Clean and repair of the decorative arch over York Street in Bath

26th July 2019

Our Bath Workshop is carrying out work for The Archway Project which will see a Roman Baths Clore Learning Centre and a new World Heritage Centre open in the former Bath City Laundry buildings in 2020. The project will also open up new areas of the Roman Baths to visitors, including a Roman laconicum (a kind of sauna) and a Roman exercise courtyard.

Cliveden Conservation has been involved in several stages of the project. Our conservation team has cleaned and repaired York Street Arch, the prominent ‘face’ of the Archway Project. The current phase of works will consolidate the Roman ruins prior to the main contractor building works which include fitting walkways and lighting.

The arch was built in c.1889 by city architect Major Charles Davis to carry water to a new Spa. Hot water was pumped from the King’s Spring to a boiler house in neighbouring Swallow Street via cast iron pipes in a tunnel below the road, and then flowed back to the new Victorian spa facilities through a pipe hidden inside the arch over the street.

The most visible phase of works began in April, when scaffold was erected around the York Street Arch. Close examination of the arch once the scaffold was erected showed it to be formed of a painted iron frame around which decorative stone was set, with finials and urns at high level.

The works included:
• Removing vegetation and plant growth
• Removing sulphation and other deposits
• Carrying out an overall clean
• Minor repairs using lime-based mortar to areas of decay, particularly to the decorative elements
• Stabilising loose elements of stone – particularly the stone finials and urns where fixings were non-existent
• Rubbing back areas of rust to the visible metal under frame and repainting in a suitable protective paint.

The public were invited to see ‘conservation in action’ and Cliveden Conservation gave daily talks about the works being carried out. The conservation team are now carrying out less visible work with the consolidation of the Roman scheduled monument and Victorian building fabric including the Roman Walling and paving, some of which was recently excavated.

These works include stabilisation of loose material, repointing and filling of voids, cleaning of walling to enable the projection of short film clips showing typical Roman exercises, and the protection of both Roman paving and fragile areas of Roman plaster to the walls.

The Roman ‘secondary’ paving will form part of the new walkways to the exhibition space, and the remainder of the space will be filled with historic stonework and discovery activities for schoolchildren and learning groups to get hands-on with archaeological materials.

Councillor Paul Crossley, cabinet member for Community Services at Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “We are pleased to be working with Cliveden Conservation on this exciting project. Back in May, more than 100 people enjoyed watching Cliveden’s conservators in action and listening to free talks about the conservation they were carrying out to the ornate arch over York Street. Cliveden Conservation are now working alongside Beard Construction to conserve parts of the Roman monument that will be opened up for the public to enjoy.”