Turning the pages at Chapter One

Turning the pages at Chapter One

Michael and Emma Heap at Chapter One Pub on the London Road – once upon a time the Hanover Hotel – have now extended their opening hours to Wednesday evenings as well.

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So co-founder of Akeman Press, Kirsten Elliott, is offering four history talks on four Wednesdays – 14th and 28th of February, 14th and 28th March. Called A Step to the Bath, the talks will examine what it would have been like to visit Bath during its Georgian heyday.

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The first one is about the state of roads and dangers of travel. Not for nothing did people make their wills before setting out on a journey. Floods, mud, and highwaymen were just three of the perils of a trip to Bath.

The second is about finding lodgings, why inns were not hotels, how lodgings worked, and some of the trials and tribulations, from delinquent servants to noisy neighbours.

The third is about the various entertainments and social life. Everything from riding schools to balls will be covered, not to mention gambling – both licit and illicit. And of course, the varied delights of the pleasure gardens will feature.

The last talk deals with the dangerous side of Bath – crime, including duels (and why Nash banned them), prostitution, street crime etc.

The price doesn’t include drinks but there will be handouts. If you want to book in advance, it’s £20 for all 4, £5.50 for individual booked talks, and £6 on the door.

Either email Kirsten or book at the pub. The talks will last an hour – then you’re free to enjoy some of the amazing range of drinks at the bar!

Old KES Junior School now secured!

Old KES Junior School now secured!

Good to know they’ve sent someone in to secure this historic building once more – but it was a  shame to have been once again writing about another architectural piece of Bath’s heritage under threat. Anyone walking in Broad Street on Thursday would have seen that the old KES Junior School had been vandalised.

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The old KES Junior School – by Thomas Jelly – in Broad Street.

A door had been forced – leaving the 18th century Grade 2* listed building vulnerable to further vandalism or squatters.

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A side door has been completely smashed.

This school taught King Edward’s pupils from 1754 to 1986 and was sold eventually to Samuel Smith’s Brewery in Yorkshire.

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You can now see right inside the building.

I  left a message on the answerphone in their press office and hoped someone will get back to me. They didn’t!

The gradual decay of this building has been of great concern. Its owners have so far appeared in no rush to do anything with it or sell it on.

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The building has been secured again – but won’t someone make the brewery who own it DO something with it soon!

At least the building has now been made secure. Adrian Nelson who is Senior Conservation Officer for B&NES told Bath Newseum:

“I have been in contact with the local retained architects and they have informed me that they are aware of the situation and securing the building.

Many thanks for your interest and informing us of this for which we are very grateful.”

It’s time Samuel Smith’s Brewery either bring forward proposals or sell this historic building to someone who will preserve its future.

 

Get out of Bath!

Get out of Bath!

Christmas excesses and New Year resolutions could both lead you to consider a late stocking filler which offers you fourteen different scenic and historic walking routes out of Bath to help you feel both fresher and fitter as 2018 begins.

We tend to get a little city-centric here with so much in the way of thermal waters, Georgian architecture, parks and Roman ruins to indulge in.

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Author, Andrew Swift.

Author Andrew Swift has spent years both walking and researching ways in which you can expand your energies, and enrich mind and body, by getting out and appreciating – on foot – the beautiful countryside that surrounds our World Heritage city.

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Andrew’s newly published book on Bath walks!

He reminds us that his book allows us to reconnect with what was many an 18th century visitor’s most pleasurable indulgence – walking in the countryside.

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The first route in the book!

His book is well illustrated, informative and easy to read and carry with you. Andrew points out that the route maps in it are not intended as navigational aids. A detailed map is all but essential on all except the first four walks. An OS Explorer or AA Walker’s Map should do the trick.

I met him in Kingston Parade – the place all fourteen walks begin.

More information via https://www.akemanpress.com/

Bath’s Viking history.

Bath’s Viking history.

Today l came face to face with a small – but important – part of Bath’s history.

It lies encased in shaped polystyrene – and stored in the vaults of the Roman Baths Museum – but this is not a relic from the city’s imperial past – nor an object from its Georgian period.

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The black patina finish still has a sheen.

It’s a well-preserved tenth-century Scandinavian-styled sword and was found after excavations in front of what’s left of the town wall in Upper Borough Walls back in 1981.

This high-status Viking weapon was expensively made from crucible steel but ended up dumped in a ditch outside Bath’s Saxon wall.

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The handle is believed to have been wound with silver thread.

Had it been kept as an heirloom, stolen and hidden or lost in a skirmish between Danish raiders and Anglo Saxons.

Once upon a time a replica was displayed near what remains on the city wall but now both lie hidden. We have a glorious museum to set off our wonderful Roman Baths and are surrounded by splendid Georgian architecture but there is not a Museum of Bath to display treasures that don’t fit into tourist-driven visible history.

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The inscription reads ‘Ulfbehrt made me’ n Latin. Did it come from one of the finest workshops of early medieval Germany or was it made in England?

Maybe one day the Viking sword will have a more visible resting place but do click on the link below to hear Roman Baths Collections Assitant Zofia Matyjaszkiewicz tell us why the sword is dated to the Viking period. She is holding a replica of the real sword which rests beside her on the table.

 

Chairmens’ lodges sold for £159,000.

Chairmens’ lodges sold for £159,000.

