Roman removal men!

Roman removal men!

When it comes to calling in the removal men – there is one particular job in Bath that really takes the cake.

Cliveden Conservation were contacted by B&NES to help the Roman Baths to carefully empty their subterranean store below York Street of hundreds of large fragments of Roman Masonry.

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The removal operation is underway in passages lying beneath the road surface of York Street

This is in order to enable repairs to be carried out to strengthen the structure supporting the York Street carriageway which has been assessed as having inherent weaknesses.

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The specially created gangway to enable the blocks of masonry to be taken out across the footings of two original Roman walls.

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Part of the original roof above the Great Bath.

It’s an operation that involves lifting and moving stones weighing up to ¾ of a tonne – 750kgs – and moving them across a specially-created scaffold pathway – laid across the top of important Roman remains –  then up through a small staircase and out of the side Swallow Street access to the Baths complex.

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Some of the pieces of masonry that have to be moved.

The material is being stored at the Council’s Pixash Lane Archaeological Depot in Keynsham until the work is done.

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The stored material has been taken to the Pixash Lane Depot in Keynsham.

The area being cleared will eventually form part of the Archway Project – an ambitious undertaking, with Heritage Lottery funding, which will create  new Learning and World Heritage Centres in nearby buildings – and open up archaeological areas of the Roman complex not previously seen by the wider public.

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A model showing the proposed conversion of the old laundry in to a Learner Centre and World Heritage Centre.

I asked Andy Hebden from Cliveden Conservation to explain exactly what they were doing.

Another record-breaking year for Baths

Another record-breaking year for Baths

The Roman Baths & Pump Room building recorded another record breaking year in 2016, making it one of the most visited attractions in the UK, outside of London.

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

Visitor numbers increased by 40,000 to 1,216,938 in 2016 compared with 1,176,527 in 2015.

It means The Roman Baths & Pump Room was the second most popular tourist attraction in the South West last year, after Stonehenge.

The Roman Baths & Pump Room also retained its position as the 26th most-visited attraction in in the UK, according to figures just released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA).   Their list was topped by the British Museum, with attractions in the capital scooping the top ten places. 

Cllr Patrick Anketell-Jones, (Conservative, Lansdown) Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “This is the third year running the Roman Baths & Pump Room has enjoyed a record-breaking year. Staff constantly strive to improve the visitor experience, and recent developments have included new costumed characters beside the Great Bath, the introduction of audioguides in four new languages, and new facilities for disabled visitors. 

“There are more improvements to look forward to this year, including the redisplay of the East Baths to include the latest modern interpretation, which will be ready in time for Easter. Also, in response to increased visitor numbers, the Roman Baths will be extending its summer evening opening, which will begin on 17 June and run until the end of August, giving visitors a chance to explore the historic site by torchlight until 10pm.”

The increase in visitor numbers was driven mainly by domestic tourism, which was supported by Roman Baths marketing in London and South West England.  2016 was also a record breaking year for the number of Mandarin-speaking visitors to the Roman Baths, with more than 100,000 passing through the doors.

In the latter part of the year, following the US Presidential election, there was a noticeable increase in visitors from North America.

Overall, the value of the pound did not increase overseas visits to the Roman Baths & Pump Room in 2016, but the number of inbound visitors is expected to go up in 2017.

www.romanbaths.co.uk

 

Wedding awards for Bath venues.

Wedding awards for Bath venues.

Two of Bath’s historic venues have been recognised in the UK Wedding Awards 2017.

The Assembly Rooms was named Best City Wedding Venue, while the Roman Baths and Pump Room won Best Historic Wedding Venue.

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

Organised by Hitched, Perfect Wedding and You & Your Wedding magazines, the awards recognise the very best of the UK wedding industry. 

Despite thousands of entries from all over the UK, the two Bath venues were shortlisted in January 2017 and a public vote decided the winners.

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The Fashion Museum occupies the basement at the Assembly Rooms.

Cllr Patrick Anketell-Jones, (Conservative, Lansdown) Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “We are lucky in Bath to have such inspiring spaces available for weddings and private events. The venues’ history, unique surroundings, quality food and excellent service all contributed to winning these awards.”

Bath’s Historic Venues (part of Bath & North East Somerset Council) manages private hire for the Assembly Rooms, Roman Baths and Pump Room, Guildhall and Victoria Art Gallery. All are available for weddings, parties and corporate events.

For details visit www.bathvenues.co.uk or call Bath’s Historic Venues on 01225 477786.

Name that ‘Roman’ tile!

Name that ‘Roman’ tile!

The Roman Baths Foundation has launched a Sponsor a Tile appeal to support the Archway Project and future education and conservation projects at the Roman Baths.

This is a unique opportunity for local residents and visitors to the Baths to make and leave their own individual mark and message of support on a virtual tile for this ground-breaking project, which will transform on-site education at the Roman Baths.  

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A long section through the Archway Project scheme.

Sponsoring a tile is low-cost, quick and easy. For a minimum donation of £5, virtual tiles can be customized with a  ‘scratched’ design or even a paw print, just like the traditional Roman builders (and their dogs) would have done 2,000 years ago.

Historically, the actual tiles were decorated with patterns made by wooden combs, to roughen up the surface so the mortar would stick well. There is even an original brick with a dog’s paw print in the collection. From this one print, local school pupils have calculated the likely height, weight and type of dog.

