Trust calls for action to determine historic building’s future.

Trust calls for action to determine historic building’s future.

A call for action in determining the future of the old King Edward’s Junior School building in Bath’s Broad Street has been made by  Bath Preservation Trust.

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The old KES School – by Thomas Jelly – in Broad Street.

It follows a recent attack by vandals on what is a Grade 11* listed property which has stood derelict for years.

The Trust’s CEO Caroline Kay says:  The recent break-in, as well as causing damage to the historic structure, shows how vulnerable a property like this can be when its owner leaves it unused, increasingly derelict and potentially at risk of irreversible damage through vandalism.

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A side door has been completely smashed.

The building is Grade II*, a high level of national designation, and is on the national ‘at risk’ register.  It is a poor advertisement both for a World Heritage City and for one of the South West’s leading independent schools, who sold the building in good faith over 20 years ago.

The Local Authority need to get on the front foot to inspect its current condition and determine whether or not the owner has any intention of carrying out the extant planning permission.

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Caroline Kay, CEO Bath Preservation Trust

 Also Historic England need to do as they say on their website, where ‘their  local Heritage at Risk teams strive to find solutions for sites at risk’.  We would urge them to demonstrate to the concerned public that Historic England, the Council and the owner are working actively to address this long overdue eyesore; and if not, what they propose to do about it.

 

Bridge crack? We’re keeping an eye on it says Council.

Bridge crack? We’re keeping an eye on it says Council.

Well, l have finally had my official answer from B&NES regarding the sorry state of the stone balustrade alongside Pulteney Bridge – and regarding the crack in the stone facade to one side of this Grade 1 listed structure’s first span over the River Avon.

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The crack is below the cafe window and above one side of the first bridge span.

Here’s the statement from the Press Office.

“Pulteney Bridge is subject to regular inspections, in accordance with nationally adopted standards.

The vegetation growing on the structure will be removed in a future programme of maintenance work.

The minor crack in the shop façade was identified through the inspection regime and is subject to ongoing monitoring.”

Well, l still think it is getting wider!

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Hopefully, you can see the crack in the horizontal seam between the masonry.

It’s a shame the balustrade wasn’t subject to regular inspections too. It might have prevented the weeds from growing so well.

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Here’s the view – looking through the cafe window.

Pulteney Bridge was designed by Robert Adam in a Palladian style. It was completed in 1774 and connected the city with the newly built Georgian town of Bathwick.

It is one of only four such bridges in the world in having shops built across its full span on both sides.

It is one of the most iconic structures in our World Heritage city and a favourite tourist spot for taking ‘selfies’.

 

 

It’s a ‘no’ to a Pulteney Bridge interview

It’s a ‘no’ to a Pulteney Bridge interview

 

Followers of Bath Newseum will know l am a little shocked at the state of the stone balustrade facing Pulteney Bridge which is – itself – exhibiting a widening crack in its stonework.

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Here’s the view – looking through the cafe window on the bridge.

Bearing in mind how historically important this part of Bath is – and how it contributes to its World Heritage status and tourist trade – l asked the Cabinet member who l was informed was responsible for the upkeep of such ‘fabric’ – Cllr Charles Gerrish – if l could have an interview.

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Cllr Charles Gerrish, Cabinet member for Finance and Efficiency.

I have had a response of sorts. Must say, l thought it a little abrupt.

Judge for yourselves. First my email:

Dear Cllr Gerrish,

I would dearly love to do a video interview with you regarding the state of the balustrade adjoining Pulteney Bridge and the crack that has appeared in the bridge itself.
Since raising this via www.bathnewseum.com l am reliably informed the matter has been looked at by B&NES. This is one of the city’s most treasured architectural gems.
Kind regards,
Richard Wyatt
Bath Newseum
Then his reply:
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That’s a ‘no’ to an interview then? Not even a full stop at the end! I will await the ‘press statement’ with interest.
Going underground.

Going underground.

