We get something like four and a half million visitors a year in Bath but how many of them will see anything other than Roman remains and Georgian terraces and crescents.
There has been a lot of talk recently about trying to spread the load a bit and persuade our visitors – a very important part of local commerce – to expand their horizons to some of the attractions further out of the centre.
Everything from Beckford’s Tower to Prior Park Gardens with other areas of interest including things like the Kennet and Avon Canal, the American Museum and Museum of Bath at Work.
One rather modest museum that tells a major story you can find half way around the number 2 First Bus route which climbs the hill to Combe Down.
The Ralph Allen CornerStone Interpretation Centre – on Rock Hall Lane – opened in 2014 and is described as a community history centre.
Combe Down is the main site of Ralph Allen’s stone quarries – the stone that built the World Heritage City of Bath.
The abandoned workings were in-filled with an innovative £155 million restoration project, completed in 2010.
The village, now secure, has lost much of the physical evidence of its stone-quarrying heritage. Hence the need for a museum that tells the story of its industrial past and the men who worked underground.
But – outside its doors – there are now plans to uncover and preserve what remains of the top of one of the shafts through which stone would have been brought to the surface and transported on Ralph Allen’s tram system down the hill to the river.
It’s on former mining land – and now a public space known as Firs Field. A group of young local people have also got involved in preparatory survey and excavation work to see exactly what is left just below the surface of the ground.
The idea will be to conserve what is left of the wall and construct a low bench as a memorial to ‘the mines, those who worked them, the community of Combe Down and the wider City of Bath.’
I had a chance to speak to Val Lyon who is the Director of the Firs Field Project. I asked her to tell me first about the Ralph Allen CornerStone museum.
Three of the youngsters – involved in the project – have contributed to a blog (led by Bert Nash) which tells what they have been doing and its importance to Bath’s World Heritage status.
Bert’s blog can be viewed at:
Check out the Ralph Allen CornerStone Museum at http://www.ralphallencornerstone.org.uk/