The experts of Bath have had their say… That’s right, our Welcome Ambassadors have picked out the most unusual buildings in Bath, complete with prisons, eighteenth century police stations and a nineteenth century mortuary!
Monkton Coombe Lock-up
On the southern edge of Bath is the village of Monkton Combe, in the valley below Combe Down. There’s a ‘lock-up’ – a small stone building which was used to temporarily lock-up anyone disturbing the peace or suspected of committing a crime, while they awaited the legal process before a magistrate.
You can get to Monkton Combe by walking down Summer Lane from Combe Down.
Herman Miller Factory
Along the Bristol and Bath Railway Path there is the fantastic Herman Miller Factory building, which is now Bath Spa University’s Locksbrook Campus. The Building is a fabulous mid 70s design by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw and Terry Farrell. Originally conceived as an ‘indeterminate building’ the entire layout of the interior could be adjusted, from the manufacturing layout, to the toilets to the courtyard. It’s a beautiful building that is so interesting to look at as you stroll (or cycle!) along the path. It’s a nice reminder of Bath’s industrious past.
On the green lawn in front of Norfolk Crescent is a very small stone shelter. There is another, in a more prominent location at the front of Sydney Gardens, near the Holburne Museum entrance. Both are Eighteen Century examples of ‘Watchmen’s’ shelters, which pre-date the introduction of both local and national Police Forces. Old illustration of the many crescents built during the major development of the city in the Eighteenth Century show that there were many more locations where ‘Watchmen’s’ shelters were placed.
I noticed for the first time last week on the front of No. 8 Cheap Street, one of Bath’s many ghost signs, above the second floor windows on the frontage of ‘Bills Restaurant’. The sign promotes one of the late eighteenth century products of J. G. Dill, pork and bacon butcher, naming his ‘Famous Bath Polonies’. A polony is very similar to a German sausage, but much smaller, about 1-1.5 inches long and about the same in circumference. It was much more delicate and had a tiny layer of fat next to the scarlet coloured skin. I wonder if any other butcher makes them today?
One of my favourite unusual buildings in Bath is Walcot Chapel, set on a small hillside just off the top of Walcot Street (Bath’s famous Artisan Quarter). Dating back to the 1840s, it used to be a mortuary chapel where bodies were kept before burial. These days it’s used for occasional art exhibitions, and is always worth a visit when open – not just for the art on display but to experience the stillness of the stripped-back, white-painted space inside.