Abbey’s hidden floor revealed.

Abbey’s hidden floor revealed.

You cannot fail to notice that the east – and most of the north side of Bath Abbey – are disappearing behind a white wall of hoarding.

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Will this be decorated?

It’s the start of a multi-million-pound excavation and construction project to both stabilise the Abbey floor and provide new facilities for the church’s workforce and visiting public.

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The great white wall!

The contract has gone to local building firm Emery Brothers Limited who actually carried out a small trial stabilisation a few years ago.

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It’s made of some sort of foam plastic trapped​ between boards with shiny and washable surfaces.

The hoarding they have erected is made of plastic and will shortly be covered with specially produced artwork provided by local schoolchildren.

Bath will have plenty of time to get used to it too as it will be there for two and a half years. Even after that length of time, the panels are re-usable and will save on waste.

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That’s as far as you can go now inside Bath Abbey. A visitor watches as the pews at the east end are dismantled.

Inside – at the Eastern end – the Corporation pews and choir stalls are being dismantled and will be taken out and stored.

Underneath, memorial stones that have not been seen for at least one hundred and fifty years are being revealed.

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This is where the first section of floor will be lifted.

All the detail on them will be recorded because, eventually, the pews will be reinstated.

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Memorial stones that have been hidden for 150 years are being revealed.

As work progresses pews in the nave will be removed. These will not be put back when the work has been completed and the memorial stones relaid.

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All the stones will be recorded before​ the pews are reinstated above them.

A quick recording of the work in progress this morning – Wednesday, June 6th.

 

Now it begins.

Now it begins.

 

Posts are being installed outside the eastern end of Bath Abbey to support hoarding – that could be there for more than two years – as local builders Emery’s ‘officially’ start preparing for the stabilising and reconstruction work they will be carrying out in and around the historic building.

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These posts will support the hoarding but still leave a path for those going to services at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

Meanwhile, hassocks and seating fabric rolls are being put into storage as work begins to remove pews from the eastern end.

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Hassocks and pew seat covers being taken away.

It’s my understanding that the first memorial floor slabs will be lifted at the beginning of July – affecting the eastern end of the interior.

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Looks like an altar is taking shape on a temporary podium at the crossing point.

Bath Abbey insists its ‘business as usual’ during the lengthy operation to stabilise the floor and install new central heating.

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The whole ‘business end’ of the Abbey will have to be brought forward into the nave so hoarding can go up.

There are also new facilities planned for the choirs and public – including a new Discovery Centre which will tell the Abbey’s story.

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Contractors are using a door at the eastern end to take material out.

It’ll also result in the permanent removal of pews in the nave with new look seating making for a more flexible use of space.

This is all part of the £19.3 million pound Footprint Project which has been added by a massive Heritage Lottery grant and private donations.

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This is as far as you go now.

Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios – local architects for the Project – also welcomed the official start of work in a tweet on Twitter.

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Bath Abbey going​ green.

Bath Abbey going​ green.

Bath Abbey’s been given the go-ahead to turn ‘green’! It’s been granted a ‘lease of rights’ by B&NES Council to use some of the energy in Bath’s famous hot springs for an innovative eco-heating system to heat the complex.

 

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The Sacred Spring

 

Every day, a quarter of a million gallons of hot water flow from the Sacred Spring underneath the Roman Baths complex and through the Great Roman Drain into the nearby River Avon.

This underground journey takes it directly past the Abbey. If harnessed correctly and converted as part of the Abbey and B&NES Council’s joint initiative, it could produce 1.5 megawatts of continuous energy – more than enough to heat the Abbey and surrounding buildings.

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Part of the Roman drainage system that the Abbey has been given permission to access with heat exchangers.

As part of the Abbey’s ambitious Footprint project – which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund – engineers plan to install heat exchangers in the Great Roman Drain which will capture the energy in the hot water and transform it into renewable energy. This will form part of a unique underground heating system that will be then used to heat the Abbey and other buildings.

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Charles Curnock, Project Director.

Charles Curnock, Footprint Project Director from Bath Abbey, said: “This is a truly exciting and inventive way of tapping into Bath’s most famous resource to create sustainable energy. As far as we know, it has never been done before on this scale, and we are thrilled to be working with the Roman Baths and other departments of B&NES Council on this unique project.

“By granting us the lease of rights, the Council has set us on our way to providing a sustainable and eco-friendly solution for both the Abbey and the city of Bath by capturing this incredible and ancient natural resource which is currently unused.”

