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BoatStallQuay_matt somerville

As a city, Bath celebrates its Roman roots, and radical Georgian rebuilding, as they rightly deserve. However, so little is said of the intervening fifteen-hundred years that, apart from the clear exception of the Abbey, it’s almost as if nothing happened during this period.

The RIBA’s recent Imagine Bath competition provided a way to share these ideas more widely, as did my contribution to our recent forum event at Bath Abbey (covered in Charlie’s post, Cities within Cities).

I’d become interested in the medieval street pattern that has been subsumed by, but preserved within, the raised pavements and abutments of Pulteney Bridge and Grand Parade. Before the bridge was built the sequence of Slippery Lane, Boat Stall Quay and Boat Stall Lane were an important part of the pre-Georgian city. Now they are all but invisible: gated, locked and walled in.

Over recent years, my own research and exploration has revealed that, far from being swept away, these medieval survivors, complete with the city’s East Gate, remain encapsulated within later construction of Georgian and Victorian engineering and building projects. With relatively little physical intervention they could be re-opened.

My particular interest in relation to this overlooked part of the city is to seek to reintegrate these routes and spaces into the public realm of Bath, and to realise their enormous potential to improve access to and enjoyment of the river. The lanes in particular, as rare survivors of pre-Georgian Bath, are incredibly evocative of a city that has been all but swept away, and serve as poignant reminders of an earlier era. This history can be revealed and these ancient routes can once again serve as the hub of a wider network of riverside paths; a valuable resource for leisure and enjoyment of the river.

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