Designs on Sydney Gardens

Designs on Sydney Gardens

People can have their say on plans to secure a £2.7 million Heritage Lottery Fund to improve one of Britain’s best remaining Georgian Pleasure Gardens.

sydney gardens

Winter sunshine in Sydney Gardens

Bath & North East Somerset Council is bidding for the lottery money to invest in Sydney Gardens, first opened in 1795 and a favourite spot of Jane Austen.

The Sydney Gardens Parks for People Project has already secured £270k from the Heritage Lottery and is now preparing a round-two bid which will provide funds to improve the historic park.

If successful, money will be used to restore historic buildings, invest in landscaping works, renovate the play area and create new gardens, alongside a programme of events and activities.

The project will celebrate the fascinating history of the gardens, with its Cosmorama, Labyrinth, Merlins Swing, concerts, public breakfasts, galas and illuminations.

Councillor Paul Myers (Conservative Midsomer Norton Redfield) Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “We are holding a public consultation about proposed improvements. We want people to come along and enjoy this special place then look at the design plans and have a say in the future of Sydney Gardens.”

People can drop into the consultation on Saturday 25 November from 11.30am – 4.30pm in the Gardener’s Lodge. The gardens are a short walk from the town centre behind the Holburne Museum, on Sydney Road.

The consultation is also online from November 25 via the Sydney Gardens website. The links are here:

Facebook: @SydneyGardensBath


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.


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.


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!

A new look to Gravel Walk!

A new look to Gravel Walk!

What a difference a week makes. Seems efforts by The Circus Area Residents Association, local Councillor Andrew Furse and B&NES has finally dealt with the issue of an ever increasing number of cars and vans parking long the length of historic Gravel Walk.


Things looked bad along the Gravel Walk.


How much better it looks now!

A new locking mechanism is now in place – on the removable bollard at the top of the pathway – and only essential access will be allowed in future.

IMG_5365 2

The removable bollard is now back in place with a working lock.

Now we can only hope some way can be found to restore the route as vehicles have gouged out most of the gravel – leaving ruts and potholes.

The repair follows a letter sent out by B&NES to all residents with access to the Gravel Walk warning that vehicles had to be removed prior to the replacement locking arrangement.

This pathway 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.

It was  laid down in 1771 and connected the Royal Crescent with Queen Square.

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.



Gravel Walk has become a bit of a vehicle park.


The cars and vans have gone!

All the cars and vans were  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.


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.


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








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


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:


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.


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 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.

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.


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.


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.


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