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BBC documentary about Bath (Monday 24th August)

Author meltwaterfalls
#1 | Posted: 24 Aug 2009 13:53 
For those based in the UK and those with access to the BBC there is a documentary on tonight (Monday 24th August) about Heritage preservation in Bath. It is on BBC 2 at 19:30 UK time 20:30 CET. I imagine it will be on i-Player for the next week.
I know Nem has mentioned a few of the issues raised in it, Especially relating to the planned and scrapped Dyson academy. It seems to be the first in a season. Sorry to those of you without access to the BBC.

Preserving Britain's Past
"Series charting the development of the conservation movement in Britain since the Second World War. Architectural critic Tom Dyckhoff describes how Bath, widely regarded as Britain's most beautiful city, was almost destroyed by Hitler's bombs, before narrowly escaping further damage from developers. Plus, a look at the birth of the listings system."

Author Nem
#2 | Posted: 26 Aug 2009 06:07 | Edited by: Nem 
It is available on BBC iplayer and should be available until 19th October, or so it says on the website.

Unfortunately, the Dyson part was very inaccurate, I can expand on that when I have more time, but it's a pity that the myth put about by Dyson about the listing being the reason for his problems continues.

He withdrew the plans, before the public inquiry, as he was refused the many millions of public funding required, and even if funded, the Environment Agency objected as this is an area liable to flooding.

More history and pictures here

The planning officer's report puts the case

However, the councillors on the planning committee ignored that, and voted yes.

The building stands empty because the council gave the occupants notice to quit, and so far has not relet or sold the building.

Author Nem
#3 | Posted: 26 Aug 2009 06:16

'Authenicty and integrity' of a WHS

"I am writing to reiterate my serious objection to current plans to partly demolish and make
major alteration to features of the principal building of the former Stothert & Pitt works --
known as the Newark Works -- fronting the Lower Bristol Road in Bath. It is my
understanding that English Heritage, which earlier granted Class II designation to the
Newark Works, has agreed to relax its objections to some aspects of the site proposal,
intended to facilitate re-use of the site for the proposed Dyson School of Design Innovation.
While not wishing to interfere with aspects of the proposal that are for local residents to
determine, I feel I really must object to the sheer extent of the proposed alterations, in light
of the building's distinguished history. This is not just any old factory in Bath. It is the last
known work in England of one of the most distinguished architects Bath ever
produced – Thomas Fuller (1823-98) – and among his largest buildings erected in the west
of England. So, let me address Fuller's significance, and my fitness to comment on it,
before returning to the question of the proposed alterations.

As an art and architectural historian who has studied Fuller's career for over thirty years and
is thoroughly familiar with the context of that career in North American history – my
published work concerns both Canadian and American subjects -- I can definitively say that
Thomas Fuller is one of the most important architects England sent to 19th-century North
America. Besides his work in Canada, Fuller did major work in the United States – on the
New York State Capitol and the San Francisco City Hall & Law Courts – and also designed
an Anglican cathedral in the British West Indies (on Antigua).

In Canada, he was the designer of the national Parliament Buildings at Ottawa (1859-76), a
building-complex architectural historians consider one of the finest works in High Victorian
Gothic in the world and, as Chief Architect of Canada's Public Works department, set his
stamp on governmental building-design across the Dominion of Canada. For more detail on
Fuller's career, see my article in the authoritative Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol.
12. Without question, he is among the most distinguished architectural exports ever of the
west of England, a point to be borne in mind when considering the contemplated buildingalterations.

I suspect that, were such alterations being contemplated to buildings in Bath's
Queen's Square, The Circus, or Lansdowne Crescent, those alterations would be somewhat
more modest and more heavily scrutinized than those currently being contemplated in the
Lower Bristol Road; yet, that is the level of building that is being tampered with. I
understand that more is at issue when sites are evaluated for redevelopment than their
architects' identity; I have worked in the field of heritage preservation myself and been
called on to make prudential decisions about a building's worth. As a result I know that a
building's architectural history and pedigree are key contextual factors in evaluating
redevelopment projects on it.