I joined around a dozen Bath traders from the York Street area last night on a fact-finding mission – above and below ground level.

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Our traders are in Swallow Street and outside the old laundry building.

These are business people who share their location with the Roman Baths complex – one of the city’s main tourist attractions – and a valuable source of revenue for our cash-strapped local authority.

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In the distant middle are Stephen Bird – Head of Heritage Services – on the left and the Roman Baths Manager, Stephen Clews on the right. They are surrounded by York Street traders and starting their tour of the old spa building on the corner of Swallow Street. The ground floor is currently let as a shop selling leather furniture.

In the new year, a major project gets underway to extend the ruins visible to the public and create a World Heritage Centre and Roman Baths Learning Centre that will show people why Bath is so special and inspire them to go out and explore the archaeology and architecture that has given the city World Heritage status.

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An image taken from the Roman Baths website at http://www.romanbaths.co.uk

Along with Venice,  we are one of only two Europeans cities to be awarded this UNESCO accolade.

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The decorative archway in York Street

It’s officially called The Archway Project – after the decorative stone bridge across York Street which was built to hide the pipes carrying spa water back and forth to the former Victorian Spa building and city laundry that will now be converted.

While this operation will be costing five million – with the help of a 3.4 million pound Heritage Lottery Fund donation – the Council is also faced with an additional expense.

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Some of the massive beams supporting the road above.

Clearing the passages under York Street – to prepare for next year – revealed there was a problem with the beams supporting the road. Water – seeping through from the surface – has been eating away at the supports and many of them will need strengthening or replacing.

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There’s plenty of evidence in the passageway under York Street of the damaging water seeping through from above.

On top of this, the road itself will have to come up so a waterproof membrane can be laid to stop any further ingress.

All of this is going to be disruptive to neighbouring traders who – while recognising the benefits of an increased footfall in the future – will have to put up with a certain amount of construction work outside their doors for several years.

Meanwhile, the Roman Baths isn’t the only major body getting work done from next year. Neighbouring Bath Abbey will begin the task of taking up its floor – section by section – for stabilisation work and installing a new heating system and other facilities.

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Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths are located next to each other.

 

There’s going to be construction traffic everywhere and traders were not slow to voice their concerns and ask to be involved in the planning of the operation.

Kelvin Packer – Group Manager for Highways and Traffic – told them it would take around six weeks to do the road and that they would work with traders to minimise disruption. He assured them that they would not end up with a huge hole in York Street and that the strengthening work would be done from below.

While it was the Council’s policy to make Bath as pedestrian and cycle-friendly as possible – and limit traffic – without the repairs being carried out it was doubtful if the street could continue to support heavy vehicles like fire appliances or rubbish lorries.

Mr Packer said the Council had a duty to inspect its basements and cellars on a regular basis. As this is a city built on basements and cellars maybe everyone else should so do too. How long before a bus or coach goes through one?

While Stephen Bird – who is Head of Heritage Services – gave a preliminary introduction to the project – it was Stephen Clews – the Roman Baths and Pump Room Manager – who took us on a tour of the passageway under York Street.

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Archaeologists will also be able to sift through an untouched historical layer of earth built up over the centuries.

Here there has been a massive emptying operation of heavy Roman masonry to clear the site. In January archaeologists will begin a three-month dig. The main contractor will then get down to business at Easter.

Bath Newseum caught up with Stephen to tell us more.

 

Next year’s timetable begins with three months worth of underground archaeology and then work on repairing the road beams will take place between April and August.

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An image taken from the Roman Baths website at wwww.romanbaths.co.uk

The above groundwork – and that includes creating the World Heritage Centre and other educational resources will being in June and run through to May 2019. The additional archaeological facilities – a Roman exercise yard and a specially heated room called a Laconicum – will be opened to the public in July 2019.

Find out more via www.romanbaths.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Appeal to UNESCO over sale of ‘The Min.’

Appeal to UNESCO over sale of ‘The Min.’

