Bath has plenty of museums to celebrate and explore its Roman, Georgian and Victorian pasts but – until quite recently – nothing to reflect its important role as a medical hub.
The city’s thermal waters have helped create and shape its history, with an emphasis on their health-giving qualities and their role in soothing the minds and bodies of the many who have come – over the centuries – in search of a cure for their ailments.
Their use – whether by Romans or Georgians – has left its mark in archaeological ruins and fine 18th-century architecture – which together has helped Bath gain its World Heritage status.
Both periods are well represented in award-winning museums but the medical side of things has never been singled out for special attention. That is – until quite recently.
In a much-loved building – which itself played an important role in the city’s social history – a group of volunteers has established the Bath Medical Museum.
At its core is a remarkable collection of artefacts which tell the history of ‘The Min’. Opened in 1742, it was the first national hospital which took patients from all over the UK. The idea behind its construction was to provide access to treatment in the thermal waters of Bath for the ‘sick poor from Britain and Ireland’.
Opened in 1742, it was the first national hospital which took patients from all over the UK. The idea behind its construction was to provide access to treatment in the thermal waters of Bath for the ‘sick poor from Britain and Ireland’.
In order to cover the cost of sending patients home when their treatment was finished, providing necessary clothing, or burying them if they died, a sum of money (caution money) had to be deposited with the Registrar on admission.
At first, the patients were taken to and from the Corporation Baths for treatment. They wore brass badges (a number of which are still in existence at the Hospital) giving their ward and the number of their bed.
These badges were a `ticket of admission’ to the Corporation Baths. They were also to prevent patients entering public houses and coming back the worse for drink. The Inn Keepers were instructed not to serve patients and risked losing their licence if they did.
A book of patients’ records, the brass badges and even a sedan chair to carry patients with gout bandaged legs are amongst the items on display.
The museum – run by many volunteers who are still out-patients at what is now the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases – is getting itself charitable trust status and hoping to extend its medical collection – but there is one BIG problem.
The building is now a NHS Trust but its world-renowned facilities are due to move to a new centre to be purpose-built at the Royal United Hospital.
This means the old Grade 2* listed building is up for sale and could end up as a hotel, department store, offices or restaurant – leaving the Bath Medical Museum without a home.
Bath Newseum spoke to the museum’s Project Director, Dr Roberta Anderson, and asked her why she thought the museum was so important.
The property is being marketed by GVA and their Bristol-based Senior Regional Director, Gordon Isgrove, told me:
‘We are currently in the middle of the tendering exercise so there is not a huge amount I can say. I can confirm that we moved the tender deadline out a little from the original set date (which was 26th April) and we received a number of tenders on the 11th May.
As you would expect for such a prime property, interest was strong and we are reviewing a number of the offers proposals and hope to be in a position to progress the sale forward once we have completed our review over the next 6 weeks.
In relation to price, there was no formal guide price and I can’t comment given the commercially sensitive stage we are at.’
Meanwhile, Howard Jones, Strategic Estates Advisor for the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“We are working with our appointed agents on the sale of the RNHRD and are confident that the outcome will be positive, allowing us to further improve services we will provide for patients at the new RNHRD and Therapies Centre at the RUH.
We continue to work with volunteers who have set up the Bath Medical Museum charity, and are loaning them artefacts for ongoing display in the museum’s eventual new home.’
Where that new home will be is anyone’s guess. I have heard other museums have been to inspect what The Min has to offer. Could this be a real Museum of Bath at last? One that could incorporate several individual museums under one roof?
Money would – no doubt – be the deciding factor.
You can check out Bath’s Medical Museum via www.bathmedicalmuseum.org or – because there are server issues at the moment – try https://visitbath.co.uk/things-to-do/bath-medical-museum-p2118253
This is the sad and neglected Georgian building in Broad Street that was – for over two hundred years – a bustling school.
It was built in 1754 to house King Edward’s School and in use through to 1990 when the last of the pupils still based there left to join their already relocated colleagues in a move to the school’s new 14 acre North Road site.
Since then the Grade 11• listed property in the city centre has remained empty. Sold for development – plans to turn it into an hotel or pub/restaurant have so far come to nothing.
The building remains on the ‘Heritage at Risk Register’ though repair work to the roof has at least reduced the risk to the property.
Recently, I was in the car park behind York Buildings and could see the side of the old school wall above the boundary wall of the parking lot.
Etched into its surface – in very neat carved writing – are the names of various people and a range of early 20th century dates alongside them.
Are these former pupils with the dates of their time at the school alongside their names? Or maybe teachers who taught in this building?
Perhaps someone knows more. I am sure a list of pupils from 1900 onwards would help identify some of the names carved in stone.
