070221.Dolmeads, Former Ralph Allen Wharf

February 21, 2007 at 1:55 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Bridges, Canals, Chisel Marks, Combe Down, Light and Shadow, river, River Avon, somerset, Waterfront, Widcombe | 5 Comments

Copy of 061216.066.Somset.Bath.WidcombeThis is the former wharf at the base of Combe Down hill between Widcombe and the Dolmeads where Ralph Allen sent his stone to. The locks connect the Kennet and Avon Canal with the River Avon. The river could transport his stone to Bristol and the canal could carry the stone via connections to the Thames. The site is now the Bath Hotel, I believe.
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070220.Combe Down, The Blob — Quarry

February 20, 2007 at 12:03 AM | Posted in Bath, Chisel Marks, Combe Down, Overcast, roofs, somerset, University of Bath | 8 Comments

061022.009.Somset.Bath.Combe Down.Quarry Houses

Combe Down is littered with former quarry sites–mostly dating from Ralph Allen’s time. Everyone seems to have one in their backyard. Sometimes they appear overnight. “Mom, am I imagining things or did the hill face move closer to the house?” You get the picture.

Bath has several different types of oolitic limestone, each named for the hill it was quarried on but I’m not going to get into details now. Most of the quarries in Bath, however, are underground. In fact, Combe Down is mostly tunnels and the quarries were more or less labyrinth underground cities with the stone being carted out by horses (leading to the tunnels being filled with stone-carved water troughs.) Even part of the U of Bath campus on neighboring Claverton Down hill used to be a quarry.

Technically, if a quarry is underground then it becomes a mine (even though the tunnels aren’t for metal) but the Combe Down tunnels retained their “quarry” name to avoid mine legislation.Today, however, these quarry tunnels are legally mines and the larger concern facing the government is filling them in.

Sinkholes used to constantly appear and collapse roads and structures on this hill, so that now the government is spending millions of pounds to secure and fill the tunnels, so I hear. It’s an odd cycle.

Tune in tomorrow for more Ralph Allen Week on Bath DP.

060219.Bath, A Room with a View

February 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Columns, Corinthian Order, Ladders, Mansion, Overcast, somerset | 7 Comments

Copy of 061004.2.Somset.Bath
Located southeast of the Abbey, the Ralph Allen Townhouse has an 18th Century façade built on land leased (probably for 99 years) in 1727. The pictured east-facing addition was quite elaborate and the architect can be assumed to have been John Wood the Elder who only wrote “the Designs, as well as a Model for this Addition, were made while I was in London.” The house was Allen’s primary residence until he moved to Prior Park Estate in 1745, at which point the house became his offices. To improve his view, Allen had constructed the Sham Castle from yesterday’s post.

The addition is now completely surrounded by other buildings and this small court is gated off. If you visit and want to see it, I believe you can borrow the gate key from the neighboring real estate office. (The elevation of the Town House was from Walter Ison’s Georgian Buildings of Bath.)
Ison 064070213.30.Somset.Bath.Bath Before Beau Nash.Ralph Allen

Born in Cornwall, Ralph Allen (1693 – June 29, 1764), transferred from a post office there at age 17 to one in Bath. Two years later in 1712, he became the Post Master of the city. He shortly reorganized the entire postal service and became very wealthy doing so. Surprisingly, however, he saved his money and refused to invest in the quarries that surrounded Bath (and that he would become famous from) until the completion of the Kennet and Avon Canal, which allowed stone to be shipped to the Thames.

Shortly, He owned nearly all of Combe Down, creating a cart rail-track that took the stones down the hill from the quarries to the canal warf in Bath’s Dolmeads section where it would be shipped out. He was also able to keep costs down by paying his workers less. This was not necessarily cruel since he, unlike most other quarry employers, employed year-round, and had John Wood the Elder build model terrace housing for them in 1729.

In addition to these organized and economical applications to selling stone, he promoted the creamy-colored stone through his own constructions, such as this Sham Castle (1767), his Palladian Mansion of Prior Park (1742) with its Palladian Bridge, and in supplying it for free for prominent public buildings such as the General Hospital (1738-1742). To introduce stone to new markets, such as lucrative London, he sold it at a discount with guarantees that he would personally cover the cost of replacing the stone if it failed. Unfortunately, it often did and London’s smoggy environment frequently caused him to empty his pockets.

