One Bath ‘taxi’ that’s poles apart!

One Bath ‘taxi’ that’s poles apart!

Tuesday morning finds me fulfilling my duties as a member of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides and pleased today to be able to take my group of Italian, Spanish and Israeli visitors on a tour of the (Upper) Assembly Rooms.

assembly rooms

The A-board outside tells you if the ‘historic rooms’ are open to view.

You have to check the A board outside the entrance to see if it’s a  good day for a visit. If it says historic rooms ‘open’ you can sign in your group and show them around this Georgian centre of entertainment – designed by John Wood Junior – and opened in 1771.

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The second sedan chair is back in place!

Imagine my pleasant surprise to be greeted – in the central crossing point between rooms – by the return of the second of the two genuine sedan chairs that have been on display here for years.

Both were taken away after it was discovered they were suffering from an insect infestation. The first of the two came back last December after treatment – and now the second has been returned.

sedan chair

Sedan chair – number 68 – returned last December.

These late 18th century Bath ‘taxis’ were licensed by the Corporation and would have brought people to the doors of the Assembly Rooms for concerts and balls.

This ‘new’ form of transport – introduced from continental Europe in the 16th century – was well suited to Bath’s narrow and crowded streets.

They were used to take people to the thermal baths for treatment and also to transport them to public entertainments like concerts and balls.

By the 1850’s most sedan chairs had been replaced by wheeled bath chairs for short trips in the city and fly carriages to take people to the suburbs.

That chandelier moment!

That chandelier moment!

Twice a year the very expensive Georgian crystal glass chandeliers at the Assembly Rooms are lowered towards the floor for cleaning and maintenance.
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The chandeliers in the Ballroom in their lowered position.

They are amongst the most important to have survived from the 18th century. The five in the ballroom and three in the Tea Room are by William Parker of Fleet Street.
It’s always been the same operation. Though we change light bulbs rather than candles.
Originally those little wax fed flames were capable of giving seven hours service for a ball – leaving four hours burning time for a concert.
Today’s illuminators last a little longer!
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Looking towards the Ballroom.

Jonathan Collett made an earlier set for the Ballroom but, one month after the opening in 1771, an arm collapsed – nearly hitting artist Thomas Gainsborough. They were dismantled and salvaged to form a single chandelier in the Octagon – to illuminate the card players!
Wedding awards for Bath venues.

Wedding awards for Bath venues.

Two of Bath’s historic venues have been recognised in the UK Wedding Awards 2017.

The Assembly Rooms was named Best City Wedding Venue, while the Roman Baths and Pump Room won Best Historic Wedding Venue.

roman baths

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

Organised by Hitched, Perfect Wedding and You & Your Wedding magazines, the awards recognise the very best of the UK wedding industry. 

Despite thousands of entries from all over the UK, the two Bath venues were shortlisted in January 2017 and a public vote decided the winners.

assembly rooms

The Fashion Museum occupies the basement at the Assembly Rooms.

Cllr Patrick Anketell-Jones, (Conservative, Lansdown) Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “We are lucky in Bath to have such inspiring spaces available for weddings and private events. The venues’ history, unique surroundings, quality food and excellent service all contributed to winning these awards.”

Bath’s Historic Venues (part of Bath & North East Somerset Council) manages private hire for the Assembly Rooms, Roman Baths and Pump Room, Guildhall and Victoria Art Gallery. All are available for weddings, parties and corporate events.

For details visit www.bathvenues.co.uk or call Bath’s Historic Venues on 01225 477786.

In search of Bath chairs.

In search of Bath chairs.

The return – after conservation work –  of at least one of the original sedan chairs to its usual resting place in Bath’s Assembly Rooms has prompted some of you to set me looking for others in the city.

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The newly conserved sedan chair is positioned just outside the ballroom.

Sally Helvey tells me she remembers seeing one at the Royal Crescent Hotel – which l did manage to find tucked under a staircase – and was kindly allowed to photograph. No one seems to know much about its history.

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The sedan chair at the Royal Crescent Hotel.

The hotel has changed hands several times and this now rather faded example of Bath’s Georgian glory – sort of came with the furniture. It would be nice if it could be restored.

Bath’s much-loved Mineral Water Hospital – now better known at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases – has its own example – according to Bath Newseum follower Elizabeth Davies.

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The sedan chair at the Mineral Water Hospital

It’s a surviving example of the hospital sedan chairs designed and built in the early 1700’s to ferry patients to and from the bath sites.

As if these were not enough, the relatively new Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel has a beauty of it’s own.

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The Turin-made sedan chair on display at the Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel.

