First to aid Bath’s Medical Museum.

First to aid Bath’s Medical Museum.

What’s this?!  Another colourful demonstration by ratepayers on the steps of Bath’s Guildhall??


Well, no –  this time the gathering is more of a celebration to mark the launch of a subscription scheme for the city’s Medical Museum – currently based at ‘The Min.’


The Min – built 1738-42 by John Wood the Elder.

Set up to conserve artefacts – including original patients’ books and a sedan chair –  from the building’s original use as a hospital for the poor of the nation – the collection now also includes material donated from other sources.

sedan chair

The sedan chair at the Mineral Water Hospital.

Bath Medical Museum is keen to establish itself – and expand – but is under threat of losing its home as the building in which it is housed has been sold for redevelopment.


The site being prepared for the new Min – Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases – at the RUH.

Currently home to the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, the Min’s facilities will move to a new purpose-built ‘Min’ on the Royal United Hospital’s main site at Weston.

The more familiar name refers to the building’s previous history as the Mineral Water Hospital.

Monies the NHS receives for selling the old city site will be ploughed into the cost of building the new centre.

the min

John Wood’s plan for the hospital.

The original Grade 2 * listed building in Upper Borough Walls – designed by John Wood the Elder – was built between 1738-42.

Funds to pay for its construction it were raised through the activity of Bath’s Master of Ceremonies, Richard (Beau) Nash who opened a subscription list in 1737.

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So it was history repeating itself today as Ali and Luca – from Bath’s Natural Theatre Company – help other period-costumed members of the Medical Museum’s Trust accept the first two £50 subscriptions from Vice Admiral Sir Barry Wilson and his wife Lady Wilson … from Shaftesbury


Ali from Bath Natural Theatre Company presenting Vice Admiral Sir Barry Wilson and his wife Lady Wilson  with their ‘subscriptions’ to Bath’s Medical Museum.

There to offer support was the Mayor of Bath, Cllr Ian Gilchrist and the Chair of B&NES, Cllr Cherry Beath.


L to R The Chair of B&NES, Cllr Cherry Bath; Ali and Luca from Bath’s Natural Theatre Company and Judy Coles from Bath Medical Museum.

The museum’s Project Manager is Dr Roberta Anderson. She told Bath Newseum that she had written to the Min’s new owner – Mr Frank Mountain in Winchester – asking if he would consider letting them be part of any new development.


Dr Roberta Anderson and Judy Coles from Bath Medical Museum.

If that fails they do have one or two other locations in mind but are keeping alternative venues very close to their chest at present.


Gillian Kersley Ryan and Judy Coles from Bath Medical Museum.


Ali – from Bath Natural Theatre Company -reading out the terms of the subscription.

The Medical Museum is open on Mondays from 2pm to 4pm, Wednesdays 2pm to 4pm and Fridays 10 am to 12 noon.

It’s the place to take your donations if you want to subscribe – or you can send a cheque to the Museum c/o RNHRD, Upper Borough Walls, Bath, BA1 1RL

If you want to find out more about Bath’s Medical Museum go to







Sold – now comes the reactions.

Sold – now comes the reactions.

The Min has been sold – and at an agreed price both parties say they are happy with.

It’s been snapped up by Versant Developments & Homes Ltd – a Winchester-based company established five years ago by its one Director – Frank Mountain.

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The Mineral Water Hospital – now known as The Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases – was put up for sale by the Royal United Hospital who will be putting the proceeds towards a purpose-built replacement now under construction at the main Weston site.

I spoke on the telephone to Frank Mountain this morning (Tuesday, September 5th) who told me how his company was keen on heritage and liked doing up old buildings.

He was well aware of The Min’s Grade 11* listing and told me: ‘It’s a beautiful building and we are very excited about working with it. It is early days and we are considering a number of options for it. We will respect the fabric and l can tell you we will not be changing the external facade.’

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Some of the company’s current projects include listed buildings.

Mr Mountain said the funding was in place and they would take over the building from the NHS at some point in 2019.

Whatever they do with the historic building will involve planning permission and there’s talk of luxury accommodation but also looking at retail – including ‘an upmarket arcade of some kind.’

‘We will be looking at every aspect of this development and consulting with all parties. We are keen to get into dialogue with everyone connected with this building,’ he said.

That will include talks about the future of the Medical Museum which is currently housed in the hospital chapel.

Our telephone conversation took place as he queued for a morning coffee on the way to work and – just as he had to cut us off to pay – he quipped: ‘I like doing up old buildings and sympathetically too. In fact l have just bought a Grade 1 listed house for myself which dates back – in parts – to the 16th century.’

In a statement the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are delighted to confirm that we have exchanged contracts with Versant (Mineral Hospital) Ltd for the sale of the Mineral Water Hospital. We are confident the sale will be for the benefit of our patients and the Trust. We look forward to working with Versant until the sale is formally completed.”

Gordon Isgrove, Regional Senior Director of GVA, the Trust’s commercial property adviser handling the sale, said: “The marketing of the property attracted a huge amount of interest from national and international organisations from the development sector. We are pleased to have agreed a sale with Versant following a competitive sale process.”

Bath Preservation Trust has reacted to news of the sale with the hope that the new owner ‘has the imagination and commitment to Bath to deliver something which will continue to benefit the whole community.’

A statement continues: ‘Bath Preservation Trust (BPT) notes the news story about a sale of the Min and looks forward to any formal announcement from either vendor or purchaser. We intend to continue to take an active interest the Min and how its future will be determined.

