Turning the pages on Georgian Bath.

Turning the pages on Georgian Bath.

It’s amazing where life takes you. Years ago l well remember how much money HTV West invested in ensuring it had a major annual presence at the Bath and West agricultural show – still held on its permanent showground just outside Shepton Mallet and something which celebrates all aspects of farming and rural life.

Can only find one image taken at the Bath and West. An exhibition of photographs in the HTV West Pavilion and that’s Alison Holloway with me. She doesn’t have paper in her hair. The picture is slightly damaged!

I had no real idea that the whole sheep-shearing, furrow ploughing, cheese making caboodle originated with a man who moved to the Georgian city of Bath back in 1775. I settled here more recently. A modest seven years ago!

Portrait of Edmund Rack by Lewis Vaslet, copyright Royal Bath and West of England Society

Edmund Rack was a Quaker from Norfolk who made his home here and straight away decided to keep a diary of what he saw and heard. It turned out to be a lively account too. His journal covered everything from the fashion boo-boos of ‘polite’ society, to duels, gambling and dancing.
Edmund was also soon deeply immersed in the intellectual life of the city and writes about his involvement with fellow Bathonian William Herschel, the astronomer, and Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen.
In 1777 he became the founder and first secretary of the Bath and West of England Society – an organsation for improving agricultural practice – and a body that would hold agricultural shows in Bristol and Bath – before settling onto its 240 acre
site in Somerset for its annual 4-day show.
Edmund Rack followed that up  by becoming joint founder and secretary of a lively scientific club known to posterity as the first Bath Philosophical Society.
Wow – what a man! His original journal is kept at Bath Record Office and was trabscribed by local historian and writer Trevor Fawcett.
Pre-publication flier 1

Cartoon by Sally Artz.

However, for the first time, it will be available in print as ‘The Journal of Edmund Rack – An Enlightenment Gentleman’s Observations of Georgian Bath.’
 It’s being published by Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution next Saturday the 24th of March. Edited and designed by Jude Harris – and fully illustrated with many unusual images from the historic library books at BRLSI and other local sources – it will cost £10.
Flier for 24 March
 To mark its launch the BRLSI is hosting three talks by local historians under the title ‘Science, Scandal and Society in Georgian Bath.’ That’s between 10 am and 1pm at number 16 Queen Square.
 The three talks are:

• ‘Inspir’d by Freedom’ – Catharine Macaulay by Dr Andrew Swift, author and local historian. Catharine Macaulay was one of the most remarkable women of her age ­— an eminent historian and avowed republican who inspired and influenced both the American and French Revolutions. She shocked Bath society by running off with ‘a stout brawny Scotsman of 21’.

• Experimental Roots: Edmund Rack and the Origins of the Bath & West by Stuart Burroughs, Director at Museum of Bath at Work. Edmund Rack, a Quaker and the son of a Norfolk labouring weaver, moved to Bath in 1775. Dismayed by the poor farming practice in the West Country, he proposed an Agricultural Society to investigate ways of improving the agricultural resources of the country.

• Bath in the 1780s: Quakers, Quacks & Quadrilles by Mike Rendell, writer on 18th century social history. A look at everyday life in the Georgian ‘City of Fun’ — its diversions and eccentricities.

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:

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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
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    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 www.romanbaths.co.uk/events/heritageopendays.

For information about the national event visit  www.heritageopendays.org.uk.

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 www.batharchives.co.uk.



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 batharchives.co.uk

A view of the Crescent

A view of the Crescent

Would Bath’s iconic Royal Crescent have made a good Council House? Can you still see the spot where a wartime bomb made a big crater on its lawn?  Or appreciate why one local painter calls its grassy front garden Bath’s beach?


Detail from Peter Brown’s 20-16 study of the Crescent lawn entitled ‘The Beach.’

Just some of the questions that may come to mind if you go and see ‘Exhibition: A View of the Crescent – Celebrating the 250th Anniversary of Bath’s Landmark Building’ which opens at No 1 Royal Crescent on Saturday, June 25th until November 19th.


illustrations showing how the Royal Crescent could have been transformed into Council Offices.

It explores what the Royal Crescent means to people who enjoy, admire and respond to the beauty of its setting, and how prominent artists have portrayed this famous building over the years through paintings, prints, photographs and textiles.


Philip Bouchard’s painting of the Royal Crescent.

To stage it, Bath Preservation Trust has delved into its own archives – and that of Bath Record Office – as well as involving the Victoria Art Gallery and many well-known locally-based artists.

As one of its organisers, Beatrice Goddard, explains:

At No. 1 Royal Crescent from 24 June to 19 November.

Free with normal admission to the museum: Adult £10, Child £4, Family £22. Concessions.



Just for the record

Just for the record

B&NES has combined its local studies and archives collections in a single location at  Bath Record Office in the city’s Guildhall.

Previously, the collections were located separately at Bath Central Library and within the Guildhall. The combined service is now called Archives & Local Studies, Bath & North East Somerset, to reflect the wider local history resources that are available.

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Principal Archivist, Colin Johnston pictured with a service user. If anyone recognises the lady please let me know so l can name her!

As far back as 2014, the Council made the decision to house the services together at Bath Record Office. Bringing together local studies and archive materials under one roof has been an aspiration long-held by staff and those who regularly use the service, such as local people, history researchers and academics. As early as 2002, a survey of those using the services showed strong support for the idea.

Local history books which can be borrowed by members of the public will remain in Bath’s central library and local branch libraries. This move is separate to the proposals to combine libraries in central Bath and Midsomer Norton with One Stop Shops.

Cllr Martin Veal (Conservative, Bathavon North), Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: “This is good news for residents, local historians and researchers because it brings the Local Studies collections, which include local history reference books, manuscripts, maps, photographs and other historic items under the same roof as the Council’s archives at the internationally Designated Bath Record Office. Having these resources in the same place means people will no longer need to visit different sites to get the information they need.

“In addition, experienced, trained Archivists along with the Local Studies Librarian from Bath Central Library can be on hand to quickly locate relevant materials and assist in research across the whole collection.”

The project includes a refurbishment of the Record Office research rooms to create additional public space where people will be able to browse local history reference books, conduct searches and study archive materials. WiFi is now available in the research rooms for the first time, and additional PCs, desks and book shelving have been provided. Much-needed damp proofing and updating fixtures and fittings has also taken place to ensure that the whole space is bright, clean and comfortable.

To find out more about the collections, visit  www.batharchives.co.uk  or  www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/libraries-and-archives/local-studies.

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.