As I understand it, the demolition/alteration project planned for the former Newark Works
of the Stothert & Pitt company ("crane-makers to the world") is very thorough-going, far
more than mere modest building-modifications. Taken together, the removal of ancillary,
surrounding buildings and the piercing of the principal building's front wall by an arcade
and the removal of its roof and replacement by several additional glass storeys – quite apart
from interior changes, which seem far-reaching enough in themselves! – will effectively
violate the integrity of that principal building and reduce it to a mere façade, and one
punched full of holes at that. In the business this is called "facadectomy," and we know
from sad experience that it does not preserve a building's integrity.

I fully understand that the building is on the Avon flood-plain, requiring certain
accommodations -- such as, perhaps, enclosing the site in a concrete "bath-tub," a miniature
version of that of the World Trade Center site in New York -- and that the developers need
sufficient developable square-footage to make their redevelopment feasible; but it is not
my impression that the current design attends sufficiently to the principal building's
overall character, envelope, and profile as seen from the complex set of viewpoints to
which the site by the river and in the Lower Bristol Road exposes it.

I have no wish to prevent the adaptive re-use of the Newark Works for a productive
contemporary purpose – indeed, such a purpose is the best guarantee of the works' survival
– nor to interfere with issues of design and re-use best left to the residents of Bath; but the
inclusion of the South Quays area in the Bath World Heritage Site means that the City and
Council have a responsibility to a wider audience – indeed, to the world – to reach decisions
about buildings within the heritage site that take into consideration those buildings'
importance in the larger scheme of things and that respect the buildings' fundamental
historic character. I hope and trust that those factors will be kept in mind when the Newark
Works' future is being decided, for Bath itself has had plenty of chance to learn that nothing
destroyed can ever be brought back."

Author Nem
#4 | Posted: 26 Aug 2009 06:27 
Listing record

Building Name: Newark Works (formerly Stothert & Pitt)
Parish: Bath
District: Bath And North East Somerset
County: Somerset
LBS Number: 502249
Grade: II
Date Listed: 18 December 2006

Date Delisted:
National Grid Reference: ST7463864461

Listing Text:

18-DEC-06 (North side)
Newark Works (formerly Stothert & Pitt)

(Formerly listed as:
Newark Works (formerly Stothert & Pitt))


656/0/10034 LOWER BATH ROAD
18-DEC-06 (North side)
Newark Works (formerly Stothert & Pitt)

Engineering works including offices, c1857, by Thomas Fuller with later extension of c1905 (extension of 1905 not of special architectural interest).

MATERIALS: Bath limestone ashlar with grey Pennant sandstone details, brick to rear, with pantile roof to C20 range and mixed slate and corrugated asbestos to C19 range. Some steel sheeting to easternmost gable end and rear façade of the former smiths' shop.

PLAN: Long block parallel with the street. C19 range in 3 sections, 13:3:5 from left.

EXTERIOR: C19 range is generally of 2 storeys with a monumental battered plinth except for the central office block which is of 3 storeys without a plinth. The plinth is of squared rock faced grey Pennant sandstone coped by a sill band which contrasts elegantly with the Bath stone ashlar above. The 13-bay section has large multi-pane (7X9) iron windows set in surrounds with massive rusticated cambered heads at ground floor and paired sliding sash windows with stone mullions and rusticated keystones, framed by paired Tuscan pilasters above. It has a hipped slate roof. The central office range, to the right, breaks forward slightly and is of limestone ashlar with rusticated quoins at ground and first floors with quoin Tuscan pilasters above. It is Eclectic, in style with Mannerist rusticated elements contrasting with other Italianate detailing. The roof is now of corrugated asbestos with corrugated plastic in places; chimneys at either gable end. At ground floor level a tall rusticated arched entrance (now infilled and with a modern door)is flanked by similar windows with iron bars. At first floor three-light windows with stone colonnette mullions and rusticated arched heads flank a central circular window of nine panes with an architrave surround. The upper floor has three three-light sliding sash windows with rusticated key stones set on a continuous sill band. The right hand 5-bay section is the former smiths' shop and is also of limestone ashlar on a battered plinth of rock faced stone, balancing out the composition. It has large iron windows with massive rusticated cambered heads at ground floor level like those of the machine shop. Originally of one storey with chimneys for smiths' forges between each of the windows, a second story was added at some time after an engraving of the Works of 1885. The second story has been designed to mirror the detailing of the machine shop although here paired Tuscan pilasters frame blank panels. A continuous modillion cornice and string course unite the three elements of the C19 building with the office block distinguished by a decorative pierced parapet and a plain parapet to the adjacent smiths' shop. The eastern gable end and rear elevation of the smiths' shop has been rebuilt in brick with steel sheeting and it has a new steel-framed roof covered with corrugated asbestos. The remainder of the rear elevation is of ashlar with mixed C19 and C20 fenestration with some infilling and the creation of new window and door openings. The windows of the machine shop are the most complete with most retaining their multi-pane iron windows.

