A helping hand for Bath’s heritage.

A helping hand for Bath’s heritage.

The scaffolding that has been fronting Hales the Chemist in Bath’s Argyle Street will be coming down in the next few days.

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Scaffolding in place outside Hale’s the Chemist for the conservators to start work on the royal coat of arms.

It has been supporting members of the Cliveden Conservation team who have been working on a restoration project involving stripping, repainting and gilding a royal coat of arms belonging to Queen Charlotte.

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Freelance conservators Joanna Pucci and Teresa Llewellyn at work on the royal coat of arms.

You can find the story of its restoration in greater detail elsewhere on this website but l want to move on to feature the local organisation that has helped fund the work and which each year puts money into many other projects that ensure Bath’s heritage is being looked after.

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Job done and looking good!

I am talking about the Bath World Heritage Enhancement Fund which – since being established seven years ago – has made a real difference to the Bath World Heritage Site.

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Ainslie Ensom pictured beside the newly gilded lion.

With work still underway on the coat of arms behind us – and a lot of rainwater to be got rid of in the protective canopy spread out above the workers – l was able to talk to Ainslie Ensom who is the Administrator of the Fund. What did she think of the coat of arms restoration.

You can check out the Enhancement Fund’s website via  https://www.bathworldheritage.org.uk/enhancement-fund

A ‘call’ to arms

A ‘call’ to arms

Hales the Chemist  – on Bath’s Argyle Street – occupies one of the earliest commercial premises built in the city.

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Scaffolding in place outside Hale’s the Chemist for the conservators to start work on the royal coat of arms.

It’s at one end of a remarkable line of shop fronts – along a street originally created for shopping – and has traded under the name of A.H.Hale since 1826.

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The colourful interior of Hales the Chemist.

While much of its frontage is original – and its interior decorated with a vivid array of  old fashioned medicine bottles and carboys – from its days as an apothecary’s shop – there’s one external feature with an even more colourful story to tell.

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A photograph of the coat of arms – above Hales Chemist – before restoration began.

Above the attractive Ionic-columned shop front of No 8 rests the arms of Charlotte Sophia, Queen of England and wife of George the Third.

It’s not their original home – as they have been moved around the city quite a bit – but have been here since 1982 after being discovered in the Guildhall basement.

The Queen had visited Bath and the coat of arms would have indicated Her Majesty had spent money in a shop which was then anxious to boast – by having the coat of arms made – that they were ‘By Royal Appointment’  – having been given the royal seal of approval.

Of course holders of a ‘Royal Warrant’ today still like to show they enjoy royal favour.

How this colourful landmark came to rest above an Argyle Street chemist we will come to in a moment.

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Freelance conservators Joanna Pucci and Teresa Llewellyn at work on the royal coat of arms.

I climbed the scaffolding – recently erected in front of the shop – to meet two conservators tasked with cleaning off layers of faded paint and re-colouring the royal insignia.

The World Heritage Enhancement Fund has put in the largest chunk of funding for this work to be done, with contributions from the Leche Trust, Mr Doshi and his family – who now own the chemist –  and the Bath Heradic Society through.

So it has been a real collaboration between people keen to see it restored to its former glory.

Once up on the platform, I was able to speak to conservator, Teresa Llewellyn while her colleague – Joanna Pucci – continued her delicate work behind her.

The women are freelance conservators employed by Somerset-based Cliveden Conservation to carry out the project.

Here’s what Teresa had to say about the history of the coat of arms.

 

The Queen was in Bath in 1817 and was at a Guildhall banquet when news came through of the death of her daughter Princess Charlotte, in childbirth.

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A portrait of Queen Charlotte – by Sir Joshua Reynolds – that hangs in the Banqueting Room at the Bath Guildhall.

It was – for the Nation – a bit of a ‘Princess Diana moment’ as Charlotte was much loved.

I picked up another story while talking to the current owner pharmacist Mr Balwant Doshi.

It concerns another famous family and – if it’s true – shows that Jane Austen’s mother Cassandra could also ‘pen’ a word or two.

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A copy of the poem apparently ‘penned’ by Jane Austen’s mother Cassandra to thank an apothecary for medicine which helped her recover from a serious illness.

You can pop in and see the evidence next time you are in the area but l am sure the Doshi family would like you to buy something as well.

The conservators hope to finish their work by the end of next week – weather permitting.

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Emperor’s new clothes!

The Emperor’s new clothes!

Can’t blame a Roman emperor for trying to protect himself from the cold on a crisp and sunny winter morning with the temperature hovering around zero.

Though in the case of some of the emperors and governors of Provincia Britannia, who are represented in local stone around the edges of the Great Bath, the protection has been applied by conservators working to stabilise the condition of the statues.

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All wrapped up against the cold. This is a statue that has been protected against frost after receiving some conservation work involving material that has to dry out naturally without getting frozen!

Many visitors to the Roman  Baths think these figures are the work of the same masons who carved the facade to the ancient Temple of Minerva – preserved here below ground – but these are actually adornments added to these newly-discovered excavated remains when they were opened to the Victorian public in 1897.

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The array of Victorian statues surrounding the Great Bath.

The eight figures – in Bath stone – were the work of Scottish-born sculptor George Anderson Lawson – who also carved the friezes of classical figures at either end of the Guildhall.

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The Guildhall

We’ve got  emperors Claudius, Hadrian, Constantine the Great, Vespasian and Julius Caesar. His statue though is a 1989 replacement by Laurence Tindall following a rare outbreak of vandalism which toppled the original.

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Conservator, Douglas Carpenter at work.

We musn’t forget the three generals. Ostorius Sacula – defeater of Caractacus – Suetonius Paulinus – who put down Boudicca’s rebellion – and Agricola.

Every ten years or so conservators are called in to check on their condition and make necessary repairs.

Cracks can be filled, moss removed and lime washes added to provide a protective coat.

It’s skilled work  as conservator Douglas Carpenter – from Kilmersdon-based  Cliveden Conservation Workshop – explained.

 

Keynsham’s Roman history on display

Keynsham’s Roman history on display

Roman mosaic panels from the Durley Hill Roman villa will go on display in Bath & North East Somerset Council’s new Keynsham development when it opens later this year. You can see how they are being cleaned and conserved by expert conservators from Cliveden Conservation in preparation for that display at a free event on Saturday 10 May.

Roman mosaics

Roman mosaics

On this open day – held at the Pixash Lane Archaeology Store – you can see conservation work in action and get up close to the marvellous mosaics discovered when the cemetery was extended in the 1920s.

An illustration featuring Europa and the bull!

An illustration featuring Europa and the bull!

You can talk to the conservators working on the project and curatorial staff from the Roman Baths will be on hand to talk about the style and significance of the mosaics and about other recent archaeological discoveries in the Keynsham area.

At the same time you will be able to explore other archaeological finds from Keynsham including decorative stonework from the Medieval Abbey, as well as finds and some unusual graffiti rescued from the Combe Down Stone Mines before they were filled in during the stabilisation works.

Another Abbey relic.

Another Abbey relic.

Young people can also have fun looking for objects on our trail through the archaeological store and designing their own Medieval floor tiles

Cllr Ben Stevens (Lib-Dem, Widcombe), Cabinet member for Sustainable Development, said: “Whilst the public has witnessed Bath & North East Somerset Council’s ongoing Keynsham town centre development, work has also been going on behind the scenes to prepare the Durley Hill villa mosaics for display. This gives local people a great opportunity to see some of that work in progress, ask questions about local archaeology and meet some of the people involved in the project.”

The Archaeology Store is next to the recycling centre on Pixash Lane and will be open to the public from 11am to 3pm.