ABBEY CHURCH YARD
Grand Pump Room
(Formerly Listed as: Grand Pump Room)
Spa Pump Room. 1789-1799. By Thomas Baldwin, completed by John Palmer.
MATERIALS: Bath limestone ashlar, triple pitched hipped slate roof, not visible from street.
PLAN: Rectangular single cell plan with small flanking rooms.
EXTERIOR: Northern elevation onto Abbey Church Yard by Palmer, altering Baldwin¿s original design. two storeys and basement, seven bays, arranged one:five:one, with ends set slightly forward, and centrepiece of four engaged Corinthian columns with entablature and pediment. The pediment contains a wreathed blind bull's eye, and the entablature carries the inscription `Water is best' in Greek. Windows in two storeys, upper ones in centre five bays being oval and set in rectangular panels similar to Banqueting Room at the Guildhall (qv). Ground floor of five centre bays have twelve/twelve sashes flanking central recessed arched entrance with twelve-pane French doors and fanlight over, window joinery is all mid C20 restoration. Wrought-iron area railings carry four lanterns on standards. End bays break forward slightly, that on west receives end of previously built colonnade, and that at east end contains principal entrance with coupled Ionic pilasters and pediment. Windows over in arched recesses, original twelve/twelve sashes, semicircular fanlights over. Balustraded aprons. Lintel band continuous with entablature of pediment and going right round building except for small breaks. Entablature and parapet, with blind balusters in panels over windows. The west, or Stall Street elevation is as Baldwin designed it and has to be seen as a part of a more monumental design incorporating the screens on either side, North and South Colonnade, (qv), and facing onto Bath Street (qv). All these were also designed by Baldwin and are roughly contemporary, but the north screen was already in position when the building of the Pump Room began. The wall is blind, but heavily modelled, comprising one of the most elaborate displays of masonry in Bath. It has a rusticated and vermiculated basement with four roundels. Above this it is in three bays articulated by eight paired 3/4 attached Corinthian columns. The column bases stand on a broad panelled band-course. Between the columns are three semicircular arched niches with balustraded aprons, over each of which are pediments on consoles, with swagged bands below. The whole surmounted by parapet with cornice and blind baluster panels corresponding to the niches below. South elevation: has had some remodelling over the years. It has three storeys and a lower storey looking into the King's Bath (qv). two window wings project forward on either side, all six over six sashes. The centre has as its chief feature the semi-circular glass domed oriel, which contains the fountain within the Pump Room. This was an addition by Major Charles Davis in 1888, but his design has been replaced by an oriel of more `Georgian' appearance. This has three sixteen light windows with stone mullions between. The ashlar wall has otherwise panels and bands with two twelve over twelve sashes in enlarged openings. The second storey has five oval windows in rectangular recesses, as north front, blind attic above, cornice and parapet continued round from other fronts. East elevation: is blind and mostly obscured by the adjoining Concert Room (qv). It has bands, a large arch, cornice and parapet. This front was wholly obscured until adjoining demolitions and the building of the Concert Room by JM Brydon in 1897.
INTERIOR: Hall 18m by 14m by 10m (60 ft by 46 ft by 34 ft high) with apsed ends and four small ante-rooms at corners. Giant Corinthian order of attached fluted columns, half to sides and quarter to corners. The long walls are divided into five bays, each with a window and a clerestory window on the north wall; and window, fireplace, fountain, fireplace, window, each with a clerestory window on south wall. White marble fire surrounds in the Neo-Classical taste. The fountain alcove on the south side is protected by a bulbous balustrade. It was an addition by Major Charles Davis in 1888, but it is now reconstructed to a different and plainer design, but the panelled soffit to the arched opening survives from the original Palmer opening. The west apse has a serpentine gallery with a wrought iron balustrade, the east one has two panels and an alcove with Prince Hoare's statue of Beau Nash set within the central niche. Musicians¿ gallery at west end. Pedimented doorways flank the apses. Deep cove separates entablature with modillion cornice, and flat ceiling.
HISTORY: The first Pump Room, built by John Harvey at the behest of Beau Nash in 1706, stood on the same site looking into the King's Bath: it provided an elegant public space in which the Bath waters could be taken, to the accompaniment of music. This building was enlarged in 1751. Substantial Roman remains were uncovered close by in 1755. Work was commenced in the mid-1780s on the reconstruction of the complex to the designs of Thomas Baldwin. The rebuilding began in 1791, with Baldwin¿s rebuilding of the northern elevation: a projecting portico was proposed for the north elevation, and footings for this were found during excavations in the early 1980's. The remains of a Roman temple precinct were discovered during the digging of foundations for the new Pump Room in 1790. The Grand Pump Room was finally opened by the Duchess of York on 28 December 1795. It underwent subsequent slight alteration in the C19, largely reversed in the mid-C20, and its setting was dramatically altered by the construction of the adjoining Concert Room (qv) and Roman Bath Museum in the late C19. This building, one of the most prominent civic buildings in Georgian Bath, was at the heart of fashionable life in the city, being visited by all, whether sick or well, every day and is thus a key monument in the history of taste, medicine and public architecture. Not only an outstanding Georgian municipal building, it also forms a key part of Baldwin¿s scheme of Neoclassical town planning improvements which defined the present-day appearance of the centre of Bath. The Roman Baths below are also a scheduled monument.
SOURCES: Walter Ison, The Georgian Buildings of Bath (2nd ed. 1980), 38-45; Barry Cunliffe, The Roman Baths. A View over 2000 Years (1993); Jane Root, `Thomas Baldwin¿, Bath History III (1994), 80-103; drawings for the Pump Room, Bath & North East Somerset Record Office, Acc. No.430.
Sited within the Roman Baths Scheduled area ref: OCN BA 82
Listing NGR: ST7504364738