A group of nearly two hundred patients are appealing to UNESCO to step into the controversy behind the sale of The Min – officially known now as the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases – and sited in the centre of Bath.

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The ‘Min’

They are represented in a letter being sent by patient-governor Professor George Odam who writes of their concerns regarding ‘the fate of the two listed buildings, in Upper Borough Walls in the centre of Bath and of vital historic importance both to the city and to the nation’.

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Professor George Odam

The 18th century building – Britain’s first general hospital for the poor – is being sold by the Royal United Hospital who intend ploughing the proceeds into a new purpose built ‘Min’ now under construction at the hospital’s main site.

UNESCO is the educational arm of the United Nations and granted Bath World Heritage status in 1987. It puts the city on a par with Venice and the Taj Mahal.

Here is the letter to UNESCO in full:

‘Dear Sir or Madam,

I write as the representative of 179 (currently) people who are concerned about the fate of the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath (RNHRD). We all belong to a social media group on FaceBook called Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases Patients, and I was a patient-governor of this hospital from its first Foundation status year for the following eight and a half years.

In the near future the hospital itself, as an institution, will be largely replaced with a new purpose-built building at the main site of the Royal United Hospital, Combe Park, Bath, (RUH) although there will be no new, dedicated in-patient provision, which has always been fundamental to the RNHRD. We are hopeful that the excellence of treatment at the new site will be upheld and maintained as promised. Consequently the historic buildings in the centre of Bath are currently for sale.

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Although this move concerns us, we know that the internal decisions and plans of our National Health Service are of no direct concern of UNESCO and its World Heritage representatives. However, the fate of the two listed buildings, in Upper Borough Walls in the centre of Bath and of vital historic importance both to the city and to the nation, is of concern to us and must also be to you.

We are confident that the wonderful history of this fine old hospital from its foundation in 1741 to the present day will not need to be rehearsed for you. We wish, however, to stress to you how important the unbroken record over nearly three centuries of research-led treatment for those of us who suffer rheumatic conditions remains. If the predicted sale of both the adjacent historic buildings goes merely to the highest bidder and ignores the importance they played in the development of medical practice, then we stand to lose a vital part of our heritage that is enshrined not only in buildings but in their original purpose and continuing function. Remarkably it remains at the forefront of international research and practice in Rheumatology and is, indeed, the hospital where Rheumatology was first identified and practised as a discipline.

The MIneral Water Hospital in Bath

The Mineral Water Hospital in Bath

The majority of us have had the privilege of treatment in the hydrotherapy pool on the ground floor of the older of the two buildings. In the 1960s when I was first a patient, this pool was fed directly from the Roman bath spring, and a walk-through conduit under the streets of Bath remains to this day, linking the two sites. Because of health concerns in the 1980s, the spring waters ceased to be used and were replaced by normal water supply heated on site.

As you will be aware, in the last two decades, new developments have renewed bathing in the spring waters in two privately run facilities, each with their own borehole. The original plans for what is now Thermae, included medical research into new forms of hydrotherapy, and I was a member of that research committee. However, because of the financial debacle in the construction of Thermae, this purpose was forgotten.

But the hydrotherapy pool at the RNHRD remains the historic foundation in Bath for such treatment. The former medical hydrotherapy Treatment Centre in nearby Hot Bath Street, in which I was treated in the 1970s, was destroyed by commercial development in the 1980s. So the hydrotherapy pool at the RNHRD and its direct conduit to the Roman spring are the last historic links to such activity. If the sale of these buildings means that the pool and its conduit are destroyed, or cease to be used as the Treatment Centre was, then we lose a final and vital part of the medical heritage of Bath and of this nation.

We believe that ‘heritage’ is to be found not only in the wonderful historic buildings but in their function being, in this case, at the leading edge of medical research and practice over its whole unique history, and which continues to this day on site treating exactly those conditions to which it was first dedicated.

