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.

sydney gardens

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).

sydney gardens

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.

P1160968

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.

sydney gardens

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.

Crystal_Palace_from_the_northeast_from_Dickinson's_Comprehensive_Pictures_of_the_Great_Exhibition_of_1851._1854

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!

Grumbles over the Gravel Walk.

Grumbles over the Gravel Walk.

It was Bath’s first by-pass and the setting – in Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion – for the city stroll that Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot took when they were finally reconciled.

I am talking about the Gravel Walk –  laid down in 1771 and connecting the Royal Crescent with Queen Square.

IMG_4788

The lower entrance to Gravel Walk.

Once it would have had views across gently sloping pastures leading to the old city of Bath – that is, until Royal Victoria park was constructed and mature trees now shade this pathway and drip raindrops upon its pedestrian users.

It is a pathway that Jane Austen herself would have walked upon and one that is still used today by tourists and Bathonians alike.

As a member of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides it’s a route many of us choose to take – when showing the city to Bath’s international visitors – but there’s not much of the original gravel path left to see.

IMG_4794

Vans and cars lining Gavel Walk.

We are getting a build up of vehicles parked along the side of the pathway – which is at the rear of Gay Street and the Circus.

Many are genuine tradespeople wanting access. However, this is a situation not seen before and a real blot on the landscape.

IMG_4796

Gravel Walk has become a bit of a vehicle park.

Cars and vans are  churning up the surface.

Though this is part of the city’s Conservation Area, attempts have been made to fill in the holes with all sorts of aggregate, so the whole route is a patchwork quilt of stone filling, pot holes and mud.

IMG_4801

Someone has tried to level out the potholes with pea gravel. A good attempt at repair but should the whole pathway be restored with a material closer to its original surface dressing?

This route once gave access to the back entrances to the Georgian properties but, with the coming of Royal Victoria Park – designed in 1829 – the pathway merged with this new facility – one of Britain’s earliest public parks.

IMG_4792

Water-filled potholes and not much in the way of gravel!

Coming out at the top end of the Gravel Walk one comes face to face with the impressive Royal Crescent. Number 1 is not only a Georgian house museum but the headquarters of Bath Preservation Trust – the city’s heritage watchdogs.

No 1 Royal Crescent

No 1 Royal Crescent

BPT’s Chief Executive, Caroline Kay, told Bath Newseum:

‘The Gravel Walk was in 18th Century, and is today, a key pedestrian route from Queen Square to the Crescent which should be an oasis of calm on the fringe of the built-up Georgian streets.

Unfortunately it appears to be massively over-used by delivery and construction vehicles and the like which has reduced most of the gravel to mud;  this in turn has been seeded by weeds, and all in all the place feels unloved and unsafe for the many visitors who want to use it.

IMG_4795

Things look bad along the Gravel Walk.

I believe that the Circus Area residents have been pressing for action to change the locks and access arrangements so they really are based on need only, and we look forward to this taking place so that then we can have a useful discussion about restoration and reinstatement of the eponymous gravel.’

IMG_4803

Tyre tracks and mud.

 

One of the councillors representing this part of the city is Cllr Andrew Furse.

He told Bath Newseum:

‘I have contacted council officers and again contacted Council Connect regarding the abuse to parking and damage to gravel walk.

Unknown

Cllr Andrew Furse

An historical part of the park, a few years ago residents were experiencing a similar problem. To tackle it a lockable bollard was installed at the entrance to Brock Street. Clearly this is being abused.
Therefore I have asked parking enforcement to be involved, and asked the Parks Department to replace the lock to bring some control to this.
I have also asked planning enforcement to ensure that building work to properties on Brock street or the Circus does not result in a free for all to tradesmen.

Also to ensure that proper reinstatement to the gravel is undertaken at the cost to the building work, not the parks department.

The council needs to get this sorted out.’
I would be interested to hear other views on this subject.

Just before we leave Gravel Walk – one little point of interest at the steps end of the path where workmen are rebuilding a boundary wall after the felling of two giant leylandii’s.

IMG_4807

The lower shovel rests upon the arched sewer beneath the stone privy.

In digging down to extract the roots they have come across the old  stone walled privy  – at the bottom of the garden – and you can clearly see the arched stone sewer beneath it. All of this will remain untouched!

IMG_4808

A closer view of the arched sewer.

 

 

Twilight talks about fashion.

