‘Flaming’ June at the Roman Baths.

‘Flaming’ June at the Roman Baths.

It’s guaranteed to be ‘flaming’ June at Bath’s premier tourist attraction. That’s the month which sees the Roman Baths extend its hours. It will stay open until 10pm every evening this summer, with a torch-lit offering for visitors a chance to soak up the special atmosphere around the Great Bath.

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Torches light up the Great Bath.

Torchlit Summer Evenings will run from 16 June to 31 August with the last admission at 9pm.

The historic site takes on a magical atmosphere once the daylight fades and the flickering torches are lit. Visitors can walk around the Great Bath where people bathed nearly 2,000 years ago, see the ruins of the Temple of Sulis Minerva where Roman worshippers gathered, and wander around the Roman Baths museum. Evening visitors will also benefit from reduced ticket prices after 5pm.

Last year, the series of late nights was extended by two weeks and attracted a record number of visitors, with 55,203 people visiting in the evening, up from approximately 40,000 in 2016 and 33,000 in 2015.

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The Roman Baths at night.

Comments in the visitor book included:

  • Very romantic by torchlight and so much inspiring history. Brilliant, just brilliant.
  • Sunday evening, fabulous! Not too crowded, atmospheric and great tour guide.
  • Baths look beautiful at night and a fabulous tour.

     

Admission to the Roman Baths is free for Bath and North East Somerset residents with a Discovery Card, and last summer 1,171 people used their Discovery Cards to visit in the evening.

Councillor Paul Myers (Conservative Midsomer Norton Redfield), Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “Torchlit Summer Evenings are a wonderful opportunity to explore the Roman Baths by torchlight after the daytime crowds have gone. I hope that lots of residents will use their Discovery Cards again this year to experience an evening at the Roman Baths for free.”

The Pump Room restaurant will be open late for dinner and drinks, with live music every evening. Last orders 9pm. Please call 01225 444477 or email events.bath@searcys.co.uk to book. The Roman Baths Kitchen offers a more informal setting with alfresco dining. Reservations can be made on 01225 477877 or email rbk@searcys.co.uk.

The Roman Baths shop will stay open every day until 9.45pm.

Visitors can combine a visit to the Roman Baths with a breakfast, lunch or dinner package or a trip to nearby Thermae Bath Spa, where they can bathe overlooking the twinkling lights of the city as the sun goes down.

The following packages are available:

Sunrise Breakfast and Tour

Enjoy breakfast (with coffee and orange juice) from the Sunrise Breakfast menu at the Roman Baths Kitchen between 9am and 11am and then visit the Roman Baths. £28.50 per person

The Roman Baths Tour and Lunch

Choose a two-course lunch from the set lunch menu at the Roman Baths Kitchen between 12pm and 3pm and explore the Roman Baths. £31.50 per person

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The Great Bath – part of the Roman bathing complex built around the thermal waters.

Torchlit Visit and Dinner

Visit the Roman Baths and enjoy a three-course evening meal at the Roman Baths Kitchen. £44 (excluding wine)

From Romans to Georgians

Experience a visit to the Roman Baths followed by an evening meal in the Georgian splendour of the Pump Room restaurant. Includes a drink while enjoying the Roman Baths, a glass of famous spa water and an indulgent four-course dinner with live music. £50 (excluding wine)

Spas Ancient and Modern

Combine a visit to the Roman Baths, including a Champagne Tea or three-course lunch at the Pump Room restaurant, with an evening at Thermae Bath Spa. Spa treatments can be booked as an optional extra. £84.50

All packages can be booked through Visit Bath on 01225 614 420 or https://visitbath.digitickets.co.uk/tickets.

www.romanbaths.co.uk

Bath Abbey going​ green.

Bath Abbey going​ green.

Bath Abbey’s been given the go-ahead to turn ‘green’! It’s been granted a ‘lease of rights’ by B&NES Council to use some of the energy in Bath’s famous hot springs for an innovative eco-heating system to heat the complex.

 

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The Sacred Spring

 

Every day, a quarter of a million gallons of hot water flow from the Sacred Spring underneath the Roman Baths complex and through the Great Roman Drain into the nearby River Avon.

This underground journey takes it directly past the Abbey. If harnessed correctly and converted as part of the Abbey and B&NES Council’s joint initiative, it could produce 1.5 megawatts of continuous energy – more than enough to heat the Abbey and surrounding buildings.

