Water disappointment.

Water disappointment.

Once every week l join other volunteers who gather to show our visitors – and some locals – around this great city of Bath.

We’re officially members of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides – about 85 people who turn out in all weathers, throughout the year and accept no fee or tip.

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Our Tuesday morning gathering – outside the Pump Room at 10.30 am.

Our Tueasday morning group of five – in high season – can divide up to one hundred people between us for a two-hour tour – on foot – of this World Heritage status city.

It follows that many have a keen interest in local history and some have developed that in print. Fellow guide and local historian Colin Fisher is one of them.

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Colin Fisher’s book on Stefano Pieroni – published by Akeman Press in 2014.

Back in 2014, he published a book about an Italian immigrant to Bath called Signor Stefano Vallerio Pieroni who lived here from 1848 until his death in 1900.

Never heard of him? That must be true for most people. There’s plenty of architectural evidence remaining of the work of celebrity locals like John Wood and son but little to show for the efforts of this itinerant seller of plaster figures who set up shop in his adopted home.

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What remains of Pieroni’s fountain alongside Bog Island.

Most people getting off the coaches around Terrace Walk will spare little more than a glance at the modest little fountain alongside the abandoned underground loos that have given the Bog Island nickname to this location. Indeed – l am sure there are many arriving who wished they were still working – but that’s another story.

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Pieroni’s re-modelled fountain in Stall Street with Prince Bladud on top. © Christopher Wheeler

This was originally located at the Roman Bath’s end of Bath Street and – though topped now with an urn – was originally crowned with a statue of King Bladud, the legendary Celtic founder of Bath. That statue is now in Parade Gardens – keeping company with a stone pig.

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Prince Bladud is now in Parade Gardens.

If you don’t know the story already – a thousand years before the Romans came to Bath Prince Bladud – thrown out of his father’s kingdom as he’d caught leprosy on a trip to Greece –  was sitting on a local hillside feeding acorns to his flock of pigs.

Suddenly the animals broke away – only to run down the slopes and discover the thermal waters. They had caught leprosy off their royal swine herdsman minder and the waters cured it – after a bit of rolling in the hot mud. They did the same for the prince’s affliction.

Those health-giving qualities have been promoted ever since – whether you were a Roman soldier, medieval merchant, Georgian aristocrat or Victorian visiting professional.

Signor Pieroni was called in to re-model a controversial fountain that had only been commissioned three years previously at its original Stall Street location.

From time to time Bath develops a ‘yearning’ for fountain building. I can see why – l have a bee in my own bonnet today – about the lack of public ways of celebrating our natural gift of gushing springs – both hot and cold.

In the 1850’s you could describe the urge to do something grand as fountain mania. One proposal wanted a series of fountains cascading down from Lansdown, with fountains in St James’s Square, in front of the Royal Crescent and near the obelisk in Royal Victoria Park.

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Royal Crescent

This got whittled down to putting something in the city centre that would dispense and promote Bath’s famous ‘health-giving’ hot mineral waters.

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The original Tite Mineral Water Fountain in Stall Street. © BathinTime http://www.bathintime.co.uk

I rather like the look of the Tite Mineral Water Fountain of 1856 but the ‘powers that be’ did not and Signor Pieroni was called in to help remodel it.

Putting King Bladud on top went down well with most Bathonians. When you’re ‘pushing’ the many delights of a Georgian-dressed spa town a little fable – viewed through the mists of time (and the steam from the hot water) – goes a long way.

Pieroni’s Stall Street fountain was – and still is – part of the city’s dilemma about fountains. It cannot make its mind up about whether they should be promoted or not.

Though – in its original location – it was one of the city’s most iconic landmarks – problems with the supply of mineral water and maintenance costs condemned it to a dry and ivy-covered future.

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A postcard view of the ivy-covered fountain in Stall Street in 1915.

The fountain enclosure was filled with potted plants, Bladud removed to a private garden and an urn put in his place. A jump in time to 1989 and finally the fountain was dismantled, repaired, cleaned and re-erected on its present site on Bog Island – between Terrace Walk and Parade Gardens.

The statue was moved to Parade Gardens where the legend lives on – beside the fast flowing waters of the Celtic-named River Avon (Afon).

I have recently been down to look at what is left of Pieroni’s original celebration-in-stone of Bath’s sparkling waters and am sorry to say it is starting to crumble.

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More crumbling stonework about to fall?

There was fallen masonry lying near the modest fountain enclosure and its condition must raise concern within our currently cash-strapped council.

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I took author Colin Fisher to have a look and asked him what he thought.

