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.

Hot date at Roman Baths

Hot date at Roman Baths

The Roman Baths.

The Roman Baths.

On New Year’s Day visitors to the Bath & North East Somerset Council-run Roman Baths will receive complimentary hot dates as they step out beside the Great Bath. Hot, stuffed and peppered dates were a Roman delicacy popular at New Year festivities.

In 45 BC Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar and in so doing introduced the month of January in honour of the Roman God Janus, a two-faced god who looked both backwards and forwards.

Councillor Ben Stevens (Lib-Dem, Widcombe), Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, said: “Bath & North East Somerset Council welcomes visitors and residents to come and enjoy the unique atmosphere of the Roman Baths right throughout the festive season as the steam rises off the water in the fresh winter air and the torches around the Great Bath illuminate the dusk sky.”

Stephen Clews, Manager of the Roman Baths, said: “The hot dates are a Roman tradition which has proved very popular since we introduced them at the Great Bath to celebrate New Year’s Day.”

Visitors to Bath & North East Somerset Council’s heritage attractions are reminded that:

  • The Roman Baths is open daily during the holidays, apart from 25 and 26 December, from 9.30am to 4.30pm (last exit at 5.30pm)
  • The Fashion Museum is open every day, except 25 and 26 December, from 10.30am to 4pm (last exit 5pm)
  • The Victoria Art Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, and on Sundays from 1.30pm to 5pm. The Gallery is closed on Mondays and on 25-26 December and 1 January.

For more information about Bath & North East Somerset Council’s heritage attractions visit www.bathnes.gov.uk/heritage or call the Roman Baths on 01225 477774, the Fashion Museum on 01225 477789 and the Victoria Art Gallery on 01225 477233.

‘Rogues gallery’ goes on-line.

‘Rogues gallery’ goes on-line.

Embezzlement, theft, burglary, pickpocketing and begging: all these crimes and more are to be found in the records of Bath prisoners whose portraits have just been put online by Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Record Office.

Oliver Love

Oliver Love

This ‘rogues gallery’ of photographs was created by Bath Police between 1892 and 1922 to help them recognize known criminals and repeat-offenders in our city. Other details are given such as offenders’ age and physical appearance.

So in 1911 we find “Oliver Love: medium build, dark brown hair and moustache, successively convicted of stealing ducks & fowl; a pair of boots; an overcoat; a fowl (again); and finally an umbrella.” For each of these crimes he was sentenced to several months hard labour in prison.

Frank Albert Smith dressed like a knight in armour!

Frank Albert Smith dressed as a knight in armour!

Fraudsters and confidence-tricksters were also at large in Bath society until brought to book and their ‘mug-shots’ added to Police files. In 1894 Frank Albert Smith was charged with embezzlement; his photograph, bizarrely, shows him dressed as a knight in armour.

Many offenders were smartly dressed, and were convicted of ‘false pretences’. No doubt their apparent respectability helped them lure their prey. Among those convicted are Alfred Mitchell, mining engineer; Cyril Dudley Vincent, music-hall artist; and Samuel Zucker (alias Edward Von Dalwick and Baron Jules Mercy).

Alfred Mitchell

Alfred Mitchell

Colin Johnston, Principal Archivist at Bath & North east Somerset Council’s Record Office, comments: “People researching their family history are very excited by criminal ancestors. They would far rather find a ‘black sheep’ than aristocracy or royalty. We hope this new online resource on our website will be a big hit with anyone looking at family or social history in Bath.”

You can search for your family name and see photographs from the Prisoners Portraits on the Bath Ancestors database via the Council’s Bath Record Office website www.batharchives.co.uk.