Charles Curnock added: “This a major change for the Abbey, but one which is vital now and for future generations. Our current heating system dates back to the Victorian era, is extremely inefficient and expensive to maintain. This combined with the work we’re doing as part of our wider Footprint project to repair the Abbey’s collapsing floor makes this the ideal time for us to consider a new underfloor heating system.”

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Bath Abbey – Looking East – proposed improvements.

The initial trials and investigations for the project have already taken place, and more planning and development is being carried out before further building work on the Abbey’s Footprint programme starts. Wessex Water will be digging and laying pipes that will carry hot water from the Roman Baths into the new eco-heating system. Any modern elements of the system would be hidden underground and an archaeologist will be working alongside the engineers to document any artefacts that may be uncovered by the required excavations.

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Bath’s MP, Wera Hobhouse.

Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath and Liberal Democrat spokesperson for communities and local government said: “This is a progressive, sustainable project for the Abbey, yet remains quintessentially Bath. This collaboration is a real achievement, and everyone should feel proud that they are adding to Bath’s heritage in an environmentally friendly manner. Along with the wider Footprint Project, it will really add value to the city. I look forward to attending services knowing the building is heated by the same water to which Bath owes its very existence.”

To find out more about to support the Footprint project, visit www.bathabbey.org/footprint. Your donations will be generously matched by the Brownsword Charitable Foundation. This means that any donation you give to the Footprint project will automatically be doubled: if you donate £10, the Brownsword Charitable Foundation will also give £10 – your £10 donation is worth £20 to Footprint! Simply use the reference ‘FPBF’ when donating.

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About Bath Abbey’s Footprint

The £19.3 million Footprint project aims to carry out essential repairs to the Abbey’s collapsing floor, install a new eco-friendly heating system using Bath’s unique hot springs as a source of energy and enlarge capacity by creating 200sq metres of new facilities to fulfil the Abbey as a place of congregation, equal access and hospitality. A programme is also planned to record and interpret the Abbey’s 1,200 years of history and this iconic church for millions of visitors including educational visits. Thanks to a grant of £10.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, additional funds from private individuals and trusts, as well as the Abbey’s own congregation and visitors, the Abbey now has just over £1 million left to raise.

For further details about Bath Abbey, please visit www.bathabbey.org

 

 

 

Prayers for Bath Abbey court hearing.

Prayers for Bath Abbey court hearing.

Special prayers – it seems – were offered up in Bath Abbey last night (Thursday, September 14th) ‘ for the mission and ministry of the Abbey.’

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Bath Abbey – the lantern of the west!

They came as the church faces a special Consistory Court hearing in response to the nationally based Victorian Society’s objection to the removal of most of the pews following work to stabilise the floor.

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The Rector Bath Abbey, the Rev Preb Edward Mason.

In a letter to the congregation, the Rector, the Rev Prebendary Edward Mason, explained that the Society were objecting to an element of the Footprint Project.

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The poster explaining why the floor has to come up.

 

‘Footprint will stabilise the Abbey floor to quite a deep level, install under-floor central heating with energy from the hot springs, and repair and re-lay the wonderful set of ledger stones.

To do this, all the furniture in the Abbey will be removed. Equally, our application proposes that all the furniture will be replaced – except for the nave pews.

We believe that freeing the nave of pews will enhance the mission and ministry of the Abbey in the present and leave it much better placed to respond to the changing needs of church and community in the future.

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A cross section of how the Footprint Project will evolve.

The Victorian Society does not agree and insists on the nave pews being replaced. The Consistory Court is a normal (but rare) means by which church planning issues like this are clarified.

The Court will be held in the Abbey early in October and there is full representation of both sides by legal teams. The judgement is made by the Chancellor of the Diocese, himself a practising lawyer.

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An artist’s impression of what the nave will look like with the floor repaired and the pews removed.

In the light of this process, we feel it particularly important that we gather in prayer.’

The Rector said prayers were for the Abbey’s mission and ministry.

‘In particular, we pray that our core values expressed in worship, hospitality and justice will continue to be fully expressed through the development and future use of the Abbey.’

It is my understanding that the court hearing will be held in Bath Abbey on October 4th and 5th during which time the church will not be open to tourists.

New layout for part of Bath’s Christmas Market

New layout for part of Bath’s Christmas Market

Work in Abbey Courtyard – as part of Bath Abbey’s Footprint Project – and emergency repairs in York Street – are going to affect the layout of this year’s Christmas Market which will be looking to expand to other parts of the city.

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Work underway on the Abbey Courtyard side .