He died at age 71 and is buried in a mausoleum in Claverton (down the opposite slope from Bath of the Claverton Down hill). The old rail line that went from his quarries, past his mansion, and down to his warf is now Ralph Allen Drive, as well as one of the city’s secondary schools. A statue for the Lower Assembly Rooms was also carved in his honor (not sure where the statue is since the structure was demolished), paid for by the City of Bath Corporation.

060218.Bathampton Down, A View to a Killing

February 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Castles, Chisel Marks, Claverton Down, doorways, Gardens & Parks, Light and Shadow, Mansion, Monuments and Memorials, Overcast, Peephole Views, Preservation, Restoration, Ruins, somerset, Towers, towns, Trees, University of Bath | 9 Comments

Walked by this two days ago after I picked up a package from the mailroom. It’s surrounded by the University of Bath‘s campus but is still somewhat difficult to reach. This is more of an excuse since I’ve never posted a shot of it and it’s a five minutes walk away from my house.
Copy of 070216.18.Somset.Bath.ClavertonDown.ShamCastle.d.RichardJones1762
Born in Cornwall, Ralph Allen (1693 – June 29, 1764), transferred from a post office there at age 17 to one in Bath. Two years later in 1712, he became the Post Master of the city. He shortly reorganized the entire postal service and became very wealthy doing so. Surprisingly, however, he saved his money and refused to invest in the quarries that surrounded Bath (and that he would become famous from) until the completion of the Kennet and Avon Canal, which allowed stone to be shipped to the Thames.

Shortly, He owned nearly all of Combe Down, creating a cart rail-track that took the stones down the hill from the quarries to the canal warf in Bath’s Dolmeads section where it would be shipped out. He was also able to keep costs down by paying his workers less. This was not necessarily cruel since he, unlike most other quarry employers, employed year-round, and had John Wood the Elder build model terrace housing for them in 1729.

In addition to these organized and economical applications to selling stone, he promoted the creamy-colored stone through his own constructions, such as this Sham Castle (1767), his Palladian Mansion of Prior Park (1742) with its Palladian Bridge, and in supplying it for free for prominent public buildings such as the General Hospital (1738-1742). To introduce stone to new markets, such as lucrative London, he sold it at a discount with guarantees that he would personally cover the cost of replacing the stone if it failed. Unfortunately, it often did and London’s smoggy environment frequently caused him to empty his pockets.

He died at age 71 and is buried in a mausoleum in Claverton (down the opposite slope from Bath of the Claverton Down hill). The old rail line that went from his quarries, past his mansion, and down to his warf is now Ralph Allen Drive, as well as one of the city’s secondary schools. A statue for the Lower Assembly Rooms was also carved in his honor (not sure where the statue is since the structure was demolished), paid for by the City of Bath Corporation.
Copy of 070216.12.Somset.Bath.ClavertonDown.ShamCastle.d.RichardJones1762
The “Sham Castle” was built by Allen’s Clerk of Works Richard Jones (the same person who completed John Wood the Elder’s designs for Prior Park after the latter’s dismissal) in 1762 as an eye-catcher for Allen’s town house mansion in Bath proper. That house, which is now hemmed in with other buildings, faces this hill (it was probably designed by John Wood the Elder, although his account of its design is cryptic.) In many ways, this castle is the equivalent of the Palladian Bridge on Allen’s Prior Park Estate. It can still be seen from the city when lit up at night (although it is very very small). Jones claimed the design for the façade structure was his, but Sanderson Miller had been approached to design it seven years earlier and Jones has a record for accepting credit for designs that he merely supervised (Prior Park). The structure replaced “Antsey’s Lodge.”
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Tune in tomorrow for more of Ralph Allen Week at Bath Daily Photo.

060217.Monkton Combe, Ye “Olde Locke Up”

February 17, 2007 at 12:59 AM | Posted in Architecture, Chisel Marks, Jane Austen, Monkton Combe, Overcast, somerset, towns, Trees | 7 Comments