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Part of the Roman drainage system that the Abbey has been given permission to access with heat exchangers.

As part of the Abbey’s ambitious Footprint project – which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund – engineers plan to install heat exchangers in the Great Roman Drain which will capture the energy in the hot water and transform it into renewable energy. This will form part of a unique underground heating system that will be then used to heat the Abbey and other buildings.

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Charles Curnock, Project Director.

Charles Curnock, Footprint Project Director from Bath Abbey, said: “This is a truly exciting and inventive way of tapping into Bath’s most famous resource to create sustainable energy. As far as we know, it has never been done before on this scale, and we are thrilled to be working with the Roman Baths and other departments of B&NES Council on this unique project.

“By granting us the lease of rights, the Council has set us on our way to providing a sustainable and eco-friendly solution for both the Abbey and the city of Bath by capturing this incredible and ancient natural resource which is currently unused.”

Charles Curnock added: “This a major change for the Abbey, but one which is vital now and for future generations. Our current heating system dates back to the Victorian era, is extremely inefficient and expensive to maintain. This combined with the work we’re doing as part of our wider Footprint project to repair the Abbey’s collapsing floor makes this the ideal time for us to consider a new underfloor heating system.”

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Bath Abbey – Looking East – proposed improvements.

The initial trials and investigations for the project have already taken place, and more planning and development is being carried out before further building work on the Abbey’s Footprint programme starts. Wessex Water will be digging and laying pipes that will carry hot water from the Roman Baths into the new eco-heating system. Any modern elements of the system would be hidden underground and an archaeologist will be working alongside the engineers to document any artefacts that may be uncovered by the required excavations.

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Bath’s MP, Wera Hobhouse.

Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath and Liberal Democrat spokesperson for communities and local government said: “This is a progressive, sustainable project for the Abbey, yet remains quintessentially Bath. This collaboration is a real achievement, and everyone should feel proud that they are adding to Bath’s heritage in an environmentally friendly manner. Along with the wider Footprint Project, it will really add value to the city. I look forward to attending services knowing the building is heated by the same water to which Bath owes its very existence.”

To find out more about to support the Footprint project, visit www.bathabbey.org/footprint. Your donations will be generously matched by the Brownsword Charitable Foundation. This means that any donation you give to the Footprint project will automatically be doubled: if you donate £10, the Brownsword Charitable Foundation will also give £10 – your £10 donation is worth £20 to Footprint! Simply use the reference ‘FPBF’ when donating.

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About Bath Abbey’s Footprint

The £19.3 million Footprint project aims to carry out essential repairs to the Abbey’s collapsing floor, install a new eco-friendly heating system using Bath’s unique hot springs as a source of energy and enlarge capacity by creating 200sq metres of new facilities to fulfil the Abbey as a place of congregation, equal access and hospitality. A programme is also planned to record and interpret the Abbey’s 1,200 years of history and this iconic church for millions of visitors including educational visits. Thanks to a grant of £10.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, additional funds from private individuals and trusts, as well as the Abbey’s own congregation and visitors, the Abbey now has just over £1 million left to raise.

For further details about Bath Abbey, please visit www.bathabbey.org

 

 

 

Now we know why the ‘thermals’ were in full flow!

Now we know why the ‘thermals’ were in full flow!

It’s the first time l have witnessed Bath’s thermal waters visibly draining into the River Avon from the edge of Parade Gardens – but now l know the reason why it was happening!

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Looking across to Parade Gardens from the other side of the River Avon. You can see the steam rising!

I know this hot spring water has passed through a Roman drain that has been doing its job for two thousand years.

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Part of the two-thousand-year-old Roman drainage system.

It’s an ancient monument which carries water from the Sacred Spring and Great Bath with branches running from the King Spring and another from the Hetling Spring. They join under York Street before passing Bog Island and under Parade Gardens.

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Another shot of the Great Bath only about a third full.

Seems yesterday – Tuesday, March 27th – was the day they decided to empty the Great Bath. Pulling the plug on 250,000 litres of hot water was enough to create a bit of a surge.

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The Great Bath is gradually being refilled.

Stephen Clews, the Manager of the Roman Baths, told me:

‘The Great Bath was drained down yesterday for routine cleaning purposes, so this does explain what you saw.