A end of year plea now for Bathonians to get behind a local project that will revive an important part of the city’s history and a once much-loved public facility.
The Cleveland Pools Trust in Bath has now applied for planning permission to finally restore its 200yr-old heritage swimming pool in Bathwick.
A spokesperson told me that it is vital that both the local council (B&NES) – and the Heritage Lottery Fund – see evidence of support, so the Trust is appealing to people to please get behind them today (or ideally before Christmas) using the whole of this link to log on direct:
Bath Newseum was told:
‘It takes one minute to fill the form and will make a HUGE difference. (Addresses only asked for to distinguish individuality).
Progress will be posted via the Trust’s Winter Newsletter on the website in the New Year. www.clevelandpools.org.uk
Thank you very much in anticipation.’
On May 19th, 1767 the foundation stone was laid for the construction of what many would now consider to be Bath’s most iconic Georgian building.
So 2017 has a 250th anniversary to celebrate and – thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund award and other donations – Bath Preservation Trust – in collaboration with other cultural organisations – will be leading a whole host of walks, talks, exhibitions and free public events to mark this architectural date in history.
Caroline Kay, Chief Executive of the Trust, outlined plans at an informal meeting of representatives of other cultural organisations, held at the Holburne Museum.
She is anxious to encourage other bodies to come on board and maybe work in some reference to the Royal Crescent in whatever programme of events they may be planning for next year.
She also unveiled the logo the Trust will be using to promote the planned celebrations – which also coincide with the 30th anniversary of Bath’s inscription by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
There is much to be finalised and an official launch in the New Year – once the exact HLF funding has been determined – but here is a rough idea of some of what is in store from a Bath Preservation Trust briefing:
“No other building represents the architectural innovation, social identity and creative imagination of Georgian Britain better than the Royal Crescent in Bath. The foundation stone for this masterpiece of 18th century design was laid on 19th May 1767 and since then it has become one of the most famous buildings in Britain.
It stands as a doorway through which the history of the Georgian period can be discovered and the architecture of the future inspired.
Via exhibitions, debates, events and artworks the museums of Bath Preservation Trust will lead a year-long city-wide celebration of the Royal Crescent’s 250th anniversary – which also coincides with the 30th anniversary of Bath’s inscription by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Working in collaboration with other cultural organisations the celebrations will include over 70 events so far with lectures, walks, workshops and film screenings. There will be concerts and illuminations – even a grand parade.
Many Bath locals will remember swimming in the open air Cleveland Pools with great affection. The exciting plans for the historic pools’ renovation and future use are on display for the first time this week.
As part of a public consultation exercise the concept designs have been displayed at a stand in Southgate, Bath, on Monday and Tuesday this week, and then outside GAP in Milsom Street all day on Thursday 28 and Friday 29 April 2016.
Members of the Trust and its design team will be available to explain the thinking behind the development of the present concept design and to answer any questions.
An online survey will be available for the start of the consultation from Monday 25th April on the Trust’s website www.clevelandpools.org.uk which will include an explanation of the development of the design and a short survey form for comment.
Your involvement in the Public Consultation is important for two reasons:
- To ensure that we provide the best project possible for the people of Bath;
- To demonstrate the community’s involvement and support in developing our plans to the HLF, which will encourage them to provide a grant for the restoration work.
Project Programme: The Trust will be submitting a second stage funding application to the HLF this Autumn seeking grant funding of £3.7m. The goal is to have the pool open for swimming early in 2018.
Fundraising: the Trust needs to raise £600,000 partnership funding before January next year and has recently set up an appeal board to help reach this target. For more information about the project please look at the website or contact the Trust at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit Bath’s Assembly Rooms today and you might just bump into Captain Wade – the ‘Master of Ceremonies’ who organised events at this historic centre of entertainment.
There’s an opportunity to have a go at Georgian dancing, listen to 18th century music and join your kids in craft activities or dressing up.
It’s all part of the way in which the Rooms will be helping to celebrate World Heritage Day and Bath’s World Heritage status.
Every year the city celebrates World Heritage Day with an event themed around the ‘Outstanding Universal Vale’ for which Bath was inscribed back in 1987.
This year’s theme is the Georgian social legacy. English society changed radically in the 18th century and Bath was at the forefront of shaping the change.
The Cleveland Pools Trust – working hard to bring about the restoration of Britain’s last remaining Georgian-built open air lido – will be amongst those exhibiting in the Great Octagon Room. Pretty easy to spot too as two of them are dressing up in Victorian bathing costumes!
Log onto www.bathworldheritage.org.uk/events for more information on what’s happening and when. There is also information on other events coming up later in the year.