Because of the Abbey Footprint workings the market will not be able to use Kingston Parade and is looking at spreading the footprint further encouraging visitors to explore more of Bath.

This is likely to be achieved be achieved by relocating stalls to Southgate Street, Union Square and Hot Bath Street.

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A scene from the annual Christmas Market.

Though it was originally proposed to try again for a market extension to 25 days this year – Visit Bath – who organise the event – have decided to go for an 18 day planning application as normal.

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A 2016 survey concluded that £16 million was spent in the city when the market was operational so the event is important to the economy of the city.

If any stallholders have any direct questions they can call the events team on 01225 322 436 or email Christmas_market@bathtourism.co.uk

A new focus for Bath Abbey

A new focus for Bath Abbey

Change is afoot at Bath Abbey and it’s getting mixed reviews.

The church’s Footprint Project – which will use Heritage Lottery money to fund stabilising the floor, provide new heating and extra space for church activities – could mean saying goodbye to the Victorian pews in the nave.

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During the work it will also involve bringing the altar activities – at the east end – down into the body of the Abbey.

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The temporary dais on ‘trial’ at Bath Abbey.

Though this might be seen as a temporary feature, the church is trying various arrangements of staging blocks – in the centre of the Abbey – to lead services on a more permanent level.

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An artist’s impression of the possible new elliptical dais.

Currently, architects have produced an elliptical shaped dais which is two steps  high. I hear it might even be pneumatically operated to rise up out of the otherwise level floor when needed. Two pews have been temporarily lifted which will be put back when the trial is finished.

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Pews removed to make way for the trial dais. In a few years time all of the nave pews are due to be taken out.

The Abbey is asking for comments and it is my understanding they are getting plenty.

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Looking towards the temporary dais and the nave beyond.

I cannot help but think of the layout of Clifton Cathedral in Bristol. It’s obviously a more contemporary take on a congregational gathering for worship, but the spiritual ‘stage’ for church ritual is slap bang in the middle.

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Clifton Cathedral in Bristol.

So l welcome any move to bring things down to the people so worship can be truly shared. The  proposed eventual removal of the pews gives the Abbey a real opportunity of  finding a new focus.

Traditionally, before the Reformation, the Abbey would have been an empty space. Pews have been gradually introduced over the centuries and, in the Abbey’s case, reached their pinnacle under Sir George Gilbert Scott during Victorian times.

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One of those side benches you still find in churches like Bath Abbey. Once the only seating the congregational space would have offered.

Did you know the saying ‘Going to the wall’ refers to the fact that centuries ago the elderly or disabled could find little resting benches lining the walls of the otherwise empty church.

Meanwhile, the church is hosting a touring exhibition of ‘Via Crucis’, a series of 14 new images for the Stations of the Cross by Bath artist Caroline Waterlow.

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More of Caroline Waterlow’s designs.

‘Via Crucis’ is described by the artist as “a culmination of three years’ of research and work into the meaning and significance of Lent, and how it can relate in our lives today.”

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Another design by Caroline Waterlow.

Through these images, you are invited to follow the final events of Jesus’ life as he goes to the place of his crucifixion and death.

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You can follow the ‘stations’ around the church.

To complement the exhibition, there will be an opportunity to look at the Stations in more detail, using scripture, poetry, song, prayer and meditation, on Wednesdays 22th, 29th March & 5th April, 7.30-9pm and on Good Friday 14th April, 12 noon.

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A crown of thorns design by local artist Caroline Waterlow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncovering the past as part of Abbey’s future.

Uncovering the past as part of Abbey’s future.

It’s going to be church business as usual inside Bath Abbey over the coming months – and years – as work starts in earnest on the multi-million pound Footprint Project which will both stabilise and heat the floor and provide new rehearsal and meeting places – plus a visitor experience.

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Looking west inside Bath Abbey.

It’s all  thanks to a  grant of nearly £11 million pounds from the Heritage Lottery Fund – and ‘match’ funding from donors.

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Project Director Charles Curnock met me to peer into the sizeable excavation underway outside the Abbey shop on the corner of Abbey Courtyard.

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Bath Abbey Footprint Project Director, Charles Curnock.

 

Charles wanted to reassure church users that – though sections of the interior might be closed off from time to time – it would be business as usual with no curtailment of musical events – in addition to church services – either. The doors of the Abbey remain open to its visitors too.

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The excavation outside the Abbey shop.

I wanted to know what digging had discovered so far.

 

You can find out more about the Footprint Project via http://www.bathabbey.org/footprint