New life for ‘famous’ Bath car.

New life for ‘famous’ Bath car.

Former Bath Mayor and Heritage Champion, Bryan Chalker’s rare 1973 East German Trabant 2-stroke car has just undergone a major mechanical and body re-build and complete re-spray at Larkhall Garage and Spraytec.

The overall results are stunning and the little time-warp car now looks set for another 45 years of life.


Bryan’s historic car in all its restored glory. Look out for it!

Purchased for just £1.50 in 2006, ‘Hermann’ has been Bryan’s daily transport until the crankshaft disintegrated last year and a total mechanical make-over was called for, with all parts sourced from German companies specialising in vintage Trabants.

Larkhall Garage has looked after the car since 2006 but recommended Spraytec Bath Ltd. to undertake the complicated body restoration and re-spray.

The little car has been off the road since November 2016 but makes its triumphant return now as a motoring icon and relic of the Cold War years.

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Bryan Chalker’s also a local historian and played a major role in the repainting of the Stothert and Pitt crane at Bath’s Riverside development.

Contrary to popular belief, the Trabant is not made from cardboard but Duraplast, a type of bakelite, and steel and, in Bryan’s words, “built like a tank”!

A new coat of paint for Samson.

A new coat of paint for Samson.

Meet Samson. He’s an old steam crane that many of you are used to passing on your way to and from Crest Nicholson’s residential redevelopment of a former riverside industrial site in Bath.


However this old relic is an important symbol of what went before on this land. It’s a product of the Stothert and Pitt factory that once occupied much of this site. A local firm that was world-famous for its dockside cranes.


Important enough to be saved and repositioned alongside the Crest-Nicholson transformation of what had become a derelict site.


The man who led efforts to secure this piece of local industrial ‘sculpture’ is Bryan Chalkler – ex-councillor, Mayor of Bath and B&NE’s Heritage champion, who is well known for his promotion of the city’s industrial past.p1160183

With the help of many volunteers and commercial support, he has now led by example in getting down to the task – with a group of volunteers – of repainting the crane.


It’s been a difficult – but rewarding – job. Bryan’s pleased people have endorsed his decision to anthropomorphise crane no 312 with a proper name – as he explained to Bath Newseum.

Here’s a top-end shot taken by Peter Dickinson from the platform of a cherry picker platform – brought in so that the stalwart volunteers can finish cleaning and then re-painting the jib.


Looking down on the crane from a cherry picker positioned above the jib. Photo taken and kindly supplied by Peter Dickinson.

Here’s a piece Alistair Rzeznicki of  Sunflower Film and Creative Agency did for Crest Nicholson just recently.

A (paint) brush with the past.

A (paint) brush with the past.

Seems the residents – down at Bath Riverside – are starting to take a keen interest in the re-painting job a bunch of dedicated volunteers are gradually carrying out upon an old Stothert and Pitt built steam crane ‘parked’ nearby.


It stands proudly in front of the Crest Nicholson residential development on this old brown-field site beside the River Avon.

There has been a lot of effort put in to preserve this relic from Bath’s industrial past. A mechanical marvel rescued from obscurity and brought – at Crest Nicholson’s expense – to be a lasting symbol of the land’s former occupants.  A machine made here in the huge factory of one of the world’s greatest crane makers.


Bryan Chalker

It’s conservation is being organised by Bryan Chalker – a former Mayor of Bath and Heritage Champion while he was a B&NES councillor.

Bryan is eager to promote the industrial history of a city that – some might think – is keener to push its more profitable Roman and Georgian past .

I asked him how things were going.

Riverside crane is a painting marathon.

Riverside crane is a painting marathon.

The volunteers busy painting a crane at Bath Riverside are making good progress on what has now been described as a ‘painting marathon.’


That’s looking better. The roof of the old steam crane gets a protective coating of paint. Thanks to volunteer Peter Dickinson of Monkey Business Arts Consultants for both the work and the photograph!

They are helping to brighten up a ‘city treasure’ under the direction of Bryan Chalker – a Bath man who might just as well have oil and grease running around in his veins instead of blood.


Bryan Chalker posing with a brass plaque that was once attached to the crane but was taken off before it went to Washford. It will be refitted at a ‘topping out’ ceremony when the work is completed. Photo © Jim Warren


An ex-Mayor and councillor, he was Heritage Champion for B&NES during his years of public service and keen to promote the industrial history of a city – better known for Roman remains and Georgian architecture.


Bryan Chalker’s first volunteer was Abi Soady who is a Development Graduate at Crest Nicholson.

Fresh from organising the seventh Bath Industrial Heritage Exhibition – held at BCFC’s Twerton Park home – he’s now leading a group of volunteers who have given up their time to re-paint an industrial landmark.


The steam crane at Bath Riverside

It’s an old steam crane – originally made at the city’s famous Stothert and Pitt factory – and rescued  from the breaker’s yard by Brian – with the help of Crest Nicholson.


Volunteer Mark Wilson is giving the cable and cable drum a protective coat of grease to keep the algae at bay until it can be properly greased. Photo © Jim Warren

They are busy regenerating Bath’s former industrial riverside footprint and installed the crane as a symbol of past meeting future.


