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.’

Bath Abbey

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.


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.

Bath Abbey - Looking West 2

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.


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.


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.

christmas market 2014

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.

christmas market 2013

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

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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


Bath Abbey 50 who’ll be recording the past.

Bath Abbey 50 who’ll be recording the past.

More than 50 volunteers have signed up to help record Bath Abbey’s historic ledgerstones, ahead of a long-term project to restore the Abbey’s floor which is collapsing.

Ledgerstones are flat stones placed in the floors of mainly parish churches which usually bear an inscription of the name and date of the person who is buried there. Many also include interesting inscriptions about the person, their family and their life in the local community.


A whole collection of ledgerstones.

In partnership with The Ledgerstone Survey of England and Wales (LSEW), the Abbey aims to record all 891 of its ledgerstones, some dating back to the 17th century, before these are lifted temporarily in order to repair the floor and secure the foundations beneath.


Volunteers at work.

This Autumn, building work will start inside the Abbey as part of the Footprint project, a £19.3 million programme supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund to secure the Abbey building and improve its hospitality, worship and service to the city. However, before any of the planned building work including floor repairs can begin, all 891 of the historic ledgerstones in the Abbey will need to be recorded accurately. This will ensure that once the stone floor has been successfully repaired and re-laid, each individual ledger stone is put back properly and in the right place. In addition, the ledgerstone recording will also form the basis for new trails, tours and experiences for visitors developed as part of the Footprint programme.


Dr Oliver Taylor, Bath Abbey’s Interpretation Officer.

Ollie Taylor, Bath Abbey’s Intepretation Officer, said: “These ancient stones are an important part of the Abbey’s heritage, many of which have been part of the Abbey floor for hundreds of years without being fully recorded. If we don’t do it now, some of the inscriptions will have worn away so they’ll sadly be lost to future generations. Thanks to our volunteers, the stones’ positions, condition and inscriptions will be carefully documented, and the lives of those they commemorate will be researched. There are some fascinating stories to be told about the people who lived and worked within the parish, as well as the many visitors who came to Bath to use the spa waters in the 18th and 19th centuries. The stories contained in the Abbey’s ledger stones will be used as part of the interpretation plans for the Footprint project.


We were overwhelmed by the number of people who came forward to offer their help. These range from individuals from the Abbey community to groups such as BEMSCA, NADFAS and U3A. It’s great that there are so many individuals in Bath who feel a connection with the Abbey and are keen to help preserve its heritage and history.” 

Julian Litten, Chairman of LSEW which developed a template for methodically recording ledgers currently being used by Bath Abbey, explains: “Just over 250,000 ledgerstones survive in England and Wales, so it shows how important it is to ensure that any ledgerstones that remain, in particular the information they contain, is recorded, understood and appreciated. If recorded properly, they give us an important insight into the people and local communities that lived and worked around the Abbey through the ages.”

The ledgerstone recording will take place in the Abbey throughout February and March this year. Visitors are welcome to come in and see the volunteers on their hands and knees, as they record and document the hundreds of ledgerstones in the Abbey. 


Charles Curnock, Footprint Project Director

Charles Curnock, Bath Abbey’s Footprint Project Director, said: “The ledgerstone recording signals the start of a really exciting time as the Footprint project moves up another gear. Many churches have a similar problem with their floor but with the Abbey being an especially busy church, together with the urgent need to repair the floor, recording the ledgerstones is increasingly a priority for us. Most of the ledgerstones have been hidden beneath pews for nearly 180 years. By the end of this project, this important part of our city’s heritage will be available to be newly appreciated by and preserved for future generations. We urge local people to discover more about the Abbey’s historic floor and see first-hand the work taking place.”

If you would like to know more about the Footprint Project, please visit , email:  footprint@bathabbey.orgor follow @bathfootprint on Twitter.

About Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey is a flourishing Church of England parish church which technically serves a small city centre parish (Bath Abbey with St James). This parish has a small residential population and primarily consists of commercial properties; and most of the regular congregation and the 692 people on the electoral roll live in other parishes or come from outside the city of Bath. The Abbey holds daily services of morning or evening prayer or Holy Communion; and the standard pattern of Sunday worship is for five daily services attended on average by 630 people. Special services at Advent, Christmas and Easter are well attended; and many local organisations hold annual services in the Abbey. The Abbey has four choirs:  Men’s, Boys’ and Girls’ choirs support worship in services; whilst Melody Makers is a choir for younger children which performs in concerts in the Abbey once a term and at other events in and around Bath. The Abbey runs a successful Schools Singing Programme, an outreach activity which supports singing within local schools and holds regular workshops and concerts in the Abbey. The Abbey welcomes approximately 400,000 visitors annually and is open daily all year round; many of these visitors being families and school parties. Apart from being a place of prayer, worship, weddings and funerals, the Abbey has an important role as a visitor destination, a performance space (for audiences anywhere between 10 and 1,000), a general civic space and an exhibition space.

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 200 sq 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.