Hostess: “…and these are our holding cells. I’m sure Ünterland has much larger ones, y’know, you being a whole country and all.”
Guest Henchman: “Ünterland…has…no…prisons.”
Hostess: “Really? Oh, how progressive…”
Guest Henchman: “The master has instated the death penalty for all infractions of Ünterlaw.”
070215.60.Somset.MonktonCombe.The Olde Lock-up.c1776
This is not a lame title, it’s the structure’s name: the “Olde Lock-Up,” constructed around 1776 in a town three miles south of Bath. You might think how desireably quaint, the small scenic little windowless prison is and that small town life used to have small town prisons, which represented a generally more peaceful society back then, but you’d be wrong. Petty theft of an item valued (by the retailer) at five shillings or more was a capital crime! The Georgians loved to hang everybody, no age limit: babies included. (See below Jane Austen’s aunt’s trial.)
In many ways, this small prison’s date of 1776 contrast sharply to the declaration of independence (this is not really that lame a segway, I have a point:) with Thomas Jefferson’s repeated attempts to limit the use of capital punishment to only murder and treason. In this same time period, peacefully Quaker Pennsylvania went one step further by introducing “degrees of murder” with first being the only one eligible for the death sentence. And finally, one of the American rights was anyone could only bring to court any argument involving a value of 20 dollars or more.
070215.61.Somset.MonktonCombe.The Olde Lock-up.c1776
And also…I got nothing. Here, check this out: it’s also small.
070215.62.Somset.MonktonCombe.The Olde Lock-up.c1776
“Jane Austen’s maternal uncle, James Leigh Perrot, possessed two of the status symbols of the respectable Englishman, as listed by Jane in her unfinished last novel Sanditon: “symptoms of gout and a winter at Bath.” Uncle James had a touching (but unrewarded) faith in the therapeutic powers of the waters of Bath, and he and Aunt Jane Leigh Perrot spent almost as much time at that famous resort town and spa as at their home in Berkshire called Scarlets. In the winter of 1799-1800 Bath was particularly unkind to Uncle James’s ailment, because, instead of conversing with his well-born friends at the Pump Room or the Assembly Rooms or promenading on the Royal Crescent, he spent the season with his wife at the rude home of the warden of Ilchester Gaol. For Aunt Jane had been arrested in Bath in August 1799 on the inelegant charge of filching a card of white lace from the William Smith millinery shop….”
“A prima facie case of shoplifting was found to have been made out, and Aunt Jane was committed to Ilchester Gaol to await trial at the next county assizes to be held in the spring at Taunton. The offense on which Aunt Jane was to be tried was far from trivial. Shoplifting of an item valued at five shillings or more was a capital crime, and the white lace was put down in the indictment at twenty shillings. For capital punishment the price was right. Although the penalty would likely have been commuted to transportation to Botany Bay in Australia, subjection to the rigors of the penal colony could be equivalent to a death sentence for convicts whose constitutions were not hardy.
“Aunt Jane’s social position had not exempted her from commitment pending trial, but it did win her the privilege of lodging in the house of the warden, Mr. Scadding, rather than in the prison itself. She was joined by Uncle James, who bore bravely a new onslaught of gout as well as a quality of accommodations far below the most modest Michelin rating. Aunt Jane wrote of the indignities suffered by her fastidious husband: “Cleanliness has ever been his greatest delight, and yet he sees the greasy toast laid by the dirty children on his knees, and feels the small Beer trickle down his Sleeves on its way across the table unmoved.” Aunt Jane declined the kind offer of her “sister Austen” to send her daughters Jane and Cassandra to stay with them. Aunt Jane had stated that she could not procure the girls accommodations in the warden’s house with her, and that she could not let those “Elegant young Women” be inmates in a prison or be subject to the inconveniences she and her husband were obliged to put up with.” —Albert Borowitz, “Trial of Jane’s Aunt,” Legal Studies Forum, Volume 29, Number 2 (2005):724-725.
Jane’s aunt ends up being cleared, only because a jury of peers couldn’t conceive that a rich woman would shoplift. The same jury that day, however, sentenced several (poorer) others to hanging, including a few children.

070216.Tucking Mill, Never Say Never

February 16, 2007 at 12:22 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Bridges, Castles, Mansion, Overcast, Pevsner, somerset, Towers, Tucking Mill | 20 Comments