Twilight talks about fashion.

Subjects ranging from Jane Austen to fashions inspired by Caribbean culture will be amongst topics featured when the Fashion Museum Bath hosts a series of Twilight Talks this autumn.

fashion museum

The talks, at the Bath & North East Somerset Council run Museum, will also include subjects such as the use of fur and feathers in fashion and a fascinating insight into the life of British stage and screen actress Vivien Leigh.

Cllrs Paul Myers (Conservative, Midsomer Norton Redfield), Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration said: “This is a wonderful programme of talks put together by staff at the Fashion Museum, covering a diverse range of topics.   I am delighted they have been able to incorporate events to coincide with the Jane Austen Festival and Black History Month.  The talks should prove to be informative, inspiring and thought provoking.”

fashion museum

All talks take place at the Fashion Museum from 6.15pm to 7.15pm. Tickets cost £10 adult/£8 student including a glass of wine, and can be booked atwww.bathboxoffice.org.uk.

 

Jane Austen

Thursday 14 September 2017

A talk about fashions at the time of Jane Austen, to coincide with the annual Jane Austen Festival that takes place in Bath each September.

 

Discovering Pauline Baynes

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Hear all about Alberto Ceccatelli’s research discovering the life and work of children’s illustrator Pauline Baynes, who, as a child, owned a vibrant jumper now on display at the Fashion Museum. Later in life, Baynes worked with JRR Tolkien and illustrated many children’s books including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The talk will be a conversation in Italian and English, with simultaneous translation.

 

Re-use and Re-purpose: Understanding Jessica Ogden

Thursday 12 October 2017

Join Professor Carol Tulloch as she talks about how British/Jamaican fashion designer Jessica Ogden’s work re-making, re-cycling and customising pre-used textiles is rooted in a centuries old Caribbean tradition. Part of Black History Month.

 

Vivien Leigh – Actress and Movie Star

Thursday 9 November 2017

Keith Lodwick will talk about British stage and screen actress Vivien Leigh, drawing on the archive of her letters and diaries at the Theatre Museum Collection. Leigh’s 1940s red embroidered jacket is on display at the Fashion Museum.

 

Fashioned from Nature

Thursday 23 November 2017

Drawing on her research for the V&A’s forthcoming exhibition Fashioned From Nature, Edwina Ehrman will talk about the fascinating role of fur and feathers in fashion from the 18th century to the present day. Her talk will particularly focus on the human impulse to improve on and commodify nature.

For more information visit:  www.fashionmuseum.co.uk.

 

Take note of Jane Austen

Take note of Jane Austen

A rare £5 note, engraved with a tiny portrait of Jane Austen, is to be presented to a visitor centre dedicated to the author this month.

austen_fiver

Detail from a note similar to the one to be presented.

The note, reputedly worth £50,000, will be given to the Jane Austen Centre, in Bath, by Graham Short, the micro-artist responsible for the engraving.

The presentation will take place at the Centre, in Gay Street, at 11am on Tuesday July 18; the 200th Anniversary of the author’s death.

The news puts an end to months of speculation that the fiver may have been put into circulation, after Mr Short paid an incognito visit to the well-known tourist attraction earlier this year.

Mr Short, who lives in Birmingham, said he visited the centre to learn more about Jane Austen as felt he “really ought to know more about her life than I do”.

He added: “It will be framed with glass on the back and the front so you can see through it.”

David Lassman, from the Jane Austen Centre said: “We’re obviously very appreciative of this gift from Graham and it will go on display where visitors to the exhibition can view it.”

Mr Short originally engraved 5mm portraits of Jane Austen on five £5 notes, along with classic quotes from her books, making each one worth thousands of pounds.

Graham-working

Graham Short known as the ‘world’s smallest engraver’ who engraves works of art on pin heads and the eye of a needle at his workshop near Birmingham. Picture David Parker 15.02.16

He then put four of them into circulation as a Willy Wonka type ‘Golden Ticket’, so members of the public who found them would receive an unexpected windfall.

The first £5 note was spent by Mr Short in a cafe in Blackwood, South Wales in 2016, and was discovered not far away just two weeks later.

A second one, spent in Scotland, was discovered after turning up in a Christmas card, while the third was donated back by a kindhearted pensioner to go towards a good cause.

The fourth £5 note, however, spent in Melton Mowbray, Leicstershire, has yet to be found.