We are confident that you may already be aware of this problem, and so wish to add our voices to the argument with those who have the responsibility for the up-coming sale, and remind them through you, of their promise to preserve, develop and enhance the brand and mission of the RNHRD which is enshrined in the fine historic buildings in Upper Borough Walls.

Yours faithfully

George Odam
Emeritus Professor, Bath Spa University, Fellow of the Guildhall School’

World Heritage Centre
UNESCO
7, Place de Fontenoy
75352 Paris CEDEX 07
France

Bath’s new hotel opens for business

Bath’s new hotel opens for business

The new Apex City of Bath Hotel has had what you might call a ‘soft opening’ with forty odd rooms now taking paying guests.

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The signage going up on the Apex City of Bath Hotel

The reception and downstair bar areas are also in business. I am told facilities like the gym and pool will be coming on line in a month or so.

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A temporary entrance to the City of Bath Apex Hotel.

Apex said the hotel would open in August and are true to their word. Work continues around guests but doesn’t seem to be interfering with their stay.

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An interior view inside the newly opened hotel.

The hotel will be Bath’s largest hotel both in terms of conference and events spaces and number of bedrooms.

The hotel’s conference room will hold up to 400 delegates which will be the largest in Bath and the four-star hotel itself will have 177 contemporary bedrooms including family rooms and suites, some of which include balconies.

Good to see also that the Highways Department has painted in the zebra crossing outside the Odeon complex. The whole thing was getting illegible.

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The crossing before re-painting.

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The crossing after a new coat of paint!

Roadworks around the Saw Close area – which is being re-modelled – have revealed some of the original stone setts under the tarmac in Upper Borough Walls.

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Roadworks have uncovered the underlying stone setts.

Talking of stone setts – our proud symbol of World Heritage Status – outside the side entrance to the Pump Room – could do with some attention. Not exactly the best way of promoting the city’s standing as a major tourist centre.

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The UNESCO symbol for a site of World Heritage status – with missing stone setts.

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A closer look at missing stones.

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Yet another missing stone.

Coming home along the canal l noticed workmen are starting to take down the lighting that was installed in one of the long tunnels at one end of the Sydney Gardens stretch of the Kennet and Avon Canal.

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Workmen starting to remove the lighting installed in the tunnel under Cleveland House.

B&NES did not agree with the developer of the property above – Cleveland House –  that the installation was a good idea and have obviously refused retrospective planning permission.

Check out the story about the tunnel and the lights elsewhere on the site. Just enter ‘Cleveland House’ into the ‘search’ box.

Don’t let Bath become a doughnut!

Don’t let Bath become a doughnut!

He’s got responsibility for influencing the way the modern city of Bath connects with and safeguards its history and heritage, but when l met Professor Barry Gilbertson – newly appointed as Chairman of the City of Bath World Heritage Steering Group – he wanted to talk doughnuts.

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Well,  he also wanted to talk about what  World Heritage status means to Bath and how – as a place where people live and work –  the city couldn’t be frozen in time – but it was the comparison between the heart of this ancient place to a ring doughnut that stuck in my mind.

It’s all to do with the threat of creating a hole in the middle because residents don’t want to live in the heart of Bath because tourism is too high.

I went to Barry’s city centre home to do a substantial interview with him. He is – of course – only at the start of his tenure-ship and has a lot of meetings and research to undertake.

His chat ranges over how to manage the impact of the city’s development with its World Heritage Status, the issue of transport and the impact of some four and a half million visitors each year on the fabric of Bath.

He wants to talk to groups and organisations everywhere to spread the World Heritage news and give his body a much higher profile.

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You’ll find a story about his appointment – which lists his credentials – elsewhere in Bath Newseum, but before you click on the interview l will leave you with a quote from Barry.

“We are not our past, but our Heritage must play its part in the future of this wonderful city, whether it is to live, to work or to play.

Importantly, the WHS should not be a constraint or obstacle to growth, but an invitation to excel.’