BPT last week heard that, disappointingly,  our application to have the Min registered as an asset of community value was unsuccessful. As we said at the time, we will continue to campaign for:

  • the existing public assets within the Min (the museum and archives, the Roman Mosaic and the paintings which tell a significant story of Bath’s history) to remain within public ownership and/or publicly accessible;
  • there to be an element of public access and public benefit in whatever development comes forward for  this historic building;
  • the development plans fully to respect both the Grade II* listed status and the scheduled ancient monument designations; and
  • any new owner to recognise the central role of the Min to the history of the City.

We hope that any developer has the imagination and commitment to Bath to deliver something which will continue to benefit the whole community.

We would like to remind the developer that the entirety of the building is covered by its listed status and all changes will be subject to listed building application considerations. We are concerned that the developer has apparently only stated that ‘we will not be changing the external façade’.


The Min – built 1738-42 by John Wood the Elder.

We regret that B&NES Council has remained silent on the role and expectation for the development of this large, complex and significant site. We have earlier called for the Council to prepare a development brief for this site and we reiterate that statement: failing that we would urge the developer to enter into an open, collaborative process with stakeholders to develop such a brief.

We would draw the developer’s attention to the adopted Council policy which states that

Where development viability assessments are required developers should demonstrate that the policy requirements, including to sustain and enhance the District’s historic environment, have been considered and reflected in the land or site value. [Placemaking Plan Policy HE1]

The implication of this is that whatever the developer has paid for this site, they will be expected to deliver a plan which fulfils planning policy, not least in respect of the historic environment.

While BPT cannot formally ask for a review of the decision not to list the Min as an asset of community value, it is possible to make a further application which attempts to meet the perceived weaknesses of the earlier application. This would then apply to any future on-sale of the Min by Versant Properties. We are currently considering the likelihood of success for such an approach.’

Dr Roberta Anderson – who is Project Director for Bath Medical Museum – which is currently housed within The Min – said of the news: 

‘Yes, I’ve seen that and find it interesting as far as BMM is concerned. I shall be writing to Mr Mountain today to introduce myself.’





In search of Bath chairs.

In search of Bath chairs.

The return – after conservation work –  of at least one of the original sedan chairs to its usual resting place in Bath’s Assembly Rooms has prompted some of you to set me looking for others in the city.


The newly conserved sedan chair is positioned just outside the ballroom.

Sally Helvey tells me she remembers seeing one at the Royal Crescent Hotel – which l did manage to find tucked under a staircase – and was kindly allowed to photograph. No one seems to know much about its history.


The sedan chair at the Royal Crescent Hotel.

The hotel has changed hands several times and this now rather faded example of Bath’s Georgian glory – sort of came with the furniture. It would be nice if it could be restored.

Bath’s much-loved Mineral Water Hospital – now better known at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases – has its own example – according to Bath Newseum follower Elizabeth Davies.

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The sedan chair at the Mineral Water Hospital

It’s a surviving example of the hospital sedan chairs designed and built in the early 1700’s to ferry patients to and from the bath sites.

As if these were not enough, the relatively new Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel has a beauty of it’s own.


The Turin-made sedan chair on display at the Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel.

It’s a Turin Portantina and one of around 50 known to exist of this shape – the fourth most common style surviving in Europe. The chair – made in Turin around 1745 – has a low pole height to help increase  ground clearance to help negotiate flights of steps and hills or mountains.

This chair is on permanent loan from Mr Stephen Loft-Simpson who is a sedan chair specialist based in Bristol. Check out his website on

Please let Bath Newseum know if you spot another sedan chair somewhere else!


Three years of medical life left for the Min?

Three years of medical life left for the Min?

B&NES councillors are to be asked  to give their backing to integration plans that will see all facilities at the historic Mineral Water Hospital moved to the Royal United Hospital site over the next three years.

The Mineral Water Hospital

The Mineral Water Hospital

Today’s (July 29th) meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Select Committee will hear that combining services is the most cost and patient effective way of moving forward.

A report on the acquisition of the site – and integration plans – to date states:

‘It is recognised that whilst the RNHRD building is highly regarded by the patients it serves, it is unlikely to be a cost-effective or suitable base for high quality service provision in the longer term.

It is expected that services will continue to be delivered from the existing RNHRD building for up to three years post acquisition. During this time work will be undertaken within the wider estates plans at the RUH to develop purpose designed environments which benefit patient experience and wellbeing whilst supporting improved efficiency and effectiveness of delivery through appropriate scaling, workflow design and co-location with other services.

Opportunities for branding of elements of the new estate will also ensure that the long-term legacy of the RNHRD can be protected.’

The ‘MIn” – as it is affectionately known in Bath – was founded in 1716 as a National Hospital for the ‘deserving poor’ and built in the late 1730’s to a design by John Wood and with money raised by Beau Nash.

A unique document bearing a  list of original trustees - including architect John Wood

A unique document bearing a list of original trustees – including architect John Wood

Thermal waters were pumped up the hill from the hot water springs so that people could benefit from them in the hospital’s purpose-built hydrotheraphy pool. The tunnel carrying the pipe is still extant.

If and when the hospital site becomes vacant there is a feeling that – although the general public can already enjoy the contemporary surroundings of the new Thermae Baths for pleasure – the Min could become a hydrotherapy treatment centre again – with thermal waters once more pumped up and used – enabling Bath to take back its title as a spa city with medical services.

With an injection of private capital it could be quite a centre and attract customers seeking treatment from around the world.

Or do we just let market forces claim another victim and look forward to its transformation into a boutique hotel, another themed pub or restaurant or even luxury flats!!

The building IS listed so its exterior at least is protected. It also houses a Roman mosaic in the basement and an amazing collection of medical artefacts and historical documents that would surely go into a Museum of Bath – if the city had such a building!!!!