What a hoot!

What a hoot!

Get ready Bath – for a bit of a hoot. One hundred individually-decorated, large and smaller Owl sculptures are going to be ‘perched’ in and around the streets of the city this summer for a colourful three-month public art event to celebrate Bath’s Roman heritage and raise funds for local charities.


Minerva’s Owls of Bath 2018 will be the latest public art sculpture trail from the team that brought the city the enormously popular King Bladud’s Pigs and then the Lions of Bath.


Some of the Pigs on display on the Crescent Lawn.

The birds will ‘fly’ into the city at the end of June and later will be auctioned for charity.


Bath Newseum went to the event launch at the Roman Baths and caught up with the organiser Megan Witty.



Businesses and organisations interested in sponsoring an Owl are asked to get in touch with the organisers as soon as possible as sculpture numbers are limited.

‘Early bird’ sponsorship offers are available until March 5th. Smaller Owlets are available exclusively for schools, charities and community groups.


SouthGate Bath Shopping Centre has already been signed up as a Headline Sponsor for the event. Other early Gold Sponsors include Bat BID, MHA Monahans, Allen Ford and the Bath Per Cent Club.

Local artists are being invited to submit design ideas as soon as possible and by March 1st for the chance of being selected as one of the official Owl artists by downloading an artist pack from the website.


Owl sponsors can either choose their own artist to decorate their scul[pture, select from the portfolio of submitted designs or work with registered Minerva’s Owls artists to create their own individual design.

Chosen artists receive 20% of the auction sale price of their Owl as payment for their work, plus a contribution towards the cost of materials.

For more information or to download Sponsorship, Artist or School packs, visit the Minerva’sOwls website at  www.minervasowls.org or contact the Owl team at info@minervasowls.org or follow @OwlsofBath on Twitter.



Uncovering more of Roman Bath

Uncovering more of Roman Bath

The Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society have been busy under York Street – helping prepare a part of the Roman Baths complex – normally unseen by the public – for upcoming excavations. However, during February, there will be special tours for people to watch the ‘dig’ in action.


BACAS at work on the site under York Street.

Volunteers from BACAS have been carrying out geophysical survey work – using various techniques including resistivity profiling – to try and locate the route of a Roman culvert and identify any other underground features.

They have also been using temperature measurements to try and identify any hot spots on the ground that might suggest the presence of hot spring water beneath.

The survey work has revealed some interesting results. There is a lot of variation in materials below the Roman floor levels, which suggests the Romans were doing a lot below ground in this area of the site. This includes the presence of drains that would have drained water from the baths.

The results are currently being analysed and interpreted.

Meanwhile this month, as part of the Archway Project – new tours will take visitors behind the scenes to see the largest archaeological excavations at the Roman Baths for more than 30 years.8062afa1-7e81-4595-8ef2-3c9ccef8bcf0

Highlights will include:

  • Trenches that are being excavated by the archaeologists
  • A Roman exercise area
  • An in-situ stylobate – a colonnaded walkway which contains a Roman doorway leading through to a possible row of shops, where traders might have sold memorabilia to visitors, oil for the sauna, or food and drink
  • The other side of the south wall of the Great Bath, behind the curved alcoves (exedra) where people relaxed

The areas being excavated will be transformed as part of the Archway Project into an exciting archaeological investigation zone where schoolchildren will be able to participate in hands-on archaeological activities, due to open in 2019.

The tours, that will run every 30 minutes throughout February from 10.10am-3.40pm, will be free with admission to the Roman Baths. Please give a small, optional donation to the Roman Baths Foundation to support the excavations. (Charity number: 1163044).

A statue that looks good enough to eat?

A statue that looks good enough to eat?

Bath is not exactly running a surplus on public sculpture.

queen vic vag

The statue of Queen Victoria at the Victoria Art Gallery.

Apart from Queen Victoria – sitting half way up an art gallery wall – and poor Rebecca getting no more than a dribble from her well – the majority of stone figures surround the Great Bath – the centrepiece of the city’s Roman remains.