 

Meanwhile, another of Bath’s underwhelming fountains continues to languish and disintegrate. The Laura Place  ‘ashtray’ was recently filled for its seasonal start-up but no water has flowed since.

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Filled but not functioning?

Has the pump broken down again? The fountain basin bears more chips and evidence that a screw and raw plug may have contributed to one loss of masonry.

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Looks like the screw and raw plug may have contributed to this disintegration.

Is this another fountain bowl destined to be filled with flowers?

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More chipping on the Laura Place fountain.

We’re never going to see a Trevi fountain in Bath l know, but l still feel developers should be encouraged to include water in their commercial endeavours.

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A day in the ‘life-cycle’ of a much-abused fountain.

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Nothing original about this vandalism. It wrecks havoc with the pump which the ratepayer has to pay to repair or replace.

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Another Laura Place fountain re-interpretation.

Why no fountain in Southgate or no feature in the re-modelled Saw Close – or even down at Riverside?

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The Saw Close re-modelling.

Who will save Pieroni’s Fountain and rescue the poor specimen in Laura Place? When will Bath wake up to its watery heritage?

In the meantime, while Bishop King had visions of a ladder to Heaven while asleep in the city – l will dream of more earthly matters. A little water-filled reminder of Signor Pieroni’s homeland.

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The Trevi Fountain in Rome. © ItalyGuides.It

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pools Trust is​ back in the swim.

Pools Trust is​ back in the swim.

It wasn’t the best of presents to receive just before Christmas. Cleveland Pools Trust and their many supporters ended 2017 on a real downer after hearing that their application for Heritage Lottery funding to restore these unique pools had been rejected.

However, the HLF held out a glimmer of hope when – at a meeting with the Trust in January this year – officials confirmed that they considered the approved plans set out a really strong foundation for the future of the pools – but there were outstanding issues that needed managing first.

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Cleveland Pools © Cleveland Pools Trust

Buoyed on by this the Trust has just submitted another application to the HLF.

A spokesperson told Bath Newseum:

“Since the New Year, the trustees have been working hard to address these issues. Councillors and senior officers of Bath and North East Somerset have committed support and work by Curo to repair the retaining wall on the site is about to start.
On Thursday 15 March the Trust submitted another application to the HLF. This application is the first round and will enable the Trust to prepare and submit a second-round application which, if successful, will release funds to carry out the restoration of the pools.

If successful with the new submission the programme is as follows:
Achieve HLF approval; December 2018
Confirm project funding; spring 2019
Issue tender documents; autumn 2019
Commence works on site; spring 2020
Open the Pools to the public; summer 2021.
The trustees are extremely grateful for the enthusiasm expressed by supporters and will continue to work with them to achieve a very special facility for local people and visitors. A liaison group of key stakeholders including close neighbours will be established under an independent chair, to work with the Trust and contractors to ensure that the construction period goes as smoothly as possible.
Chair of the Trust, Paul Simons, said: “The Cleveland Pools Trust has been delighted with the re-affirmation of support for the project from its many hundreds of enthusiasts: local residents and volunteers, swimmers, families and schools, heritage campaigners, and those who have pledged to support the project financially. We are determined to work with them to achieve a truly remarkable and unique facility”.
For your further information:

The Cleveland Pools Trust has been running a campaign to save the 200-year-old riverside pools on the eastern edge of Bath in Somerset for 13 years.
The Cleveland Pools are the oldest surviving open-air public swimming pools in the UK. Their rich social history dates back to the Regency period during King George III’s reign. ‘The Cleveland Pleasure Baths’ – as they were known for many years – were opened originally in 1817 to gentlemen bathers only, funded with private subscriptions from ‘the great and the good’ of Bath.
The Cleveland Pools site is listed Grade 2-star by Historic England and is one of only two buildings situated in the World Heritage Site of the City of Bath that appear on the national ‘Buildings at Risk’ register.
Plans are to include a 25-metre pool and a smaller children’s pool which would both be heated during the summer months. A Kiosk cafe and terrace are also proposed, along with full access for those with impaired mobility. On-site works would have been due to commence in November 2018 for an Easter 2020 completion.
The scheme has received overwhelming public support which demonstrates the huge demand for outdoor swimming to be restored to the citizens of Bath and North East Somerset.
The scheme for restoration has been granted full planning permission and listed building consent by Bath & North East Somerset Council. The council is also the owner of the site.
Look up their website – www.clevelandpools.org.uk. 

 

 

Rails-way station

Rails-way station

I am naturally curious. Don’t know whether it’s journalistic training – or that l came ‘ready-wired’ for being nosey – but l like to explore unusual avenues in search of stories for Bath Newseum.

Our local authority publishes a weekly list of planning applications and l enjoy a scroll through in search of material.

