Right where this metal scaffold pole cuts across those two streets (top: St. Stephen’s Rd, bot: Richmond Rd–and left of the pole is called Lansdown Rd) was the site of an 18th C turnpike.
These ladders stretch three scaffolding levels. This was the lowest of three. The scaffolding went up the height of the tower, 30 meters, or so. It was also raining hard.
I took the sunny photo back in early November 2006. St Stephen’s put it up early to survey the repairs needed. These repairs are being carried out by Minerva Stone Conservators, who waited until spring for the “lime window.” As responsible conservators, all masonry repairs are being carried out with lime mortar, which takes a long time to set and cannot set during potential periods of frost. Below two conservators apply a dry lime mortar in the masonry joints and apply a cotton-like substance over sections.
Designed to serve the spiritual needs of NE Bath by James Wilson and built between 1840-1845, St Stephen’s Church on Lansdown Road in Walcot cost 6,000 pounds (*today it cost 60,000 just for the scaffolding!) “It is broad and somewhat Georgian in proportion, and still in the mix-and-match style of the 1830s,, with lancets, but also Perp-style octagonal buttresses. The tower, similar to the W towers of Ely Cathedral (c.1400) or Antwerp Cathedral (1519), is a very imporant visual focus on Bath’s N slopes. Starting square and E.E., then at once turning octagonal, with detached big octagonal corner pinnacles connected with the octagonal, with detached big octagonal corner pinnacles connected with the octagon by traceried flying buttresses; a smaller octagon on top with pinnacles is arranged in the same way. The nave and transept are very be-pinnacled, with pierced parapets. Two-light lancet windows and cusped Y-tracery. The church remained unconsecrated for some forty years until 1881, after which W.J. Willcox built the very wide apsidal chancel in 1882-1883, together with the vestry and organ chamber (at a cost of 3,000 pounds). The handsome painted ceiling, 1886, is by W.J. Willcox, executed by H.&F. Davis. The NE aisle was added in 1866 for the use of the Royal School, presumably by Wilson & Willcox, in a harsh Gothic typical of the alter work of the firm and contrasting with the style of 1840. –Stained glass. E Window, Lady Chapel by Mark Angus, 1983, the ‘Centenary,’ depicting St Stephen’s transformation, on the bridge between life and death t the moement of martyrdom. With distorted ambiguity between pain and repose, the body rises amid red flames on a blue ground. –Font and font cover. Marble, florid Gothic, dated 1843. –Transept ceiling and reredos. By Sir T. G. Jackson [of Oxford University’s building program fame], c. 1900, then working on the Abbey. Slade, Smith and Winrow converted the crypt to a parish room in 1993-1994.”–Michael Forsyth, Bath (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 265-266.
Here’s the cornerstone to the apsidal chancel. Yes, a Masters of the Arts symbolically laid this stone, possibly touched it but probably didn’t carve or do anything artistic with it. (Perhaps it was his brilliant idea to repeat Grace. *Also, just noted that the degree makes his name off-center, as if it was added as an afterthought, either because he earned it later and had it carved into the stone, or feared it might be taken away so he could have it filled in with his name remaining centered.) I have no idea why everyone in the UK insists on putting their educational degrees on everything. Here it is on a cornerstone. I’ve seen it in books, presentations, and even tombstones. Almost without fail, they also include (Hons), if applicable, or even organizations they belong to (that they had to simply pay to join).
Another thing to note with this CORNERstone is one side’s red tint. There is a local red algae that’s around here and the red shade indicates the colder north facade of this church where the sun doesn’t warm the stone and evaporate the dampness.
Some people like their cars a lot. I’ve never hear of this “Humber” but it looks good. It was parked in a non-parking space next to a large scaffolding, so I assume the driver had something to do with this work that is being done….still, I’d be nervous.
This post posted by JC of Monmouth, who is only providing this personal information at James’s insistence.
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.)
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.
-(Above:) Man applying lime mortar and then sponging away excess-
I came across this masonry “conservation” occuring yesterday along the west terrace of the Parade Gardens. Old worn out pieces were sawed and chiseled out and newly carved pieces were carted in and pounded into place with a hard lime mortar. Some of the pieces removed and completely replaced, however, looked to be in decent condition. And truth be told, I’ve passed this spot hundreds of times and never once thought that anything here on the railings needed fixing (–the retaining walls around the garden are another matter, which don’t seem to be addressed.) I think the English should be proud of their conservation efforts, which are much more thorough than anywhere else that I’ve ever seen, but this thoroughness is somewhat excessive. I don’t think its the high cost that proves them prohibitive in other places but the justification of such efforts to mend a chip here and there for a slightly worn public balustrade.
I’m not entirely sure when this railing dates from. I believe it’s part of the early 20th century addition. I’ll figure that out later. The design, I believe, is a continuation of John Wood the Elder’s North Parade terrace balustrade and design for “St James’ Triangle,” which was most of the current Parade Gardens (See Wood’s “A Plan of the New Buildings of the South East Corner of Bath”). The bowls are replacements for where he had placed obelisks (see last image–N Parade).
(The plan came from John Wood the Elder’s “Essays Towards a Description of Bath,” 1749. And the blurry N Parade aquatint is courtesy of the Bath Reference Library.)
