musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

I’m in the Bath. A visit to Bath. (1)

When I did my trip to Bristol in January, the train passed through Bath Spa Station, and since then I have been hunkering to visit the city. With Spring in the air, and Southampton Station closed over weekend for maintenance, I had to change my day trip destinations. Bath was calling! bring me a sponge!
 
There are no military graves to use as an excuse, although there was a nice historic cemetery to add to my list, and an Abbey. Those are reasons enough to pack and go. An early train and I was there. The station image was taken in the afternoon because Bath and Salisbury were both blanketed by clouds when I left home.
 
I first headed towards the Abbey, although I was sure it would still be closed at that odd hour of the morning. In fact I was the only person dawdling around the Abbey Square. The Abbey did look promising though, it was a definite must see for later that day. I first had to get the cemetery under my belt. The interesting thing about the cemetery is that it was used to house the burials from the Abbey, which was becoming slightly smelly from all the corpses under the Abbey floor. Consecrated in January 1844, it was designed by John Claudius Louden who was also responsible for a rejected design for Southampton Old Cemetery.
 
It is not a large space, but it does have some very pretty memorials and there are stunning views of the surrounding hills.
  
The chapel is built over the crypt, and is in a very good condition, although it is not a very pretty building, it has a top heavy look about it.
  
There is one VC grave in the cemetery, to Rear Admiral Bythesea VC CB CIE. His VC action took place during the Crimean War, and there is a Crimean War Memorial in the cemetery too. Another famous burial is that of Arnold Ridley who played Godfrey in the popular TV series Dad’s Army.
 
Once I was finished grave hunting I headed back towards town, and had a look around the lock gates that lead into the River Avon (this is the same Avon that ends up in Bristol, but is not the same as the Avon that flows through Salisbury).
  
There are two sets of locks that I saw, although nothing was busy transiting the canals while I was there (much to my disappointment). 
 
In the space of 90 minutes the city had become crowded, there were people everywhere and black was the dominant clothing colour (as I had seen in London). Bath is interesting because the buildings are mostly a light yellowish colour compared to the usual red brick I saw in the other cities I had been in. It is probably a result of the famous stone that came from the quarries in and around Bath.
 
The Abbey was my next stop, and it is magnificent (as many of these cathedrals and abbeys are). The present building was founded in 1499 but incomplete till 1611. As usual I am not going to try to explain the history and symbolism behind the building but will rather link to the official website
 
In years gone by it is probable that the building was not surrounded my others so getting a good pic of the whole structure would have been possible (assuming cameras were around in the 1600’s). Today the building is almost completely surrounded and a complete image is not really possible. However, a lot of the detail is to be found in the stonework and facades of the building. The angels climbing the ladder are associated with the dream that Oliver King, the Bishop of Bath and Wells had in 1499.

The interior is beautiful, with lots of windows to let light in and all the usual features that make these buildings special, but very similar. The walls are lined with memorials, of which there are 617 wall memorials and 847 floor memorials.

The tomb of Jane, wife of Sir William Waller.

The tomb of Jane, wife of Sir William Waller.

I love looking at these memorials as they provide such an interesting glimpse into a society and those who died in it. Some or really beautiful creations, worthy of an art gallery. The memorials do not always reflect the place where the person was buried either, and in the case of the floor memorials the bodies have long been moved from the Abbey.

Unlike Salisbury Cathedral, it is reasonably easy to get a tower tour and by 11.30 I was ready to go; assuming I could cover the 212 steps to get there. The spire is the highest man made object in the city, and has a carillon of 10 bells. The clock face, being paid for by the local authority, faces their offices.
 
  Its a long climb to get there, in a winding staircase worn with age, and reaching ever higher to the top. It must have been even harder doing it without electric light! There seem to be a number of spiral staircases that lead upwards, and of course there are levels at the first roof, the bell ringing and c lock chamber, the bell chamber and finally the spire roof.
 
We stopped for a breather at the the first level of the roof, and it was not what I expected. (Did I mention there are no gargoyles?). The view is spectacular, although the space to put a camera through is not quite adequate. I doubt whether cameras were even considered back in the day when this was being built.  I sometimes ask myself why do I put myself through these things? I am curious most of the time, and I really enjoy doing it (although regret it as soon as I start climbing the stairs). 
 

 

As you can see the weather was wonderful and I was regretting my heavy jacket.  Inside the bell ringing chamber I had a much better understanding of how difficult it was to ring those bells. Seeing as there were ten of them it meant 10 people having to climb those stairs just to get there for each service! 

 
 
The ropes are still there as is the mechanical ringing device and the master clock and machine for playing hymns on the bells. 
 
 
From there we went to the clock chamber which is driven by a long shaft from the master clock in the bell ringing chamber. I could not help but compare this to the clock faces I used to be responsible for when I was a technician in the 1980’s
 
 
Then we went up to the bell chamber, and it was a dark and “busy” place with its dusty beams and huge bells that were seemingly asleep. It was almost midday when we got there so we were in for a treat when the bells would chime the hour. I did managed video of the event, but must still process it and post it to my channel.
 
 
This is the tenor bell, and many many years ago it hopped off its mounting, causing endless problems for those who had to remount it. Bearing in mind that a bell like this weighs many tons, and getting it up there in the first place must have been an undertaking on its own. The bells were erected via a trapdoor set in the ceiling of the abbey underneath the belltower. 
 
 
Again you would need a lot of very strong people to climb those stairs, and to manhandle the bells up into the chamber and onto their mounts, and each bell would leave you with less space in the chamber to work in!
And while we were on the roof I must mention the fan vault ceiling that the Abbey has, I believe it is one of the surviving finest examples of this style of ceiling. A mirror has been left to assist in viewing it (and photographing it).
 
Then we had the last few steps to climb and we were there (amidst much panting and gasping!).  On the roof of the spire, which I will continue in another blog post as this page is becoming too image intensive.I will however leave you this image of the top of the spire taken from one of the roofs, and shall redirect your attention to the continuation of my exploration over the page.
 
 
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