Sydney Gardens

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Sydney Gardens
Kennet and Avon canal - geograph.org.uk - 340531.jpg
The Kennet and Avon Canal bridges within the park
Sydney Gardens is located in Somerset
Sydney Gardens
Location Bath, Somerset, England
Coordinates 51°23′10″N 2°21′00″W / 51.3862°N 2.3499°W / 51.3862; -2.3499Coordinates: 51°23′10″N 2°21′00″W / 51.3862°N 2.3499°W / 51.3862; -2.3499
Area 4 hectares (9.9 acres)[1]
Created 1792 (1792)
Operated by Bath and North East Somerset Council
Open All year

Sydney Gardens (originally known as Bath Vauxhall Gardens[2]) is a public open space at the end of Great Pulteney Street in Bath, Somerset, England. The gardens are the only remaining eighteenth-century pleasure gardens (or Vauxhall) in the country.[3] They are Grade II listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in England.[4]

The gardens were laid out in the 1790s, to plans by Thomas Baldwin which were completed by Charles Harcourt Masters, as a commercial pleasure garden with a variety of attractions. Features included a maze, grotto, sham castle and an artificial rural scene with moving figures powered by a clockwork mechanism. Events included promenades and public breakfasts which were attended by Jane Austen among others. It was also the venue for an annual flower show. The layout was affected by the construction of the Kennet & Avon Canal in 1810 and the Great Western Railway in 1840 which pass through the park. The gardens later fell into decline. In 1908, the site was bought by the local council and reopened as a park. Since 2015, work has been undertaken to improve the environment of the park and provide additional attractions for visitors.

The Sydney Hotel, which was built with the gardens, was the centre for entertainment. It is now the Holburne Museum. Other structures including the walls and bridges connected with the canal and railway are listed buildings along with small buildings now known as the pavilion and Minerva's temple and the public conveniences.

History[edit]

The gardens were constructed in the 1790s, opening in 1795 as a commercial pleasure grounds, following the development of Bathwick by Sir William Pulteney, 5th Baronet, across the River Avon from the city centre.[5] It was funded by selling £100 shares.[6] The original plans were by Thomas Baldwin and completed by Charles Harcourt Masters who included a maze or labyrinth,[7] grotto, sham castle and an artificial rural scene with moving figures powered by a clockwork mechanism.[4] The gardens were illuminated by over 15,000 "variegated lamps".[8]

A plan of Sydney Gardens, Bath, as part of the plan of Bath published in 1810

The Sydney Hotel was built within the gardens. It later became the Holburne Museum. The original design for the hotel, prepared by Thomas Baldwin in 1794, was a two-storey building which would serve the pleasure gardens. After Baldwin was bankrupted his design for the hotel was not implemented. Instead a three-storey building was designed by Charles Harcourt Masters. The foundation stone was laid in 1796 and the building was ready by 1799. Visitors entered the gardens through the Hotel. Projecting from the rear of the building at first floor level was a conservatory and a semi-circular Orchestra with a wide covered loggia below. Two semi-circular rows of supper boxes projected from the sides of the building.[9]

The gardens were used daily for promenades and public breakfasts which were attended by Jane Austen among others.[10] At public breakfasts tea, coffee, rolls and Sally Lunn buns were served at about midday, followed by dancing.[11] There were generally three evening galas each summer, usually on the birthdays of George III and the Prince of Wales, and in July to coincide with the Bath races. During these galas the gardens were lit with thousands of lamps and the guests took supper accompanied by music and fireworks. Breakfasts, coffee-drinking, newspaper-reading and card-playing took place in the ground floor of the Hotel and dancing in a ballroom on the first floor. All the rooms could be hired for private parties and meetings.[12] In September 1802 André-Jacques Garnerin took off from the gardens in his hot air balloon.[13]

Sydney Gardens with canal and railway, published in 1886

Around 1810 the Kennet & Avon Canal was built through the gardens with the canal company paying 2,000 guineas and being required to include 'neat iron bridges'.[14][15] Around the same time a clockwork moving model of a village with flowing water, known as "The Cascade" was constructed, however it was not well received and was removed within 10 years.[16] In 1824 an aviary and cosmorama were added to the attractions.[17] In 1840 the route of the Great Western Railway also cut through the area, with the loss of several of the original buildings. In the 1860s a gymnasium and bandstand were constructed and courts laid for tennis, archery and croquet. During the first half of the 19th century the gardens hosted shows by the Bath Horticultural and Floral Society (which later became the Royal Bath and West Show).[4] These were very popular and in 1877 Halfpenny Bridge, a pedestrian toll bridge, crossing the River Avon from Bath Spa railway station to Widcombe collapsed with the loss of about 10 lives amongst a large crowd going to the show in Sydney Gardens.[18][19]

In 1836 the hotel was changed into a private lodging house and an extra storey of bedrooms added. The two watchman's boxes outside the museum were added around 1840.[20] From 1853 until 1880 the building was let to the Bath Proprietary College.[21] In 1891 the original 99-year lease of Sydney Gardens expired and its financial affairs had to be wound up. The Hotel and gardens were then sold, with plans published for the construction of a five-storey hotel to be built on the site. These plans were abandoned when the Empire Hotel was built instead.[22]

The site was bought by Bath City Council in 1908 and reopened to the public in 1913.[23] The building remained empty and derelict until 1913 when it was acquired by the trustees of the Holburne of Menstrie Museum. Sir Reginald Blomfield was appointed to carry out the extensive restoration and alterations necessary to render the building suitable for museum purposes. The new Holburne Museum opened to the public on 6 June 1916.[24] Throughout the 20th century the council parks committee carried out some restoration of some of the structures however others were demolished when the cost of repair was prohibitive.[25] In the 1950s concerts and other entertainment events were staged and although well attended did not make a profit.[26]

In 2015 a £250,000 project to improve the environment of the park and public access was announced.[27] This resulted in a grant of £332,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund. The grant will be used to provide a range of activities, improve landscaping and restore some historic buildings. A further application for a larger grant is under development.[28][29]

Garden structures[edit]

Sketch of the Fancy Fair at Sydney Gardens, Bath, for the Relief of Distressed Seamen. Painted around 1836 by an unknown artist.