Then he [Jacob] dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the Earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
Firstly, don’t even think of looking up the skirts of these angels: they’re genderless…and God will know if you try. Weekends typically kill viewership so I was going to play it easy but here’s the story on the west façade (although it was briefly mentioned back in the first Hokusai post):
When the former secretary to Henry VII, Bishop Oliver King, came to his new diocese he found the old large Norman Church in a state of grave disrepair and so endeavored to get the King to pay for a new Cathedral.
Owing his ecclesiastical office (See earlier “Investitures Conflict”) to his former secretarial duties and far from being concerned with civil rights in 1499, King had a dream in which angels ascended and descended a ladder from heaven and a voice spoke to him proclaiming: “Let an olive establish the crown and a king restore the Church.” (See the built image here.) I should add that by King, I mean Bishop King. And that the actual king probably responded by having an equally vivid dream in which God told him to let his former secretary pay for it. Anyway, the royal master masons (Robert and William Virtue) were used, which explains the similarity between its fan vaulting interior and that of Cambridge’s King’s College Chapel. It is the last large scale medieval cathedral constructed in England.
It’s all very confusing since not only is there a King, king, Oliver, and olive in this story but the actual king, Henry VII, was eager to shore up his “crown” image since he had just established his dynasty. This Tudor dynasty was born out of overthrowing the “evil” Yorkist Richard III* and ended the War of the Roses (dynastic civil war) by “uniting” the families of Lancaster and York. (Actually, he just married a York and then the happy couple spent their Honeymoon and subsequent marriage executing the wife’s entire family on trumped up charges.) His son was Henry VIII so you can just imagine the mother-in-law jokes of the Tudor Court!
Clearly Bath Abbey wasn’t just a dreamed folly (built) but part of God’s divine plan. God willed a Cathedral there, or rather a new cathedral there (3rd on the site!), or rather a new bi-cathedral there (since the “cathedra” is split with Wells, making it the diocese of Bath and Wells.)
Or as Bishop Jocelin would put it: “…the folly isn’t mine. It’s God’s Folly. Even in the old days He never asked men to do what was reasonable. Men can do that for themselves. They can buy and sell, heal and govern. But then out of some deep place comes the command to do what makes no sense at all–to build a ship on dry land; to sit among the dunghills; to marry a whore; to set their son on the altar of sacrifice. Then, if men have faith, a new thing comes.” (Excerpt from William Golding’s The Spire, 1964…pick up a copy, much better than Lord of the Flies)
And new things did come: Reformation, which made this structure redundant and caused it to be sold at auction a mere three decades after King’s dream.
My favorite aspect of the Jacob’s Ladder is its uninterupted spanning of the windows. And despite their stone wings, the angel’s share a valuable safety lesson with us mere humans: NEVER CLIMB A LADDER WHILE HOLDING ONTO THE OUTSIDE RAILINGS SINCE IF YOU SLIP YOU WILL SLIDE DOWN. (Somewhere on this facade must be the equally famous Nilda instruction: NEVER EVER SHAKE A BABY) God bless the angels and fundamentally basic safety procedures.
There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who stand looking
Woe oh oh oh oh oh
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven
*Please note Paul Trevor Bale left a concerned comment on this ironic characterization that is well worth reading.
Figure of St. Andrew
Height: 60 inches
Width: 20 inches
Depth: c8 inches
Ever stare at something for a long time? I’ve been watching this west facade of Bath Abbey like a hawk, which is why the statues and their surroundings have bothered me. At the Salisbury lecture, I learned that Salisbury’s west facade has the most preserved medieval stonework (mostly plain ashlars) even though most of its façade statuary was clearly Victorian (they’re wearing wigs, etc.) from Gilbert Scott’s notorious true “restoration.” Scott demolished anything that was built after the cathedral was first completed, and rearranged the remaining original fabric of the interior to make it symmetrical. His actions were a contributing impetus for conservation studies.
Anyway, I took this photo of St. Andrew (and several other statues) a while back and then found a case study on it by Roland Newman examining the previous restorations of the statue and the late 1990s conservation efforts that resulted in what you see above. The main efforts seem to have been removing the previous restoration addition’s use of cement and replacing it with a built-up sacrificial layer of lime mortar.
There have been four major restorations of the abbey:
1833 G.P. Manners
1860-73 Gilbert Scott: his work here was the considered scholarly and responsible (having gone in and replaced or removed most of Manner’s altercations)
1900 Thomas Jackson
1957-1960 (I believe carried out by English Heritage)
And the late 1990s conservation efforts by English Heritage.
The canopy around St Andrew is carved from Clipsham stone and dates from 1900, as much of the Bath stone weathers poorly. (This is infamously seen by its poor performance in the restoration of Henry VII’s Westminster Abbey Chapel, London.) Newman provides a very good explanation on the causes of decay at Bath Abbey, and Bath in general. “The weather in Bath is mainly from the South West, so the parts of the stone facing in that direction get perpetually washed whist those facing in other directions do not. This gives rise to mechanical erosion on one side of a figure and a build up of dirt and salts on the other.” (Newman, 17. See citation below.)
Will answer the demands of the Ruth, Natalie, and JC in tomorrow’s post.
It’s still up. I only saw it recently, several days after Memorial Day.