About LSEW

The Ledgerstone Survey of England and Wales (LSEW), chaired by Dr Julian Litten FSA, which aims to record all the ledgerstones of England and Wales, springboarded a Pilot project addressing the aim of recording the ledgers in churches now out of use for regular worship and in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT). The LSEW has developed a template for methodically recording ledgers and this has been tested by the Church Recorders of the National Association of the Decorative and Fine Arts (NADFAS). LSEW is keen to engage as many volunteers as possible to record ledgers before more disappear and to develop educational resources to enable anyone interested in their local ancestors, in letter cutting or the beauty of these stones, to access ledgers. By working on a defined group of readily accessible churches, led by a dedicated Development Officer, the aim of the Pilot is to fully explore the practicalities of recording with volunteers from a variety of backgrounds and interests.


What are ledgerstones?

Ledgerstones are the flat stones placed over a grave inside a church, usually incised with the name and dates of the deceased. They are often decorated with heraldry and many include interesting inscriptions about the person, their family and their life in the local community. Over 250,000 survive, mainly in parish churches, and most date from the late seventeenth to the late eighteenth centuries. The stones used are often from a local or regional source and the carving of the letters and any decoration is of high quality and a readily visible demonstration of the letter cutter’s art. A family group of ledgerstones may well be their only visible memorial, if their house has disappeared.




Bath Abbey fundraising auction nets   £9,000 for Footprint project

Bath Abbey fundraising auction nets £9,000 for Footprint project

The first contemporary art auction held at Bath Abbey has raised £9,000 for the Footprint project.


The auction, held on Wednesday November 23, was organised by David Simon, owner of a contemporary art gallery in Bath.

Former Sotheby’s auctioneer Freya Mitton gave up her time to auction work from artists including Eileen Cooper RA, Nick Cudworth, Robert Cary-Williams, Luke Frost, Peter Brown, Emma Rose, Ben Hughes and Diana Matthews.


Former Sotheby’s auctioneer Freya Mitton in action!

David Simon, who has dedicated every minute of his spare time over the last three months, on this project, said: “I’m delighted that we raised so much money and I’d like to thank all the artists who donated their work – the quality and variety of art donated was just wonderful. I’d also like to thank everyone who came along to support the auction, especially our bidders. This contemporary art auction is just one small thing that I can do to help make Footprint – a really great thing – become a reality.”


A musical interlude in the bidding!

The Footprint project is one the country’s most significant church projects and will transform the Abbey’s facilities for the community and for worshippers. The Footprint project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.


Charles Curnock, Director of Bath Abbey’s Footprint project, said: “We are enormously grateful to David Simon for organising the auction, to all the artists involved and those who came along to support us. Footprint will enable us to improve how we inspire, engage with and serve our congregation, our community and our visitors. Thanks to Heritage Lottery funding of over £10 million granted earlier this year, and many other generous benefactors, there is now less than £1 million left to raise of the project’s £19.3 million total.”

Sharon Stevenson, Bath Abbey’s Fundraising Officer, said: “Bath Abbey, which is open to worshippers, schools, concert-goers and a whole variety of other visitors 364 days of the year, is in urgent need of repair and transformation. The Footprint project will help us to transform our facilities for the future. Thanks to the generosity of all these talented artists, David Simon, and all of those who came along to support our auction, we will be one step closer to making Footprint a reality.”

Find out more about Footprint at or follow @bathfootprint on twitter

Getting Christmas underway

Getting Christmas underway

Contractors are hard at work assembling over 170 chalets for this year’s  Bath Christmas Market.


Chalets going up on the north side of Bath Abbey.

This colourful annual event – which lines the streets surrounding Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths – opens on Thursday, November 24th and runs through to Sunday, December 11th.


Chalets going up in Abbey Courtyard

Opening times are 10 to 7 Monday to Wednesday, 10 to 8.30 Thursday to Saturday and 10 to 6 on Sundays.


Chalet bases in York Street.

This year they are having to re-arrange a couple of pitches near the shop entrance to Bath Abbey as hoarding has been erected for the start of excavation work as park of the  multi-million pound Footprint Project.


The hoarding going up in one corner of Bath Abbey for the start of excavation work.

This will restore the Abbey floor, introduce a heating system using Bath’s thermal waters as a source of energy and install educational facilities, meeting rooms, rehearsal spaces, toilets and much needed kitchens.


The hoarding for the start of work at Bath Abbey gives full information about the Heritage Lottery funded Footprint Project

Chalets normally at this point near the Abbey are taking up space outside the church office in Kingston buildings.

Find out more about the Footprint Project via and more information about this year’s Bath Christmas Market via

Meanwhile it is good to see B&NES replacing the bike hoops outside the Guildhall after their removal to make way for the annual Remembrance Day parade march by.


The hoops have gone back with removal notices – and the offending cycle lock cable  – STILL attached!

Shame the hoops are being returned with the notices of their removal still attached. A bike lock cable l mention to Council Connect months ago was also still attached when the hoops went back.


I noticed a B&NES lorry with the hoops onboard – waiting to be re-attached. You can see the notices and the cycle lock cable are still attached.

Some joined up communication needed here l think?