Rebecca Fountain

The Rebecca Fountain.


roman baths

Emperors and Governors at the Roman Bath.


However, the wonderful world of commerce is fighting back.

Never mind promoting water, this little fellow welcomes you at the doorway to ‘great food’ – and not far away, a Regency period dressed little lady looks good enough to eat.


On guard in the name of ‘great food’ eh?

This new kid on the block is promoting the chocolates you can buy inside the shop she welcomes you into, but l wouldn’t suggest trying to bite her.


A statue that looks good enough to eat!

Tempting though she looks, with her Jane Austen styled appearance, she is NOT made of the edible stuff.


Palace Theatre gives up some secrets!

Palace Theatre gives up some secrets!

One of Bath’s old theatres has been giving up some of its secrets as work gets underway on regenerating part of the city’s historic Saw Close site with the construction of a new casino, hotel and restaurants.

The work will involve the almost complete demolition of a building which started life as a music hall theatre and ended its active service as a bingo club.

Now only its Grade Two listed facade will live on as part of the new multi-million-pound development which will see the return of organised gambling to Bath for the first time since the days of Beau Nash.

The first theatre on the site opened in 1886 as the Pavilion Music Hall and was later extended to form the much larger Lyric Theatre. Another name change – to the Palace Theatre – came in 1903. It was a name it retained until 1956 when it became the Regency Ballroom.



A theatre poster which shows the interior of the old Palace Theatre .

See it on the Bath in Time website @ http://www.bathintime.co.uk/image/139686/the-macnaghten-vaudeville-circuit-palace-theatre-bath-1906-detail


In 1980, the dancing stopped and the building was turned into a bingo hall  ending its working life as ‘Gala Bingo’.

At right angles to the main building is another  late 17th-century structure that finally became a public house – linked to the theatre – and later a nightclub.

It’s from this area that theatre posters, letters and bills are being discovered which cast light on events within living memory.

Let’s start with a couple of Palace Theatre posters and the first is from May 1944.

Scan 3

The Palace Theatre poster for May lst, 1944.

During World War II the theatre was damaged during the ‘Bath Blitz’ in late April 1942. Despite this, it re-opened within a month. The roof was severely damaged, but because of the urgent need to keep it going, the owner Mr W.S Pearce  would not allow any permanent reconstruction to be done until 6 years after the war when a new roof was erected.

Incidentally, Mr Pearce was also the Chairman of the Directors of Wessex Associated News Ltd who published the Bath Chronicle and had offices behind the theatre.

This poster offers TWO nightly shows – at 6 pm and again at 8 pm! It featured Albert Modley (1901-1979) who was a well-known Lancashire-born film-star,  variety entertainer and comedian.

The second poster – found on site – is from January 1952 and features many of Carroll Levis talented ‘discoveries’ from a BBC show. Carroll was the Simon Cowell of his day.

Scan 2

Violet Pretty (that’s Anne Heywood) topping the bill!

Violet Pretty was the ‘beautiful starlet’ who topped the bill. A lady who became better known under her professional name as Anne Heywood – a British film actress with a Gold Globe nomination to her name!

I was fascinated to look through some of the till receipts for different parts of the theatre. The Buffet Bar was a popular feature which originally occupied that side building that already had served as a pub.

September 1951 saw a return of £50 for the night of September 29th.

Scan 9

Returns for the Circle and Buffet Bars for 1951 and 1952

Circle bar No. 2 saw receipts printed for the 40’s being re-cycled for the 50’s. Two quite low figures for July 1951 but by this time audiences were beginning to decline. The theatre was to close just four years later – beaten by television and no doubt not helped by the  Theatre Royal being close by.

There’s an ‘Evening Final Return’ receipt for what looks like March 8th, 1952 showing £109 and six shillings going into the bank. The First House collected £18 ten shillings and three pence at the door. The Second did better at £26 nineteen shillings and ten pence.