Money received through Sponsor a Tile will help the Roman Baths to open an exciting new Access Zone to the general public. This will extend the visitor experience at the Roman Baths, Britain’s most stunning Roman monument. These hidden and exciting in-situ Roman remains have never been seen by the wider public before.

They include a laconicum (sauna) and exercise courtyard. Contributions will be put towards various aspects of conservation and presentation such as lighting, display equipment and archeological investigations. 

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Roman laconium (sauna). © The Roman Baths Museum, Photographer Freia Turland

The Access Zone is one element of the Archway Project. Situated above the former Victorian spa laundry in Swallow Street, the new facilities will increase the space dedicated to education at the Roman Baths by 400%. Two new classrooms will enable the Roman Baths to develop formal and informal learning programmes, engaging a wide range of communities and audiences.

The new Learning Centre will be connected to the Roman Baths by an undercroft that passes through Roman remains beneath York Street. An underground Investigation Zone will provide hands-on access to Roman remains through facilitated learning sessions. 

The Roman Baths Foundation is a charitable company set up to raise funds for conservation and education work at the Roman Baths. Fundraising for the Archway Project is its first flagship project. 

David Beeton, Chairman of the Roman Baths Foundation, said: “Sponsor a Tile is a low-cost way to support vital education and conservation work at the Roman Baths, as well as a unique way to leave a personal mark on the Archway Project.”

To sponsor a tile visit www.romanbaths.co.uk/sponsor-tile

 

Top regional award for Roman Baths.

Top regional award for Roman Baths.

The Roman Baths has been named best large visitor attraction at the South West Tourism Awards. 

The Roman Baths won two awards: a Gold in the Large Visitor Attraction of the Year category and Silver for International Visitor Experience.

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

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “More than a million people visit the Roman Baths every year and of these at least 40% come from overseas. This increased footfall is also beneficial to businesses in and around the city and helps boost the local economy as a whole. We are delighted with the two awards, which reflect the huge efforts made by staff to ensure that all our visitors receive an outstanding welcome.”

Last year, the Roman Baths introduced audioguides in four new languages – Dutch, Korean, Polish and Portuguese – bringing the total number of audioguide languages to 12. Audioguides are available free of charge for visitors. Printed information leaflets are also provided in more than 30 additional languages.  In 2016, Mandarin-speaking visitors exceeded 100,000 for the first time, and they now form more than 10% of total visitors.

Recent improvements have made the Roman Baths more accessible for disabled visitors. Four new lifts have been installed, along with handrails, ramps, lowered ticket office counters, wheelchairs for visitors to borrow, and a new accessible toilet. The site has also been made more accessible to visitors on the autism spectrum, with detailed guidance about what to expect provided on the website. 

Due to their popularity, the cast of Roman characters around the Great Bath has been expanded to include Candidina, a lady from Metz (now in France) who is visiting the Temple of Sulis Minerva to pray for a cure for her deteriorating eyesight.

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The Great Roman Bath

In spring 2017, the East Baths will be updated with new projections, soundscapes and CGI reconstructions showing the Roman Baths at the height of their popularity as a working, living and leisure space. Roman characters of all social classes will interact with each other and visitors will be invited to watch, listen and step into the Roman Baths as they would have looked in the first to fourth centuries.

The South West Tourism Excellence Awards recognise the ongoing quality development of tourism businesses in the region and reward the staff that work in them. They have a rigorous three-stage judging process, and most entrants are visited by a team of mystery shoppers. 

The Roman Baths will now be entered into the national VisitEngland Awards for Excellence, which will be announced on 24 April 2017 at the Hilton Waldorf Hotel in central London. 

www.romanbaths.co.uk

 

The Emperor’s new clothes!

The Emperor’s new clothes!

Can’t blame a Roman emperor for trying to protect himself from the cold on a crisp and sunny winter morning with the temperature hovering around zero.

Though in the case of some of the emperors and governors of Provincia Britannia, who are represented in local stone around the edges of the Great Bath, the protection has been applied by conservators working to stabilise the condition of the statues.

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All wrapped up against the cold. This is a statue that has been protected against frost after receiving some conservation work involving material that has to dry out naturally without getting frozen!

Many visitors to the Roman  Baths think these figures are the work of the same masons who carved the facade to the ancient Temple of Minerva – preserved here below ground – but these are actually adornments added to these newly-discovered excavated remains when they were opened to the Victorian public in 1897.

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The array of Victorian statues surrounding the Great Bath.

The eight figures – in Bath stone – were the work of Scottish-born sculptor George Anderson Lawson – who also carved the friezes of classical figures at either end of the Guildhall.

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The Guildhall

We’ve got  emperors Claudius, Hadrian, Constantine the Great, Vespasian and Julius Caesar. His statue though is a 1989 replacement by Laurence Tindall following a rare outbreak of vandalism which toppled the original.

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Conservator, Douglas Carpenter at work.

We musn’t forget the three generals. Ostorius Sacula – defeater of Caractacus – Suetonius Paulinus – who put down Boudicca’s rebellion – and Agricola.

Every ten years or so conservators are called in to check on their condition and make necessary repairs.

Cracks can be filled, moss removed and lime washes added to provide a protective coat.

It’s skilled work  as conservator Douglas Carpenter – from Kilmersdon-based  Cliveden Conservation Workshop – explained.