INTERIOR: A number of later partition walls in brick and breeze block have been inserted in the C19 ranges. In addition there has been infilling of original openings and in some instances the insertion of additional floors. The main business office however, retains its plaster coving and deep skirting boards as well as architraving. The dogleg stair which served the offices has simple turned newels and a moulded balustrade with stick balusters. There are simple cast iron columns with roll moulded capitals supporting the first floor in the store room area and more robust flanged cast iron columns and some hoists to the machine shop. Within the machine shop, the roof is of rafters set on paired braced purlins. The smiths' shop has been largely rebuilt behind its façade with the insertion of a steel framed structure although there is some evidence of original fabric, particularly in the wall it shares with the office which retains a number of blocked openings at ground and first floor level.

HISTORY The Newark Works are the last surviving historic works of Stothert & Pitt Ltd, 'cranemakers to the world', an internationally renowned firm which was founded in Bath. Cranes produced by the company survive throughout the World, particularly within the former Empire. Stothert & Pitt Ltd had its origins in George Stothert's (1755-1818) ironmongery business in 1785. George Stothert moved to Bath from Shropshire where he had close contacts with Abraham Darby's Coalbrookdale Co. As the firm of Stothert & Pitt became established it developed a reputation for heavy engineering, particularly the designing and construction of dockside and offshore cranes. A number of Stothert & Pitt cranes are listed including the Fairbairn Steam Crane at Wapping Wharf, Bristol (Grade II*) and the Giant Crane at the former NEM Works, Wallsend, North Tyneside (Grade II*). Stothert & Pitt were at the forefront of crane development following the production of their first steam crane in 1851, including the introduction of the first electric-powered dock cranes in the country in 1892-3 for Southampton Docks. It was however the securing of a series of patents for heavy equipment, including the invention in 1912 of the 'level luffing' mechanism which allowed a dock crane's jib to be raised or lowered while its load remained at the same level, which secured the future success of the company. Stothert & Pitt also produced water pumping engines, iron lighthouses, mini-submarines, concrete mixers, quarry crushing and screening plant and provided machinery for the construction of much of the Great Western Railway line which created a vital transport link, spurring the development of industrial Bath. More specifically they provided the machinery for the excavation of the Box Tunnel. Stothert & Pitt closed in January 1989, bringing to an end a celebrated commercial enterprise which was a major employer in Bath.

SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: This c1857 engineering works by Thomas Fuller, later renowned for his work in Canada, was built for the internationally famous firm of Stothert & Pitt who established their reputation as heavy engineers, particularly in the development of dockside and offshore cranes, a number of which are listed. The Newark Works was built in a bold classical style which reflected the ambitions of the growing firm and went beyond the strictly functional approach of many industrial buildings of the day. The architectural strength of the Italianate façade successfully applies the formal neo-Classical tradition of Bath to a functional, industrial building. As a firm, Stothert and Pitt was instrumental in providing equipment for the construction of the GWR, and contributed to the industrialisation of Bath, and resulting revival of the city's fortunes. The Works have strong group value with other buildings in this area of industrial development along the River Avon and in close proximity to developing rail networks. Much of the interior has been compromised by alteration. The attached early C20 machine shop is not of special interest, however.

Hugh Torrens, The Evolution of a Family Firm: Stothert and Pitt of Bath (1978)
Michael Forsyth, Pevsner Architectural Guides: Bath (2003)
Neil Jackson, Nineteenth Century Bath: Architects and Architecture (1991)
Ken Andrews and Stuart Burroughs, Stothert & Pitt: Cranemakers to the World (2003)

WHS in the media Forum / WHS in the media /
 BBC documentary about Bath (Monday 24th August)

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