Amongst letters retrieved is one which has to be seen in the context of the times but it does show racial discrimination in Bath just before the Second World War.

It’s a letter to the Palace Theatre from a London-based theatrical and variety agency – sent on February 24th, 1938. It’s all about the acts being booked for the summer period  and the option of closing during that period if favourable terms can’t be worked out.

Scan 8

The London letter which shows how discrimination was operating in the show business of the late 1930’s.

I quote from the second paragraph: ‘ It is frightfully worrying to see the business keeping as low as it is. According to next week’s bill at the Theatre Royal ( just across the Saw Close from the Palace!) our bill is miles ahead of same.

Firstly they have two coloured acts on the bill, the top Browning and Starr (Browing is one of the late members of the ‘Harmony Kings’) and Rusty and Shine are a Black and white Comedy duo, and as you know we have made it a point not to book any Coloured acts at the Palace.”

I have used the letter as it was typed and the capital letters as they were originally included.

Such an attitude would not be allowed today but we are looking back through time. A terrible war was to follow and then a war against discrimination fought by the Civil Rights movement and the likes of Martin Luther King.

The Harmony Kings were very popular in the 1930’s. YouTube features one of their biggest hits – ‘You’ve been Good to Me’ – at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zc7HSHQ-Zns

There’s another letter from 1938 which features the loss of a watch. Mr H.R.Whatley of Frome wrote to the Palace Theatre in the hope it may have been found there.

Scan 5

The letter about a missing watch!

A reply from the Manageress ( it’s a copy and unsigned) indicates that, having made enquiries ‘and a careful search’ the theatre ‘ very much regret(s) that ‘ the silver wristwatch has not been found.’

‘Had it been discovered by any member of our staff, we can assure you that it would have been handed in for safe-keeping.’

My thanks to Sanctus Project Manager Jon Cossins-Price for letting me see those discoveries.

Elsewhere on the site – as followers of the Virtual Museum of Bath will know – Cotswold Archaeology have been busy uncovering and recording some of the site’s industrial past – including an amazingly well-preserved pipe factory – which has now been carefully covered to lie well-protected under the new development.

Discover more about the site via http://www.cotswoldarchaeology.co.uk/discover-the-past/saw-close-and-the-bridewell-lane-clay-tobacco-pipe-factory/saw-close-archaeological-investigation/

The Virtual Museum went back to talk to Site Director Simon Sworn of Cotswold Archaeology about some of the dwelling houses they had been investigating.

Now – having recorded the details of the basement of a late Georgian house – they have lifted the slabs to look underneath. They have found medieval garden soil and rubbish pits – one of which cuts through the partially uncovered remains of a tesserae pavement.

It doesn’t seem to be a high-quality Roman mosaic – as there is no pattern on the flooring – but it would have formed part of a Roman building and date somewhere from AD47 and through the next four hundred years during which time Bath was developed by its Roman ‘invaders.’

There’s more work to be done – and more uncovering – to try and get a more precise date but it is already known that Roman buildings existed in this area of what was the old Roman city.

A geometrically decorated pavement was found when the 19th-century extension to the ‘Mineral Water Hospital’ was built – which you can still see in the basement. It’s now – of course – the National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases.

Another mosaic hangs on the wall of nearby hospital offices in what was once the Superintendent’s House.

The most recent report from Cotswold Archaeology about work on the Bridewell Lane houses is via http://www.cotswoldarchaeology.co.uk/saw-close-archaeology-update/


I am sure they will bring it right up to date in the New Year. In the meantime, the Virtual Museum wishes both the developer’s workforce – and the archaeologists – the Compliments of the Season and looks forward to more discoveries in 2016!

Maybe – just maybe – they might come across Mr Whatley’s missing watch!












Square deal

Square deal

Left to right. Cllr Bryan Chalker and Dave Laming

Left to right. Cllrs Bryan Chalker and Dave Laming. Click on images to enlarge.