Here’s a good example. More than 17,000 people pass in and out of Bath Spa station every day and – l am sure – many may have noticed the work carried out on preparing this stopping point on the Bristol to London line for the new ten-carriage trains now coming into service.

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Bath Spa Station – looking back towards Bristol.

Putting the electrification of the line saga to one side – whether it’s an overhead pylon or an onboard alternative diesel engine – these new riders-of-the-rails offer greater capacity in a more up-to-date environment.

The new rolling stock has meant extending platforms. That’s after they were also built out towards the tracks so that the intended overhead electric power supply wouldn’t mean demolishing listed canopies.

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Bit of platform lengthening from a few weeks ago.

There was also space to move the tracks closer together – thanks to Brunel’s original ‘broad gauge’ layout.

The electrification programme has slowed to nothing following government criticism of costs but there are still little station improvements to be done that have nothing to do with the mega-bucks being spent elsewhere on the Great Western Electrification Project.

A point in question concerns a short section of parapet wall adjacent to the main buildings of Platform 1 on the Bristol end of the station which – according to a letter sent to B&NES Planning Department by Mr Ian Wheaton of Network Rail – ‘has been identified as below-height for compliance with minimum recommended suicide prevention mitigation.’

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The low wall can be seen on the far right of the picture. This one taken before the platforms were extended.

Putting it more simply – there is a danger people might – accidentally or deliberately – fall over it! There is a fair drop on the other side.

Originally Network Rail wanted to build the wall up and had been given planning permission to do this. However, they now want the Council to approve a change of plan.

In his letter, Ian Wheaton says: ‘ Having undertaken structural assessments of the existing wall, it was found that the structure would not be able to maintain the new loads associated with using stone to match the existing.

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The length of wall in question.

Following discussion with the Council and Historic England, it was agreed the appropriate solution would see the installation of railings of a similar design to that used elsewhere within the station, specifically those which surround the dining terrace of the Graze restaurant on Platform 2.’

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Existing railings around Graze.

Can’t see that this is going to be much of a problem – in terms of objections – but the public has the right to comment on the application via

https://isharemaps.bathnes.gov.uk/data.aspx?requesttype=parsetemplate&template=DevelopmentControlApplication.tmplt&basepage=data.aspx&Filter=^refval^=%2718/00908/VAR%27&history=2ac49d445942498b963ed535b119c49a&SearchLayer=DCApplications

If you would like a nose through the whole current list of planning applications click onto https://isharemaps.bathnes.gov.uk/data.aspx?requesttype=parsetemplate&template=DevelopmentControlSearchWeeklyList.tmplt

Working on water.

Working on water.

If you are a regular user of the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath through Bath you may have noticed a group of people busy cutting back the overgrowth, painting railings and shifting tons of accumulated soil from the offside abutments.

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Some of the volunteers at work on the Sydney Gardens stretch of the K & A.

They are unpaid volunteers – working under the auspices of the Canal and River Trust – and currently concentrating activity on the canal as it runs through Sydney Gardens.

Historically, this was an area created to be a Georgian ‘Vauxhall’ – a pleasure garden – opened in 1795 –  for grown-ups! Which offered everything from outside dining to adult swings in the middle of a thrill-on-every-dead-end labyrinth.

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The shape of the canal through Sydney Gardens.

The Kennet and Avon Canal Company paid a fair sum to be allowed to dig out a route through the park and charged with ensuring that what was created looked good too.

John Rennie was the engineer who linked the Severn with the Thames and London with excavations between 1799 and 1810.

These days the narrowboats aren’t carrying coal, stone or foodstuffs but carrying pleasure seekers taking advantage of what has been a massive and expensive restoration of the route.

The Sydney Gardens bit is well-used but was getting just as run down as the parkland around it.

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The canal through Sydney Gardens.

Whilst the Gardens apply for HLF funding to spruce things up, this section of the canal below relies upon the skills and muscle power of its volunteer men and women.

This section is being led by Ian Herve who – when not on canal business – is a volunteer Mayor’s Guide like me.

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Volunteer, Ian Herve who is leading the group currently working wonders along the canal through Sydney Gardens.

I met him down on the towpath to hear more of the group’s plans for ‘enhanced improvement’ of this stretch of well-used and much-loved canal.

 

 

Find out more about how you could join the team as a volunteer by clicking on https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/volunteerhttps://canalrivertrust.org.uk/volunteer

 

 

Free lunchtime World Heritage talks at the Guildhall

Free lunchtime World Heritage talks at the Guildhall

 

A series of free lunchtime talks will take place at the Guildhall, Bath, this November to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Bath becoming a World Heritage Site.

