How Bath gave shelter to ‘The King of Kings’

How Bath gave shelter to ‘The King of Kings’

Bath’s five-star Macdonald Bath Spa Hotel –  behind Sydney Gardens – is a building with a long and colourful history. Famous people as diverse as Winston Churchill and Joan Collins have slept under its roof. At different times – and periods of history – of course!

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MacDonald Bath Spa Hotel

Churchill came during the war when the hotel was requisitioned by the Admiralty. Ms Collins stayed more recently – in the 1990’s – when the building had reverted once more to its luxury hotel status.

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Another view of the hotel.

However, this particular story revolves around a royal personage who came to Bath with his family  – as refugees. It was the start of his exile – and he lodged in the hotel while searching for a more permanent  home in the city.

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The Emperor and hunting party in Ethiopia before the Italian invasion drove him into exile. It was taken on the Addis Ababa to Djibouti railway line in the early 1930s just after he’d been officially crowned as Emperor.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the arrival of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. A King of Kings, the Lion of Judah and descendant of the House of Solomon – made homeless by the Italian invasion of his homeland.

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The family photo was probably taken at Fairfield House in Bath in the late 1930s.

The anniversary will be marked by a special presentation to the hotel of a photograph of the Emperor with Dr James Carpenter, the then Mayor of Bath, which was taken on the hotel steps in 1936.

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The Emperor and Mayor of Bath on the doorstep of the Bath Spa Hotel back in 1936. © Bath in Time

A specially framed version will be presented – on May 5th – by Prince Michael Mekonnen, the grandson of His Imperial Majesty – and will go on permanent display in the hotel foyer.

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The Emperor came back to Bath to receive the Freedom of the City and presented the Mayor of Bath with mounted elephant tusks. The ivory has since been stolen! © Bath in Time

A brief talk about the Emperor’s stay at the hotel will be given by Keith Bowers who is also the author of a new book called Imperial Exile. The book is the first full account of the Ethiopian Emperor’s experiences as a refugee in Britain.

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Author Keith Bowers with his new book – Imperial Exile.

 Keith is a former BBC executive producer and has taught at the University of Addis Ababa. He now lives in Bath. His previous book was Viewing History, an eyewitness account of decisive world events.

I spoke to him – at the MacDonald Bath Spa  Hotel – this week.

Many of the Bath photographs in that interview come from the files of Bath in Time – please visit on www.bathintime.co.uk/

The book is already on Amazon available for pre-orders.

Ebook  http://ww.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01DU88C4O

Paperback  http://amazon.co.uk/dp/1785450875

According to the blurb…

“IMPERIAL EXILE

The first full account of the Ethiopian Emperor’s experiences as a refugee in Britain

: uncovers new details about Haile Selassie’s epic struggles while living in the spa city of Bath 

: unveils the tensions in the UK government about how to deal with its famous exile

: reveals how the Emperor was forced to pay income tax after losing his Head of State status

: highlights the British public’s fascination with the Imperial refugee fleeing Mussolini’s troops

: contains interviews with eyewitnesses, including Princess Seble Desta who was with her grandfather in exile.”

Meanwhile – on May 2nd –  a special Open Day is being held at Fairfield House in Bath which became the long-term residence of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia during
his exile in the UK from 1936-40.

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Fairfield House – the former home of Hailee Selassie during his exile.

The Open Day will provide a chance to discover more
about the fascinating history of the house and the Emperor’s life in Bath.

According to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fairfield-house-open-day-and-talk-on-imperial-exile-of-haile-selassie-tickets-24238500006

The House and garden will be open from 2pm.
From 3pm-4pm First guided tour plus talk by Keith Bowers, author of the new book Imperial Exile
4.30pm-5.30pm Second guided tour plus talk by Keith Bowers.
Light refreshments available, including Ethiopian food and coffee.

You will find Fairfield House at 2 Kelston Road, Bath BA1 3QJ – View Map

 

Odd Down mystery

Odd Down mystery

The certificate presented to Flt Lt Davis DFC.

The certificate presented to Flt Lt Davis DFC. Click on images to enlarge.

Let’s see if anyone in the Bath area can help a Virtual Museum regular from further afield with some more information on two items he has in his possession with a real Odd Down connection.

Gary Whitley made contact with me by email and has enclosed two pictures of the two embellished and framed certificates he wants help with.

The certificate presented to James Tanner. Click on images to enlarge.

The certificate presented to James Tanner. Click on images to enlarge.

“The one to James E Tanner I bought from a second-hand shop in Kidderminster
about thirty years ago, it has the date 1939-1945 at the base (name and date
in red).

The other to Flt. Lt. Davies (name in gold with no initials and no date at
base) I bought from an antique fair in Stratford-on-Avon about two years
ago.

Any information would be much appreciated.”

Do let me know if you have information and l will pass it on to Gary.

Larkhall Carnival memories

Larkhall Carnival memories

The recent annual Larkhall Festival has brought back memories for one former resident.. The Virtual Museum was contacted by Mr Eddy Priest who lived in Larkhall from 1949 to 1970.