It is drained down several times a year – usually at fairly short notice – as we fit it in between evening function commitments and other out of hours operational activities. We will probably drain down again in early June and then again in September.’

The operation is carried out to deal with the growth of algae and to take out anything visitors may have thrown into the water.

A similar cleaning operation was being carried out on the King’s Bath – formerly the Sacred Spring of the Roman builders of the baths and nearby temple.

Cleaning the Sacred Spring, Bath

As the water level in the former Sacred Spring falls you can see two of the pedestals that would have supported Roman gods. Photo : John Cooper.

Fellow Mayor’s Guide John Cooper snatched a couple of shots while he was visiting with a group. Thanks for passing them to us also John!

Cleaning the Sacred Spring, Bath

Cleaning the Sacred Spring, Bath. Photo: John Cooper.

Bath’s hot springs have flown through the centuries. Rainwater falling on the hills around the city percolating down to a vast underground lake two miles beneath the surface.

Superheated by the Earth’s core it returns to the surface – under great pressure – through three cracks in the strata. You could fill a bath in eight seconds!

 

Roman Baths moves up list of UK’s top attractions.

Roman Baths moves up list of UK’s top attractions.

Visitor numbers at the city’s Roman Baths continue to grow according to an annual report issued by ALVA –  the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.

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The Roman Baths.

In 2017 the Baths welcomed 1,318,976 people – that’s an 8.38 percent increase and puts them at number 23 on the list of top UK attractions.

Last year (2016) the Roman Baths were at 26 with 1,216,938 people paying to look around  (one can argue) the best-preserved Roman remains north of the Alps!

Number one in 2017 is the British Museum – despite an eight percent fall in numbers to 5,906,716.

In our area, Stonehenge stands at number 17 with 1,582,532 visitors – that’s up by 14.5 percent.

Barry returns for new look at Roman Baths.

Barry returns for new look at Roman Baths.

Down in the tunnels below York Street archaeologists have been finishing off their work ready for contractors to move in and start the job of making the lintels that support the road safe.

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The concrete and metal beams holding up York Street.

Problems with water seeping into joints within the concrete and metal supports were only spotted when work started on surveying for the Archway Project.

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Water has been doing a lot of damage to the road supports over the years.

This is a multi-million-pound scheme to provide both World Heritage and Learning Centres and opening up areas of the Roman Baths not seen by the public before.

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A section through the underground passageways which will link the Archway Project with the Roman Baths.

The World Heritage Centre will contain imaginative displays that explain why the World Heritage site of Bath is so special. Admission will be free for everyone.

The project will also open up areas of Roman remains that have never before been open for regular public access, including a rare laconicum (sauna) and an exercise courtyard, revealing fascinating new aspects of the ancient site.

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How the area under York Street may look when the work is finished and the public let in.

The £5m development will be housed in former Victorian spa buildings in Swallow Street and York Street, next to the Roman Baths.

The Roman Baths Learning Centre will be a fully accessible, state-of-the-art centre where school children will participate in exciting hands-on sessions with Roman artefacts and where projects and activities will be run for members of the local community. It will be linked to the Roman Baths via an underground tunnel. 

The cost of the work is being helped by a grant of £3.4 million pounds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Other funding is being raised elsewhere.

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Water has been seeping through into the passageways beneath York Street and causing metal to rust and expand within the concrete road supports.

In clearing the way for the roof support work to be done many hundreds of tons of Roman masonry has had to be moved. Archaeologists have also cleared away spoil left over from earlier excavations.

Excavations at Roman Bath stretch back over 200 years to the efforts of 18th-century antiquarians.

It is, however, the excavations of 1978-1983, directed by Peter Davenport and Barry Cunliffe, that have given us the most detailed account of the site.

After the work to shore up the road has been completed the archaeologists will return to do some new ‘digs’.

The project is in the hands of the professional members of Cotswold Archaeology – with help from volunteers from Bath and Counties Archaeological Society.

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The strips of mosaic recently discovered.

It was one of their members – Fiona Medland – who found several strips of previously unknown mosaic.

Professor Cunliffe has now come back to see them and to inspect – with the help of much better lighting than he originally had – the cleaned-up results of his previous work.

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Professor Barry Cunliffe pictured on his recent visit.

Seems – with the aid of modern techniques – he has been revising some of his original finds in terms of their place in the time-scale of the development and revision of the bathing complex.

