Bath Voice News: the day the Victorians came to the city – and left their mark in some of the city’s most famous buildings

By Harry Mottram: A Roman city, a Georgian city, even a Medieval city, but Victorian? Well actually yes, as the 19th century transformed the city into a busy industrial metropolis doubling in size with the opening of the Great Western Railway linking London to Bristol. The reign of Queen Victoria running from 1836 to 1900 saw Britain as a whole experience the creation of a global Empire but also new buildings and new innovations as the nation modernised.

In Bath these changes have been recognised by the Victorian Society who held their Annual General Meeting in the city last month from September 6-8, 2023. The event included guided walks to the Municipal Offices and Technical School (1897), the Victoria Art Gallery (1900), Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s railway station and viaduct (1840, 1841), George Alexander’s Italianate Bath Savings Bank (1841), Charles Hansom’s St John the Evangelist RC church (1863); Goodridge’s cast-iron Cleveland Bridge (1827) and included a range of work by visiting architects George Edmund Street, Arthur Blomfield and his nephew Reginald Blomfield, as well as by Bath architects. 

Following the AGM, the Mayor and Victorian Society members moved to John McKean Brydon’s former Pump Room Ballroom (1897) for a lecture by Dr Michael Forsyth and Professor Marion Harney, authors of the Pevsner Architectural Guide to Bath, there followed a dinner amidst the landmark Victorian architecture and décor. 

The Mayor of Bath, Councillor Dine Romero, welcomed the Victorian Society Chair Professor Hilary Grainger and the charity’s Director Joe O’Donnellat to the Elim Chapel for the AGM and gave a talk on ‘The People of Bath, the Beating Heart of the City’.

Victorian Society Director, Joe O’Donnell said: “Bath is a beautiful city, and is well known for its appreciation of heritage. But even in a city like Bath world famous for its Georgian architecture, there is plenty from the Victorian and Edwardian period to appreciate. We hope by holding our AGM here this year that people will be encouraged to take a look around them at the buildings from the period 1847 to 1914. What they find will richly repay the effort”.

Mayor of Bath, Councillor Dine Romero said: “I am delighted to have been asked to meet with the Victorian Society, and to learn more from them about the influence of the Victorians, and to share some of the stories of great Victorians who have had such a marked impact on the city of Bath.”

Some notable Victorian dates in Bath:

1836: North Parade Bridge built in cast iron to the design of William Tierney Clark and Victoria suspension bridge constructed.

1839: Isaac Pitman moves to Bath heralding a period when Bath became known for the printing industry.

1840:  Great Western Railway opened from Bath to Bristol Temple Meads; 30 June 1841 through to London Paddington.

1855: Corn market built in Walcot Street.

1860: New Bluecoat school built.

1863: St John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in South Parade built.

1861:  Guildhall Market constructed.

1862: Theatre Royal rebuilt after a fire.

1885: Restoration of the Roman Baths.

1873: St Andrew’s Church built.

1887: Botanical Gardens opened in Royal Victoria Park.

1897: Victoria Art Gallery foundation stone laid to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria.

1897: Henrietta Gardens laid out to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria.

To join the Victorian Society visit:

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Harry Mottram is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Telegram, TikTok and Mobile: 07789 864769