Newspaper cutting featuring the old Larkhall Carinval

Newspaper cutting featuring the old Larkhall Carnival. Click on images to enlarge.

He told me : “I remember the festivals we had there in the 50’s and 60’s – including the 1964 Carnival in which my wife of 45 years – then girlfriend Gill Brewer – was a beauty queen contestant. The roads were cordoned off from Camden right through the Square and up to the back fields where the contest was held.

It was a great social event organised partly by my old dad. Happy Days.’

Crowing the Queen of St Saviour's Church May Week Carnival.

Crowning the Queen of St Saviour’s Church May Week Carnival.

Eddy has sent in a couple of newspaper cuttings which l am sure will bring back memories for many people and he has asked our help with something he remembers his father telling him.

‘He explained to me that during the war an unexploded bomb dropped through the pavement under the old pub at the junction of St Saviours Way and St Saviours Road – opposite St Saviours Church.

He told me he was told off by the local ‘plod’ for peering down the hole made by the unexploded bomb.’

Trying to work out where this 'mystery' pub was. Here's a property with a blocked up door and front step still obvious beneath it?

Trying to work out where this ‘mystery’ pub was. Here’s a property with a blocked up door and front step still obvious beneath it?

I have been unable to find any history of the pub. When it opened or closed – and l am not even certain of the name but think it was ‘Queen’ something.

Can anyone help?’

Tracey Hill of Larkhall was quick to come through and confirm that there was a pub called The Queen in a property that is now a private house and opposite St Saviours Church.

It’s not the only vanished pub either. According to Tracey ‘even the Larkhall butchers shop used to be a pub.’

The Larkhall pub that vanished?

The Larkhall pub that vanished?

Getting ready to open the Larkhall Festival.

Getting ready to open the Larkhall Festival.

The annual Larkhall Festival came and went last week-end. Yours Truly enjoyed his two minutes in the spotlight cutting the ribbon outside the New Oriel Hall to officially open the seventh annual community event.

A lot of hard work by a group of volunteers – supported by local businesses – ensures that the talent living within this amazon area is seen and appreciated by the community.

The Virtual Museum was contacted by Mr Eddie Priest who lived in Larval from 1949 to 1970.

He told me : !”I remember the festivals we had there in the 50’s and 60’s – including the 1963 Carnival in which my wife – then girlfriend – was a beauty queen contestant. The roads were cordoned off from Camden right through the Square and up to the back fields where the contest was held. It was a great social event organised partly by my old dad. Happy Days.’

Eddie did not tell me whether his wife – then girlfriend – won the contest but we can all imagine he got himself a ‘winning’ wife!

Eddie asked our help with something he remembers his father telling him.

St Saviours Church at Larkhall.

St Saviours Church at Larkhall.

‘He explained to me that during the war an unexploded bomb dropped through the pavement under the old pub at the junction of St Saviours Way and St Saviours Road – opposite St Saviours Church.

I have been unable to find any history of the pub. When it opened or closed and l am not even certain of the name but think it was ‘Queen’ something. Can anyone help.

Tracey Hill of Larkhall was quick to come through and confirm that there was a pub called The Queen in a property that is now a private house and opposite St Saviours Church. It’s not the only vanished pub either. According to Tracey ‘even the Larkhall butchers shop used to be a pub.’

In the meantime l was also intrigued to know how the Oriel Hall in Larkhall came to be named. Turns out the original Oriel  village Hall was in the Swainswick Valley – an area of land once owned by Oriel College at Oxford University. As it stood in the way of the new by-pass it had to be demolished by the Highways Authority did fund a replacement.

Took a few years to find it but eventually the then derelict original St Saviours Junior School – built in 1845 – was renovated and re-opened in 2004 for the use of the community.

Keeping  a ‘Watchdog’ eye on things!

Keeping a ‘Watchdog’ eye on things!

It’s not often – metaphorically speaking – that my jaw hits the table but a coffee-fuelled chat with a man who runs a detailed and impressive website for an organisation well-known for keeping an eye on building development in Bath, found  me wide-mouthed with wonder.

Jim Warren Website Author Bath Heritage Watchdog

Jim Warren
Website Author
Bath Heritage Watchdog

Jim Warren is the man. He is website author for the Bath Heritage Watchdog group which was born out of a meeting of like-minded individuals back in 2006. Since then this band of unpaid volunteers have made a real impact amongst the planners and private developers who often consult them on their proposals.

Bath Heritage Watchdog state their prime reason for being as fighting ‘to preserve notable buildings and structures and oppose inappropriate developments that might put them, or Bath’s World Heritage status, at risk.’

Their website is detailed and highly informative. Jim was regaling me with tales of tunnels under the city, of the remains of the old ferryboatman’s cottage close to the old mediaeval passage called Slippery Lane. The main access to the River Avon ferryboat that preceded the Pulteney Bridge. We talked of flood level markers near Bath Spa station and even the vibrations that set off an unexploded bomb in the Circus back in 1942 – killing a fire fighter.

I am hoping the Virtual Museum and Bath Heritage Group will be able to compliment each other from time to time. Suggest you take a look at their website on www.bathheritagewatchdog.org