Getting down to work

Now they’ve given Bryan a bit of cash to help towards the cost of repainting the crane – and he’s also managed to get the paint for free.


It’s not just the volunteers helping with the job who are coming in for praise – though Bryan is very grateful to them all.


Really starting to notice a difference now with the jib being the last difficult part to tackle.

He told me today – Wednesday, October 26th – that many materials had been very generously donated.

‘The company supplying the special enamel paint is Hempel, based at Llantarnam Park, Cwmbran, South Wales, and they donated a total of 14 cans of primer, thinners and paint, without charge. 

Homebase have given us the loan of a flat-bed trolley to transport the paint back and forth from storage to the crane, and a  local and old-established Bath engineering firm, who want no credit, donated a drum of industrial grease for the jib’s cables.

  Thanks to the poor weather, what began as an estimated 4-day project, has developed into a painting marathon – but we’re slowly getting there. 

The crane is a superb example of Stothert & Pitt’s early engineering skills – built to last – and a credit to Bath’s great industrial past.’




Top to bottom. Mark Wilson, Peter Dickinson and Bryan Chalker. Photo © Rob Cole


Jim Warren chatting to Bryan Chalker while Peter Dickinson is busy with the brush! Photo © Rob Cole



Here’s Bryan in action. Photo © Jim Warren


Industrial Heritage Day

Industrial Heritage Day



The seventh annual Bath Industrial Heritage Day is being held at Bath City Football Club in Twerton today –  Saturday, September 24th.

It’s free admission for all and the exhibition is open from 10 am to 4pm.

Amongst the exhibitors will be the Museum of Bath at Work, Cleveland Pools, Somerset Coal Canal, Saltford Brassmill and the Mineral Water Hospital.  

Former Mayor, Councillor and  B&NES Heritage Champion Bryan Chalker will also be bringing along items from his extensive collection.

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 


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.

Welcome Centre role for old Toll House

Welcome Centre role for old Toll House

The latest volunteer project on the Kennet and Avon Canal has been handed over to  the Canal and River Trust.

It’s involved the rescue and conservation of the old Toll House at Dundas Wharf which the  CRT are to use as a new Welcome Centre at this busy and historic point on the Kennet and Avon Canal.

Dundas TH. (1)

The old toll house at Dundas Wharf – prior to renovation.

My thanks to Ian Herve – himself a volunteer with the Trust – for the following report:

“The history of this small building is not entirely clear but dates from the time when the direct transhipment of coal from the Somertshire Coal Canal was ended due to the logistical problems at Combe Hay. 

This occurred in 1818 when the Kennet and Avon Canal Company was obliged to construct the Wharf and basin at Dundas and start to gauge the coal barges from this Toll House.  The carriers were charged by weight and distance travelled.

The toll house fell into disuse after the Coal Canal closed in 1898.  It was put to various ancilliary uses over the years by, initially,  the GWR and then British Waterways. 

  The photograph below was taken in the mid-1990s when some of the fabric remained.  After this time the internal furniture was stripped out and the sash windows and even the guttering was removed.

Some years ago the roof was replaced with new slate and timber but nothing more was done until the last year.  CRT agreed to fund the replacement of the windows and volunteers from both the K & A Canal Trust and CRT, who work together along the canal, undertook to complete the extensive restoration work.

This involved the construction of a “defensive” wall and kerb to prevent the lorries that clear waste from the wharf colliding with the corner near the access lane.  This had caused damage in the past and resulted in the corner stonework being dislodged.


Volunteers hard at work on the restoration.

The whole façade was repointed, the internal walls rebuilt and the new windows installed.  A new terrace at the front was constructed.

Below you can see the finished building decked out for the opening.

Martin Veal, Councillor for Bathavon North and Cabinet Member for Community Services, joined forces with Mark Evans, the CRT Waterways manager for the Kennet and Avon Canal, to cut the ribbon and declare it open for business.  They were joined by Peter Turner, councillor for Abbey Ward and Advocate for Heritage and Culture, David Laming, Chair of the River Regeneration Trust, and Bryan Chalker, Ex-mayor of Bath and long-time campaigner for the conservation of Bath’s industrial heritage.

A large crowd of invited guests from across the canal world were in attendance and they were treated to refreshments and a short trip along the canal aboard one of the K & A canal trust trip boats which had driven down from Bradford on Avon for the event.


Decked out and ready for its new role.

Most of all, though, the day belonged to the group of volunteers who undertake many types of roles along the canal, all the way to Hanham Lock, the westward extent of the K & A Canal.  Over the last years they have repainted all of the locks from Hanham to Bath Top Lock and the swing bridges to Dundas.

  The junction of the canal and river in Bath has been brought back to life and the old workman’s “hovel” at the George Public House  in Bathampton rescued from decay.

There is much more that they want to do and yesterday served as an opportunity to both celebrate past work and concentrate influential minds on what needs to be done for the future.

Details of how to join the volunteers can be found by accessing the CRT website: or email to Trevor Clark, the local lead volunteer at:”