The opportunity to see one of these unique engraved notes up close though, will now be afforded anyone visiting the Jane Austen Centre from July 18.

While the chance to hear Mr Short talk about his work is also on offer, when he appears at Bath’s Jane Austen Festival, which runs between 8th-17th September 2017.

http://www.janeaustenfestivalbath.co.uk/events/engraving-the-5-notes-presentation/

https://www.janeausten.co.uk/jane-austen-news-issue-65/

Look what’s brewing.

Look what’s brewing.

A collaboration between a Bath tourist attraction and a micro-brewery has resulted in the creation of a new beer in honour of the city’s most famous resident.

The Jane Austen Centre, located in the city’s Gay Street and the Bath Brew House, have joined forces to produce the Jane Austen 200 Beer.

The new brew celebrates Jane Austen’s bicentenary year – which includes the 200th Anniversary of her death and the posthumous publication of her two ‘Bath’ novels.

Austen_beer

Senior Jane Austen Centre ‘Greeter’ Martin Salter and Austen Festival Director Jackie Herring help add the new brew ingredients at Bath Ales Brew House.

To ferment the partnership, a Centre team, including Senior Meeter & Greeter Martin Salter and Austen Festival director, Jackie Herring, recently visited the brewery.

While there, they helped in the brewing process of the new drink, which is described as a light, hoppy and refreshing ale with added Earl Grey flavouring.

Although it may seem an unlikely tribute to the creator of such classics of English Literature as Pride & Prejudice and Emma, Austen herself was a dab hand at brewing.

Centre General Manager, Paul Crossey said: ‘In her time, beer was regarded as being safer than water to drink and so many families, included Austen’s, brewed their own.

Max Cadman, Head Brewer from the Bath Brew House said: ‘We really enjoyed brewing this beer with the Jane Austen Centre, this is a style of beer I’ve wanted to brew for a

while so this has been a great opportunity to use a recipe that includes Earl Grey tea. I’m sure this beer would be one that Jane Austen would enjoy drinking!

Fans of the author will be able to enjoy the celebratory tipple from July 1st; when the first pint will be pulled at 11am at the Bath Brew House.

It will then be available later the same day at the annual Jane Austen Summer Ball, which takes place at the city’s Guildhall.

As well as the Summer Ball, the Jane Austen 200 beer will be available from the Bath Brew House throughout July and the Jane Austen Festival, in Bath, in September.

Austen visited Bath several times in the 1790s, was a resident for six years, between 1801 and 1806, and set two books in the city – Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

Novel idea

Novel idea

How about a selfie with Jane Austen?  That’s on offer in the reception area of Bath Guildhall where a bust of the writer – sculpted by Charlotte Hern and cast in the Modern Souvenir Company workshop in the city – is on display.

IMG_3226

The gold covered bust currently on display at Bath Guildhall.

It commemorates the 200th years since the death of Ms Austen – a resident in Bath for nearly six years. It has been gilded in 24 ct gold leaf by Robert Grace of Grace of London. The bust will be on tour over the summer and auctioned for charity in the autumn.

IMG_3227

You are invited to take your photo with Jane and post on social media using #janeontour or #janeausten200

Jane – the woman behind the books.

Jane – the woman behind the books.

Bath will be joining in celebrations this year to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of writer Jane Austen – whose six major novels of love amongst the landed gentry – at the end of the 18th century – eventually brought her an international fame she didn’t live to enjoy.

P1090343

One of the boards in a public exhibition of some of the city’s ‘Greats’ held alongside Bath Abbey some time ago.

Jane lived in Bath for almost six years – after her father – the Reverend George Austen  -brought the family here on his retirement.

Local historian, author and journalist Diana White has decided to organise an all-day event at St Swithin’s Church in the city on Saturday, July 22nd. It’s where the Rev Austen is buried and – in the previous church on this spot – where he married his wife Cassandra.

P1160593

Diana White

She has also just published a book which takes a different approach to much of what has already been written about Jane.

The life and Times of the Woman Behind the Books’ –published by Folly Books – explores both the person she was and the world in which she lived in.

P1160594

The new book on Jane Austen.

Bath Newseum asked her how hard it had been to find something new to say about Jane.

Diana – who is also a member of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides – is Chair of the Bath and Bristol Jane Austen Group. Her book is published by Folly Books and the website address is http://www.bradford-on-avon.org.uk/

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 15.51.21