Management professionals from Hadrian’s Wall, Stonehenge, the Tower of London, and Bath & North East Somerset Council will give 30-minute talks on how they are undertaking the conservation and promotion of their respective sites.

Councillor Paul Myers (Conservative Midsomer Norton Redfield), Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “Bath and North East Somerset has a well-deserved reputation as a centre of excellence for heritage management.

“We constantly monitor best practice elsewhere to maintain this and it is a pleasure to welcome these national experts to share their knowledge and experience with us.” Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 14.32.01

30 Years of World Heritage in Bath
Wednesday, November 1
Tony Crouch, City of Bath World Heritage Site Manager

World Heritage at Hadrian’s Wall

Wednesday, November 8
Humphrey Welfare, Chairman, Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site Partnership Board

World Heritage at Stonehenge
Wednesday, November 15
Sarah Simmonds, Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Partnership Manager

World Heritage at the Tower of London

Wednesday, November 22
Natasha Downie, World Heritage Site Co-ordinator, Tower of London

All talks run from 1.10pm until 1.45pm. Booking is not required, just turn up on the day.

 

 

Bath’s heritage blooms amongst the flowers.

Bath’s heritage blooms amongst the flowers.

Many of  Bath’s museums and heritage interests took part in an open air celebration of World Heritage Day in the city’s Parade Gardens – alongside the River Avon and just below Pulteney Weir.

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Looking down on part of the Heritage Day display in Parade Gardens.

It was a fitting location. as this year’s celebratory theme was ‘Waters of Bath’ and activities focused on the past, present and future use and significance of Bath’s hot springs, river and canal network.

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This year’s celebrations included a marquee for special talks on local history and heritage subjects.

This year has special importance for Bath as the city celebrates 30 years of being a World Heritage Site.

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Stuart Burroughs – who is Director of The Museum of Bath at Work – giving a talk about Bath’s bridges in the heritage site marquee. One of many lectures about local heritage and history.

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The Cleveland Pools Trust display.

For the first time, there was a programme of short talks in a specially erected marquee. Local experts explored different aspects of the water theme, including the medicinal use of spa water, the importance of the waterways in the Georgian development of the city, Bath’s cold water springs and minor spas, the use of thermal water to heat the Abbey, and the history of Bath’s river crossings.

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Robert Delius – Author of ‘Waters of Bath’.

Amongst exhibitors was Robert Delius – a local architect with Stride Treglown – who is campaigning for more street-based water features to celebrate the city’s debt to its springs and river.

He had put together a 42 page report – entitled ‘The Waters of Bath” – to circulate amongst interested parties and , in catching up with him today (Sunday, April 23rd) it seems there have been some encouraging developments.

There was also plenty to keep younger visitors busy in the Parade Gardens – including a cardboard model of the Pulteney Bridge for them to complete by adding windows.

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Some of the youngsters helping to put windows onto the cardboard model of Pulteney Bridge – part of the display by Bath Preservation Trust.

Plus guided tours offered by the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides, a walk to the Cleveland Pools and even a two hour National Trust trek to the Bath Skyline.

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The Mayor of Bath’s Honorary Guides display and meeting point.

Even more exhibits underneath part of the Colonnades – a derelict area which may come back to life. That’s if plans to attract restaurants and extend the Victoria Gallery come to fruition.

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Bath’s Record Office display in the Colonnades.

The city’s Record Office – currently closed (until June 5th} for redecoration and incorporation of the Local Studies Reference Collection from Bath Central Library – chose various stories from the archive collection to do with the river and local springs for their display.

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Colin Johnston – Principal Archivist at the City’s Record Office.

Colin Johnston – who is is the Principal Archivist – told me they had deliberately chosen their niche in the Colonnades because it features in two old photographs in their collection.

Photographs showing it as a special water-based destination – as Colin explained.

Trust in your volunteers.

Trust in your volunteers.

Unveiling the upgraded sign post.

Unveiling the upgraded sign post. Click on images to enlarge

A sunny celebration in Bath (on Friday, June 5th) on a tiny patch of land where the River Avon meets the Widcombe end of the Kennet and Avon Canal.

It was held to official unveil the ‘upgrading’ work around this junction which has been carried out by the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust’s Bath and Bristol branch volunteer team with the support of the Canal and River Trust.

The river and canal junction. Click on images to enlarge.

The river and canal junction. Click on images to enlarge.

It involved clearing 50 years of unrestricted plant growth which has done nothing to enhance this historic heritage location, originally completed in 1810 when the canal through to London was opened and modified as part of the 1960’s Flood defence Works.

Vice Chair Ian Herve told the Virtual Museum exactly what had been done.