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Professor Barry Cunliffe revisits his excavation site.

I’ve been down under York Street for a chat with The Roman Baths and Pump Room Manager, Stephen Clews.

 

The Empire is back!

The Empire is back!

The scaffolding is finally beginning to come down from the Empire Hotel – a metal embrace – reaching the heights – that’s been ongoing for many months.

 

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Latest image

 

 

Bath builders – Emery Brothers Ltd – were tasked with the ‘heady’ work. Director Richard Waldron told Bath Newseum:

 ‘We have been given practical completion for our contract and SN scaffolding will be stripping the remaining scaffold over the next two weeks.
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You need a head for heights on this job.

We refurbished and renewed the roof coverings, repaired any defected ashlar or iron work and redecorated all woodwork. I hope you see a difference!’
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The scaffolding is beginning to come down.

The Empire was built by the City Architect Major C E Davies in 1908 to cash in on the re-discovered and excavated Roman Baths. Taken over by the Admiralty during the war it was – more recently – converted into luxury retirement flats.
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Garfunkel’s and its plastic flower filled window boxes.

Loved and loathed – it’s quite a city landmark. Here’s hoping – with the scaffolding cleared – restaurant owners Garfunkel will finally get rid of those horrible plastic flowers in front of their business.
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Garfunkel’s and its plastic flower-filled window boxes.

In a city famous for the real thing – artificial stalks just doesn’t cut it.
5G boost to Bath tourism

5G boost to Bath tourism

The West of England Combined Authority has secured £5 million from government to trial a superfast 5G network at tourist destinations in Bath and Bristol.

The trial will see 5G infrastructure put in place at the Roman Baths in Bath, M Shed and in and around We The Curious and Millennium Square in Bristol.

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The Great Bath – filled with natural spa water.

“Imagine a virtual Roman soldier showing you around the Roman Baths,” said West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles. “Now imagine this moving 360 degrees on your mobile phone at a resolution you have never experienced before – that’s what 5G technology can offer.

“The 5G Smart Tourism bid will allow us to trial some exciting technology at our top tourist attractions, whilst looking at wider and longer-term benefits for our region. This new technology holds the key to a more advanced, sustainable and smart future which will revolutionise the way we all live, travel and work.”

Margot James, Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries said: “The next generation of connectivity is set to transform business and society, and the Government is committed to ensuring the UK is fit for a 5G future.

“Smart tourism is just one of the projects we’re funding to drive this forward, and I look forward to its exploration of the innovative ways 5G can boost the West of England’s fantastic tourism experiences.”

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Cllr Tim Warren – Leader of B&NES – and West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles at the Roman Baths.

Cllr Tim Warren, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said “We’re proud to be part of this innovation; which supports our commitment to providing 21st Century technology across Bath. We hope it will enhance the experience for people visiting such heritage gems as the Roman Baths.”

5G is set to be the largest step forward for mobile network technology yet, offering much faster speeds than 4G. It won’t be used for human communication alone; it will also support communications between things humans have invented, forming the ‘Internet of Things’.

This will have a huge impact on people’s lives, supporting everything from driverless cars to smarter homes. The trial will look at this wider impact and how the West of England can become a smart region, using new technology to link up our transport and homes, hospitals and schools.

Professor Steve West, Chair of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is great news – 5G offers significant business growth opportunities for our tech sector. The West of England is well placed to become a smart region – we are home to the largest cluster of digital expertise outside London, and our businesses and universities are at the forefront of innovation in next-generation networks including 5G.”

 

The 5G Smart Tourism project, funded by the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport, brings together a partnership, led by the West of England Combined Authority. It is a diverse, high profile and highly skilled consortium including 5G network and service providers (BT, Zeetta, CCS, InterDigital, Bristol is Open) through to tourism and business support organisations (Destination Bristol and Business West), visitor destinations (The Roman Baths, The Grand Appeal’s Gromit Unleashed Arts Trail, MShed), ), innovation centre (Digital Catapult), tech hubs (Bristol VR Lab), SMEs and large businesses (IBI Group, Mativision, Smartify, Landmrk, 3Sixty, Bristol Futures Global, Mo-Sys), research bodies (University of Bristol, Kings College, London), world-class media and content companies (BBC, Aardman) and public sector partners Bath & North East Somerset Council and Bristol City Council.