Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Saturday, 7 September 2013
A rather boring post for tourists
For about 35 years or more, me and quite a few other residents of Bath have been saying what a waste of a wonderful space the colonnades next to the weir on the river is, especially as they are right in the heart of the city centre.
The area used to be part of the Guildhall Market, and in late Georgian times, the market itself rivalled or exceeded all of the largest of the London ones, with almost 800 traders under one roof. There was even a slaughterhouse right next to the meat stalls, and plenty of space for cattle a little further down river to the North.
The area could be approached from a variety of angles, including the river itself, or by Boat Yard Lane, which lead to and through the only remaining medieval gate left in the city - Eastgate. There is a network of underground passages which lead almost to (and, rumour has it - beyond) the Abbey, long since blocked off for H & S reasons.
Behind those columns are a series of massive, stone-arched rooms with steel grilles to keep people out and animals in, and each one of them would make a fantastic shop or restaurant of extremely good size and proportions. A large streets runs over the top of them, following the river and it is supported by those arches and columns.
A mate of mine is a town councillor, and we decided to try and push for something to be done with this unique space which has lain idle and neglected since Victorian times, and I tried to line-up a local builder and architect to push-start the concept, but the builder was a lot less naive than I am, and doubted that he would ever get a look-in on this prime piece of real-estate. I think he was right.
When at a party a few months ago, I met the Leader of the Council and started lobbying him on doing something about this appalling waste of space. He gave me a look of all- knowingness, and said that the matter was - in fact - already in hand.
They have just begun to roll out plans for the refurbishment of the area, to include shops and restaurants, and the architect's impression - a rather unimaginative impression - is shown below.
Bath - when I first moved here - was essentially a retirement town for the well-to-do, but now - thanks in no small part to Jane bloody Austen - tourism has picked up following the brief lull caused by the aftermath of panic due to 9/11, and the town is packed, Summer and Winter. Bath is a very rich council compared to most.
It has though, rested on it's laurels inherited with the Roman excavations which, not too long ago, were the second most visited attraction in the UK, and has always been a bit late in exploiting it's natural assets.
Green Eyes is - as I write - in Pula, Slovenia, partying in a Roman Colosseum of about the same size as the one in Rome itself. I visited Pula twice about 25 years ago, and even then it had various pizza restaurants and clothes boutiques set within the massive stone arches of the 15 foot thick walls.
She showed me photos of last year's party, and I was amazed at the organised use of the space, with coloured lighting, stages for bands and super-safe security. A massive investment and income for what is quite a poor country from the former Eastern Block - even though Venice is only a short boat trip away across the Adriatic.
Sleepy old Bath is just beginning to make use of some of it's traditional assets which belong to the town (or 'city' as it is supposed to be called), and I hope I stay awake long enough to visit the Colonnades - preferably approaching by river, even though I live on the same side.
The launch of this project is aimed at investors who have both the resources to carry it through and also - hopefully - the taste to carry it through properly. I fear the same old faces will turn up from all over the country and I hope the council has the guts to turn them down in favour of local businesses.
We - and you if you come here - will find out somewhere between 2015 and 2016.