Copy of 070215.33.Somset.Tucking Mills.Gothik Midford Castle.dJohn Carter.1775
So has this ever happened to you: you get tired of working in your room and you say I need a walk. –After strolling around in circles a few times you end up 3 miles south of Bath and have no actual idea where you are since you’re in a heavily wooded area and the sun has been blocked by the perpetual overcast weather?
070215.38.Somset.Tucking Mills
No? Yes? Well, it happened to me yesterday. I was on a muddy dirt road in the middle of nowhere wilderness when all of a sudden I see a hidden tunnel, possibly abandoned,  with some pavement beneath! I’m suddenly again interested in my surroundings and decide to explore…where does the tunnel lead? Where am I now and why is there wilderness above the tunnel? Or even, how do I get down there? As I’m trying to get on that new path, I find this crazy “Gothik” castle, decked out like a supervillain headquarters with all these bizarre deck of cards’ “club” patterns on its walls–(or quatrefoils, but the plan was definately a club-shape). Either in Midford, itself, or nearby Tucking Mill, the fortress compound is complete with a deceptively-rickety old antenna capable of receiving signals from a satellite relay station. And then, as I’m staring at it, a plane seemingly takes off from nearby, but there’s no airport anywhere in this region! This had to be the lair of some James Bond nemesis—“Dr. Club,” or…(pick a better name.)
070215.28.Somset.Tucking Mills.Gothik Midford Castle.dJohn Carter.1775Copy of 070215.35.Somset.Tucking Mills.Gothik Midford Castle.dJohn Carter.1775
070215.39.Somset.Tucking Mills
tucking_mill_deck
More out of boredom than anything else, I go into secret agent mode, leave the road and jump from tree to tree for cover. I wind up coming to a “private property” sign that doesn’t clearly distinguish the private from the public footpath, so I continue. The place, in any event, looks abandoned. An old, junked railroad bridge, which may or may not according to the county belong to Wessex Water (according to an Internet search, its ownership isn’t so much in dispute as it is denied by all parties concerned), with a reservoir lake at the base. On the other thickly-wooded side, there is a series of large tanks and generator-looking devices…and uniformed workers marching around: yes, henchmen! I couldn’t photograph everything that was going on (because my camera makes an annoying chirping sound every time it’s turned on or takes a picture—still haven’t figured out how to turn that off) but as I went down the wooded hill toward the generators, a siren went off, and I had to make a fast getaway.
070215.42.Somset.Tucking Mill.Viaduct.Ownershipindoubt.Fisheries
070215.40.Somset.Tucking Mill.Viaduct.Ownershipindoubt

So here’s what it turned out to be…(but don’t be fooled, this Forysth could be in their employ…)
Midford Castle, Midford Rd. Beautifully placed in wooded grounds with a s view down to Cane Brook and Midford Brook, this is the most eccentric of the substantial villas that surround Bath. It was build for Henry Disney Roebuck, c. 1775, after a design by John Carter for “a Gothic Mansion,” published in Builder’s Magazine in 1774. It is tower-like, three-storeyed, on an ingenious trefoil plan with semicircular corners, raised on a large plinth containing the service accommodation. Each floor has a lozenge-shaped hall and three rooms giving off it with three-windowed ends. (A story, coined in 1899, said that the plan commemorates some prodigious gambling success of Henry Roebuck and represent the ace of clubs.) The two principal floors have pointed windows with ogee0hoods, the upper windows, straight hoods. To give the appearance of towers, the battlemented parapet projects upwards at in blind arches like eyebrows. The interior has charming light plasterwork, chiefly long branches with sparse leave, attributed to Thomas Stocking. The house is an early example of the unusual-shaped villas, mainly triangular and sometimes castlelated, that architects experimented with in the 1780s-90s. These include Carr’s Grimston Garth, Yorkshire (1781-6), Adam’s Walkinshaw House, Renfrewshire (1791), and Nash’s Castle House, Aberystwyth for Uvedale Price (c.1795).
“Castellated also, the early C19 gatehouse (four-centred head of the archway, quatrefoils in the spandrels) and the picturesque group of stables and tower of the former chapel. This has a tower with pinnacles (and a cupola as well). In the NE part of the grounds are the ruins of a summerhouse known as the priory. A two-storeyed circular tower with a higher circular stair-turret, embattled, with quatrefoil windows. Originally, this had a nave with an apse, with ogee-headed niches. This was presumably built at the same time as the castle as it is mentioned in Collinson’s History of Somerset, 1791. On the brow of a steep descent is a rustic hermitage, now restored. Collinson also mentions this.” —Michael Forsyth, Bath (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 288-289. Midford Castle was also apparently the estate of Charles Conolly….

070215.Newton-St. Loe, Real Rebels Wear Safety Helmets

February 15, 2007 at 3:47 AM | Posted in Light and Shadow, Newton St. Loe, river, River Avon, somerset | 5 Comments

070204.74.Somset.Newton St.Loe.Rebels wear helmets

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