Commercial premises

Dec 12th, 2010 | | Commercial premises | 3 Comments

Roman Baths, Bath

Patrick Baty was employed to carry out an analysis of the decorative schemes in the Reception Hall of the Roman Baths

The reception hall at the Roman Baths and Pump Room site was completed in 1897 as a concert hall extension to the Pump Room. The extension was part of a larger programme of works which was designed to develop the facilities offered by the spa town of Bath. The aim was both to compete with spas overseas and elsewhere in the country and to enclose the extra width of the baths complex occasioned by the discovery of the Roman Baths in the 1880s.

The new concert hall was built by John McKean Brydon in 1895-7. It provided a dedicated venue for the Pump Room orchestra which had been established earlier. The surrounding marble corridors provided space for the display of antiquities from the recently discovered Roman Baths and the building scheme included a terrace overlooking the baths. Visitors to concerts could step out from the room to take the air and view the baths below through an unglazed loggia over the north side of the Great Bath.

I was employed to investigate the earlier schemes of decoration applied to the Reception Hall.

Patrick Baty carried out an analysis of the paint in the Reception Hall of the Roman Baths

The Reception Hall

The room had been decorated on seven occasions. Most of these schemes have consisted of a simple stone colour. The sixth one, which was applied in 1962, was more colourful, with blues and browns being applied to the coffer beds and a red-brown frieze.

Patrick Baty was able to establish how the Reception Hall had been decorated

Cross section from a door

It appears that the Hall was first given an interim scheme of decoration in an off-white soft distemper. The Hall was redecorated a few years after opening, but this time a stone-coloured oil paint was used.

The column capitals have been gilded on three occasions, the gilding being “carried over” three times.

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Comments (3)

Colin PerryNo Gravatar » 13. Jul, 2015

Interesting piece (with the only good pictures I could find of the Hall.

Did you know that Bryden had plans to ornately decorate the hall and after his death it was proposed to do so with the help of John Robert Brown (1850-1918) of London (he was also a ‘Special Artist’ for the ‘Graphic’ and ‘Black and White’ magazines).

It all descended into a row about money and the scheme was abandoned. I have the newspaper clipping of the rather stormy council meeting should you wish to view it.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 13. Jul, 2015

Very many thanks Colin. How very interesting. I would happily add a short piece if there is something that I may add.

Colin PerryNo Gravatar » 13. Jul, 2015

Well it’s a large piece of journalism, but here is the relevant abstract on JR Brown’s input…
“A coloured drawing for the decoration of the Concert Room at the Roman Promenade, prepared by Mr. Brown, of London, under the direction of Mr. Cotterell, which comprised the filling [of] the panels with painted tapestry representing scenes in the history of the City, was submitted, the estimated cost of the whole work being £850… Mr Brown was in Bath two days, and produced this drawing, for which Mr. Cotterell was quite willing to pay… “The principal expense is the three panels of each wall. The suggestion of stained tapestry is for two reasons besides their decorative appearance; 1) to deaden the sound of the music 2) to illustrate in this, the best form, the magnificent historical associations connected with Bath in the past… I suggest the name of Mr J. R. Brown because I know him and his work. Of course, there are others who do this work, but I question whether any less expensively. It is a special artist work, and requires very careful study to do it well, and from my experience I can rely on Mr. Brown”… “Though it might be very beautiful to have a room decorated with artistic skill, and if were carried out with most perfect judgement, but if they were not in a good financial position, and unless the charge [on the rates] was a just and a right one, it was, he thought, right for them to stay their hands… They had there a classic room, and in treatment of that room they required a great deal of artistic skill, and relying on the judgment of those who ought to know, he said, to put pictures of the description proposed in the Room was to spoil it. If it were necessary that decoration should be put in the Room, would it not be wise to find out a man who was passionately fond of classic architecture, whose sympathies would be entirely right in his great work, and ask him what he would recommend, and not go to a firm of decorators, no matter how eminent they might be”… Mr Moger’s amendment [to reject the proposal] having been carried by 25 votes to 2 was then put and carried as a substantive motion.”