The 12-metre (39 ft) high Minerva's Temple was built in 1911 for the Festival of Empire at The Crystal Palace. It was then moved to Sydney Gardens. The front of the building has four fluted Corinthian columns.[30] The pavilion was originally a gardener's cottage or lodge when it was built around 1840, it was later used as a cloakroom.[31] The loggia was built in the 18th century but reduced in size in the 20th.[32]

The Kennet & Avon Canal passes through the gardens via two short tunnels[33][34] and under two cast iron footbridges dating from 1800.[35] Cleveland Tunnel is 173 feet (53 m) long and runs under Cleveland House, the former headquarters of the Kennet & Avon Canal Company[36] and now a Grade II* listed building.[37] A trap-door in the tunnel roof was used to pass paperwork between clerks above and bargees below.[36] The iron footbridge over the canal was designed by John Rennie and built in 1800 using metalwork from the Coalbrookdale Foundry.[38]

There are also foot and road bridges over the railway which were designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and built in 1840,[39][40] as were the retaining walls.[41][42]

Even the cast iron public conveniences built in 1910,[43] are listed buildings.[44][45]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Sydney Gardens, Bath, England". Parks and Gardens UK. Archived from the original on 7 April 2015. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  2. ^ "Kennet & Avon Canal Trail". Canal & River Trust. Archived from the original on 31 December 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2016. 
  3. ^ "Jane Austen and Bath: The Sydney Gardens". Austenonly. Archived from the original on 24 July 2014. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c "Sydney Gardens". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  5. ^ Snaddon 2000, p. 5.
  6. ^ Forsyth 2003, p. 184.
  7. ^ Downing, Sarah Jane (5 April 2009). "Green and pleasant". Guardian. Archived from the original on 25 August 2014. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  8. ^ Bond 1998, pp. 98–99.
  9. ^ "The Holburne Museum". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  10. ^ Boyle, Laura. "Sydney Gardens, Bath". Jane Austen Centre. Archived from the original on 26 July 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  11. ^ Snaddon 2000, pp. 14–18.
  12. ^ "Collection history". Holburne Museum. Archived from the original on 18 June 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  13. ^ Snaddon 2000, p. 26.
  14. ^ Snaddon 2000, p. 19.
  15. ^ "Sydney Gardens". Canal and Rivers Trust. Archived from the original on 26 February 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2017. 
  16. ^ Snaddon 2000, p. 21.
  17. ^ Snaddon 2000, p. 23.
  18. ^ "Kennet and Avon canal's history made into audio story". BBC. 12 November 2012. Archived from the original on 26 September 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  19. ^ Nanette South Clark (17 May 2010). "The Fall of the Widcombe Bridge over the Avon -- June 6, 1877". An Engineer's Aspect. Archived from the original on 24 February 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  20. ^ "A pair of watchmen's boxes flanking the entrance to the Holburne Museum". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  21. ^ Snaddon 2000, p. 43.
  22. ^ Snaddon 2000, pp. 52–53.
  23. ^ "Sydney Gardens, Bath, England – History". Parks and Gardens UK. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  24. ^ "Holburne Museum". Culture 24. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  25. ^ Snaddon 2000, pp. 58–63.
  26. ^ Snaddon 2000, pp. 63–66.
  27. ^ "Sydney Gardens". Bath and North East Somerset Council. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  28. ^ "Sydney Gardens awarded National Lottery grant". Bath and North East Somerset. Archived from the original on 18 January 2017. Retrieved 14 January 2017. 
  29. ^ Crawley, James (11 January 2017). "First round of funding secured for Bath's Sydney Gardens' £3.2million revamp". Bath Chronicle. Retrieved 25 February 2017. 
  30. ^ "Minerva's Temple". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  31. ^ "Pavilion". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  32. ^ "Loggia". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Archived from the original on 15 March 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2017. 
  33. ^ "Kennet and Avon tunnel (under Beckford Road)". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  34. ^ "Kennet and Avon tunnel (under Cleveland House and Sydney Road)". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  35. ^ "Bridge in Sydney Gardens". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  36. ^ a b Pearson 2003, p. 13.
  37. ^ "Cleveland House". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  38. ^ "Footbridge over Canal in Sydney Gardens". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Archived from the original on 26 February 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2017. 
  39. ^ "Bridge over railway in Sydney Gardens". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Archived from the original on 15 March 2017. 
  40. ^ "Sydney Gardens Footbridge (MLN110614)". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  41. ^ "Retaining wall and balustrade west of railway line". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  42. ^ "Retaining wall east of railway line". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  43. ^ Forsyth 2003, p. 185.
  44. ^ "Ladies public lavatories". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  45. ^ "Gentlemen's public lavatories". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bond, James (1998). Somerset Parks and Gardens. Tiverton: Somerset Books. ISBN 978-0-86183-465-5. 
  • Forsyth, Michael (2003). Pevsner Architectural Guides: Bath. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-10177-5. 
  • Pearson, Michael (2003). Kennet & Avon Middle Thames:Pearson's Canal Companion. Rugby, UK: Central Waterways Supplies. ISBN 978-0-907864-97-4. 
  • Snaddon, Brenda (2000). The Last Promenade, Sydney Gardens, Bath. Millstream Books. ISBN 978-0-948975-59-2. 

External links[edit]