The last two Georgian-built ‘Chair Attendants’ Lodges’ still standing in Bath are reported to have fetched £159,000 at auction.

The West and East Sedan Chair Houses, which are thought to have been built in the 1730s, were sold by Bath & North East Somerset Council, one for £81,000 and the other for £79,000.

The buildings, which were built by the noted architect John Wood the Elder in Queen’s Parade Place, are single storey and measure just 100 square feet apiece.

Councillor Charles Gerrish, (Conservative, Keynsham North), Cabinet Member for Finance and Efficiency, said: “The council has a policy of continually reviewing its properties and these were not part of its heritage estate.

Although these are unusual and historic buildings, they had only a very low rental income and are were not easily lettable because of their size and lack of essential facilities.

Capital receipts generated from the sale of the properties will be re-invested into the Council’s portfolio.  Because the buildings protected by Grade II-listed, any future development by their new owners would have to be in accordance with statutory listing regulations. ”

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The square-shaped little stone buildings – complete with their original Georgian chimneys – are in Queen’s Parade Place. They have been sold for commercial use.

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They were auctioned by Savills with a guide price of around £25,000 each.

 

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West Sedan Chair House

The properties are Grade 11 listed which means – while the interiors can be modified – the exterior facades will have to remain pretty much the same.

John Wood – and his son John – were responsible for some of Bath’s crowning architectural set-pieces including Queen Square, The Circus and the Royal Crescent.

Putting Sydney Gardens out to grass.

Putting Sydney Gardens out to grass.

Let me start by saying that l know the guys from the city’s parks department do a great job – with ever-decreasing funds – but it’s a fact of life that more time and effort is going to go into somewhere like Parade Gardens than a recreational space further away from the main tourist trail.

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Sydney Gardens displaying its autumnal glory.

Sydney Gardens is an historic, former Georgian Vauxhall that is full of mature trees currently crowned in autumnal glory.

You may know that  an application for a major HLF grant is currently being prepared that would help invigorate the space and equip it for life as a contemporary park to be enjoyed by all.

That’s a convoluted way of saying that – however much money they throw at it – it won’t be restored to anything like the way it originally was because life and society has changed.

While the city waits for some good news about a grant the gardens continue to deteriorate.

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Grass tracks show where the mower has been.

The grass now gets cut by the mowing team whose machines go from park to park. I have noticed there is no great attention to detail in some places.

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Not all the grass has been mown. Nothing seems to be done by hand any more. Note the squashed doggy poo bag!

Here is where the mower has been and a lot of the grass seems to have escaped the knife.

They have got rid of the permanent ‘park keeper’ who kept an eye on things and gave the gardens the benefit of a ‘personal touch.’

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A roof garden is taking hold at the temple.

The roof of the temple is weed bound and boundary walls are crumbling.

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The edging to the retaining wall beside the top steps has crumbled away.

Maybe Bathonians should roll up their sleeves and take charge. Silly me – doesn’t that involve taking pride in our community?

A temple of convenience.

A temple of convenience.

Bath’s Sydney Gardens has a long and illustrious history.

Laid out as commercially-run 18th century pleasure grounds –  in which even Jane Austen herself would have strolled – the site was taken over by the old Bath City Council in 1908 and opened to the public.

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The main driveway through Sydney Gardens. 

These days – as we live in an age of austerity – the park has an air of faded glory.

It certainly needs some ‘TLC’ – which hopefully will come as a result of Heritage Lottery funding. An application for nearly four million pounds will be going in next year.

If successful – according to the B&NES website – ‘The funding will be used to restore historic buildings, invest in landscape and garden restoration works, and create new play areas for all ages, over a three year programme (2019 – 21).

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Winter sunshine in Sydney Gardens

Alongside the works, a programme of events and activities around art, nature, horticulture, wildlife, play, sport, archaeology and history will be put on.

The project will celebrate the fascinating history of the gardens, with its Cosmorama, Labyrinth, Merlins Swing, Concerts, Public Breakfasts, Galas and Illuminations.’

Someone who takes a keen interest in all this is Kirsten Elliott – a  local author and historian – who also gives guided walks around the city’s parks.

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Kirsten Elliott – author and local historian.

She’s excited about one particular original feature – added when the Council bought the old Georgian ‘Vauxhall’ – but until now hidden and forgotten in the overgrown bushes.

It’s what celebrity author (Lady) Lucinda Lambton – who writes about architecture – would describe as a ‘temple of convenience.’ A cast-iron Edwardian ladies loo.

Kirsten took Bath Newseum along to have a look.

These days Bath’s public loos have been taken over by a private company who provide ‘well-maintained’ facilities that are accessed via a 20 pence piece.

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The existing facilities in Sydney Gardens

We have come a long way since the days of ‘spending a penny’ haven’t we. Out of interest, l can explain where that description of the ‘call of nature’ came from.

It’s all to do with the Great Exhibition – the world’s first trade fair – which opened in Joseph Paxton’s amazing Crystal Palace in 1851.

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The Great Exhibition © Wikipedia

 

Over six million people visited so it was, with some relief l am sure, that the exhibition also featured the UK’s first paid-for flushing toilet when visitors spent one penny to experience a clean toilet seat, a towel, a comb and a shoe shine.

Records show that 675,000 pennies were spent!