It’s a Turin Portantina and one of around 50 known to exist of this shape – the fourth most common style surviving in Europe. The chair – made in Turin around 1745 – has a low pole height to help increase  ground clearance to help negotiate flights of steps and hills or mountains.

This chair is on permanent loan from Mr Stephen Loft-Simpson who is a sedan chair specialist based in Bristol. Check out his website on www.sedanchair.co.uk

Please let Bath Newseum know if you spot another sedan chair somewhere else!

 

Welcome home number 68!

Welcome home number 68!

Good to see that at least one of the two genuine sedan chairs – that were on display at Bath’s historic Assembly Rooms – has returned to the building after a long absence.

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Bath’s Assembly Rooms.

This late 18th century Bath ‘taxi’ is one of many licensed by the Corporation and bears the registration number 68.

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Sedan chair – number 68 – returns!

As the notice alongside it declares, ‘chairs such as these would have brought people to the doors of the Assembly Rooms for concerts and assemblies’.

This new form of transport – introduced from the Continent in the 16th century – was well suited to Bath’s narrow and crowded streets.

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The newly conserved sedan chair is positioned just outside the ballroom.

They were used to take people to the thermal baths for treatment and also to transport them to public entertainments like concerts and balls.

By the 1850’s most sedan chairs had been replaced by wheeled bath chairs for short trips in the city and fly carriages to take people to the suburbs.

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When will this one be coming back too?

The chair – now back on display – is one of two that stood in the Concert Room. Last l heard that had been sent away for detailed conservation work.

Stephen Clews – the Manager of the Pump Rooms and Roman Baths – tells me:

‘We are holding back on putting the second sedan chair back on show as a precaution. The reason they were both removed in the first place is that they were infested by a bug.

Obviously anything less than putting them in a glass case (which we would rather avoid!) means there must be some risk of them re-infestation.

So we have simply put one back to begin with and will see how it gets on, so if there is a recurrence only one will be affected.

We have put bug traps next to it so should be able to discover any re-infestation at an early stage.’

Wedding car with a difference.

Wedding car with a difference.

Former Bath Mayor Bryan Chalker’s venerable East German Trabant car saw 

 service on 14 May as a wedding limousine, transporting Katrin Hudewenz 

 and her father (both from East Germany) from Maybrick Road, Oldfield 

 Park, to the Assembly Rooms for the ceremony, which took place at 

 6.30pm.TRABANT WEDDING-16

It was probably the first time ever that a Trabant has been 

 used as an official wedding car in Britain and it created a huge amount 

 of interest from wedding guests (many of them from Germany) and 

 tourists, particularly as the Trabi retains its original 1973 featured, 

 including the iconic DDR plate denoting East Germany.TRABANT WEDDING-21

 The car had been seen in Bath on several occasions by Katrin, who 

 expressed the desire to have a Trabant as her wedding vehicle. 

 Husband-to-be Sam George traced Bryan via the Museum of Bath At Work and 

 arrangements were made for ‘Hermann’ to fulfill the role of ‘limousine’, 

 with the former Mayor acting as chauffeur!TRABANT WEDDING-26

 

 Bryan’s car is an acknowledged ‘Classic’ and has been in his ownership 

 for the past ten years. ‘Hermann’ was recovered from a Southstoke barn, 

 where it had reposed for 16 years, and Bryan purchased it for the 

 princely sum of £1.50p. The little car underwent a mechanical 

 restoration at Larkhall Garage.

Go Georgian for World Heritage Day

Go Georgian for World Heritage Day

Visit Bath’s Assembly Rooms today and you might just bump into Captain Wade – the ‘Master of Ceremonies’ who organised events at this historic centre of entertainment. IMG_7574

There’s an opportunity to have a go at Georgian dancing, listen to 18th century music and join your kids in craft activities or dressing up.

It’s all part of the way in which the Rooms will be helping to celebrate World Heritage Day and Bath’s World Heritage status.IMG_7577

Every year the city celebrates World Heritage Day with an event themed around the ‘Outstanding Universal Vale’ for which Bath was inscribed back in 1987.IMG_7576

This year’s theme is the Georgian social legacy. English society changed radically in the 18th century and Bath was at the forefront of shaping the change.

The Cleveland Pools Trust  – working hard to bring about the restoration of Britain’s last remaining Georgian-built open air lido – will be amongst those exhibiting in the Great Octagon Room. Pretty easy to spot too as two of them are dressing up in Victorian bathing costumes!

Log onto www.bathworldheritage.org.uk/events for more information on what’s happening and when. There is also information on other events coming up later in the year.