After more than a year of discussion and planning by the Lambridge Independent Councillors Dave Laming and Bryan Chalker work at last gets underway on providing a new toilet and shop in Larkhall Square.

Dave Laming said “It’s been a long wait for the residents of Larkhall, but I’m sure it will be a great asset to our village square.”

A planning application has now been submitted by the prospective tenants to run a new shop selling homeware, toys and gifts alongside one refurbished unisex toilet cubicle for public use.

Spa towns of Europe visit Bath’s Georgian lido.

Spa towns of Europe visit Bath’s Georgian lido.

Trustees Chair, Ann Dunlop explains the layout to the visiting delegates.

Trustees Chair, Ann Dunlop explains the layout to the visiting delegates.

Bath’s derelict Cleveland Pools – Britain’s last remaining open-air, cold water Georgian lido – had some very special international visitors today.

A walk around the pool.

A walk around the pool.

They are representatives of many European spa towns who – along with Bath Spa – are bidding for World Heritage Status joint recognition of the important role spa towns have played in the development of modern Europe’s history, politics, arts and even today’s tourism industry.

The delegates are attending a General Assembly of the European Historical Thermal Towns Association – which is being held in Bath – and will involve representatives for 30 spa towns and regional associations.

Their visit to the Bathwick site – hopefully on the way to being restored  – marks an important point in the Lido’s history.




More information for delegates from Trustee, Paul Simon.

More information for delegates from Trustee, Paul Simon.

Cleveland Pools have recently been awarded a development grant of £366,220 pounds by the

Bath's Mayor, Cllr Cherry Beath - on the left - leads the visiting group on a tour of the facilities.

Bath’s Mayor, Cllr Cherry Beath – on the left – leads the visiting group on a tour of the facilities.

Heritage Lottery Fund with earmarked funding of 4.1 million to actually do the restoration job.

However, the money is not yet in the bag – as Project Director Christopher Heath explained.









Changing fashions

Changing fashions

Visitors to Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Fashion Museum can glimpse a dramatic transformation taking place later this month.

fashion museum

Bath’s Fashion Museum

As the Museum’s highly popular “Fifty Fabulous Frocks” exhibition has finally closed, preparations will get underway for the next big show: “GEORGIANS: 18th century dress for polite society”, opening Saturday 25 January 2014.

Other display galleries will remain open and everyone can take in the following Fashion Museum exhibits at no extra charge on the Assembly Rooms ticket (£2.50 for adults or free for Discovery Card holders/ children under 16):

  • Dress of the Year Displays – up to the minute fashion from top name designers
  • 20th Century Fashions – day and evening wear from the 1920s through to the present day
  • Menswear Displays – a selection of Georgian, late Victorian and modern menswear
  • 19th Century Displays – fashionable dress throughout the 1800s on display in our Behind the Scenes Gallery
  • 17th Century Embroidered Gloves – possibly the finest array of these rare and luxury treasures of the world
  • Dress Up Like a Victorian – replica dress for adults and children to try on, including lace up corsets.

Normal entrance charges (£8 for adults) will be re-introduced from Saturday 25 January with the opening of the Museum’s new exhibition “GEORGIANS: 18th century dress for polite society”.

Joint saver tickets for the Roman Baths and Fashion Museum – purchased at the Roman Baths between Tuesday 31 December 2013 and Sunday 5 January 2014 – will be valid until Sunday 2 February 2014.

The Fashion Museum is open daily from 10.30am to 4pm (exit 5pm). For more information visit www.fashionmuseum.co.uk or call 01225 477789.

Residents are reminded that as both the Fashion Museum and Roman Baths are managed by Bath & North East Somerset Council; entry is free all year round to local residents on production of a Discovery Card. To find out more visit www.bathnes.gov.uk/discoverycard, emaildiscoverycard@bathnes.gov.uk or call 01225 477785.