaking project, which will transform on-site education at the Roman Baths.  

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A long section through the Archway Project scheme.

Sponsoring a tile is low-cost, quick and easy. For a minimum donation of £5, virtual tiles can be customized with a  ‘scratched’ design or even a paw print, just like the traditional Roman builders (and their dogs) would have done 2,000 years ago.

Historically, the actual tiles were decorated with patterns made by wooden combs, to roughen up the surface so the mortar would stick well. There is even an original brick with a dog’s paw print in the collection. From this one print, local school pupils have calculated the likely height, weight and type of dog.

Money received through Sponsor a Tile will help the Roman Baths to open an exciting new Access Zone to the general public. This will extend the visitor experience at the Roman Baths, Britain’s most stunning Roman monument. These hidden and exciting in-situ Roman remains have never been seen by the wider public before.

They include a laconicum (sauna) and exercise courtyard. Contributions will be put towards various aspects of conservation and presentation such as lighting, display equipment and archeological investigations. 

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Roman laconium (sauna). © The Roman Baths Museum, Photographer Freia Turland

The Access Zone is one element of the Archway Project. Situated above the former Victorian spa laundry in Swallow Street, the new facilities will increase the space dedicated to education at the Roman Baths by 400%. Two new classrooms will enable the Roman Baths to develop formal and informal learning programmes, engaging a wide range of communities and audiences.

The new Learning Centre will be connected to the Roman Baths by an undercroft that passes through Roman remains beneath York Street. An underground Investigation Zone will provide hands-on access to Roman remains through facilitated learning sessions. 

The Roman Baths Foundation is a charitable company set up to raise funds for conservation and education work at the Roman Baths. Fundraising for the Archway Project is its first flagship project. 

David Beeton, Chairman of the Roman Baths Foundation, said: “Sponsor a Tile is a low-cost way to support vital education and conservation work at the Roman Baths, as well as a unique way to leave a personal mark on the Archway Project.”

To sponsor a tile visit www.romanbaths.co.uk/sponsor-tile


Bath’s doorway shame.

Bath’s doorway shame.

A double-decker bus has been turned into a shelter for the homeless.

It’s a news story – covered by the BBC – from the Isle of Wight where charity worker Kevin Newton has created a ‘Bus Shelter’ to help those sleeping rough.

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What a great idea. And a refuge that can be driven around to where it is needed.

Here in Bath we tend to moan about the gulls above our heads but choose to ignore the individuals sleeping in empty shop doorways at our feet.


Sleeping rough in Bath.

It is a disgrace for a so-called civilised society and it is time the city called a meeting of all interested parties to come up with a solution – and find the funding – to help get those living rough into new homes and real futures.

Are we not ashamed to show our millions of annual visitors the poor souls bedded down amongst the terraces and crescents of Georgian splendour and ‘palaces’ of consumer spending.

A double-decker bus shelter parked down on the Cattle Market car park would be a good start.

A collection at rugby and football matches – plus another road race specifically organised to help the city’s homeless – might be a way of giving this new ‘push’ some great publicity.

Maybe we should look up from our mobile phone screens and take note of the carved relief on The Min above our heads. It is a social and charitable message for today too.


The Good Samaritan – a relief above the extension to ‘The Min’ in Upper Borough Walls, Bath.

Read the BBC story via http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-38055088