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Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Bath and North East Somerset (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 75677 65248


SYDNEY PLACE 656-1/32/2466 (East side) The Holburne Museum

(Formerly Listed as: SYDNEY PLACE Holburne of Menstrie Museum) 12/06/50


Former hotel, now museum. By Thomas Baldwin, 1794, design modified in execution by Charles Harcourt Masters 1796, attic storey added 1836 by John Pinch the Younger; much altered during conversion to a museum by Sir Reginald Blomfield in 1913-1915.

MATERIALS: Limestone ashlar, hipped slate roof (not visible from ground level).

PLAN: Double depth plan with a slightly lower block to rear.

EXTERIOR: is of three storeys, attic storey and cellar, a symmetrical five bay front. The rusticated ground floor has a central, three-arched loggia set forward and carrying a three-bay prostyle Corinthian portico fronting the first floor. The loggia contains a central arched doorway which is flanked by three over six sash windows, and the loggia itself flanked by two six over six sashes. The very tall first floor was converted from two floors in 1913-1915: it has tall nine over nine sashes set in moulded architraves with pediments carried on consoles; the central window has French doors opening onto a balcony, with wrought iron railings enriched with lyre ornaments set between the columns. The first floor front is articulated with Corinthian pilasters behind columns, and the upper part decorated with shallow relief panels marking the former position of the original square windows; those over the first and fifth bays are framed oval medallions with husk drops; those over the second and fourth bays are square tablets with feet and guttae. A plain frieze and deep modillion cornice, continuous with the portico, runs around all sides of the building. The central pediment projects upwards into the attic storey of 1836, flanked by three over three sashes set in architraves, reproducing the pattern of the windows formerly on the floor below. There is a moulded parapet with urns at corners and ramped up centre piece, with blind sections of balustrade at each side. The front elevation is flanked on each side by four-bay Doric screens with a balustraded parapet, another of Blomfield's changes; these replaced rusticated continuations of the ground floor with paired window openings on each side. The existing rear elevation dates from Blomfield's campaign of 1913-1915. It replaces the original arrangement, of a projecting semi-circular loggia with an orchestra platform above, with a more perfunctory elevation that turns its back on Sydney Gardens. Blomfield's rear elevation consists of a slightly projecting central section with tripartite windows to the upper floors, set within an arched recess; to either side are two bay continuations with bull's eye windows at the upper floor level. The whole façade has a low ground floor faced in channelled rustication with small window openings, and an urn-topped parapet concealing the attic.

INTERIOR: The interior was comprehensively remodelled by Blomfield in the course of its conversion to a museum and art gallery. The original layout comprised a curator's flat and Committee Room on ground floor with display galleries above; the ground floor has subsequently been adapted for gallery and shop use. The open stone staircase rises up full height through the building. There is a top-lit picture gallery on upper floor, built with three rooflights in place of Blomfield's proposed dome.

HISTORY: This building was constructed as the Sydney Hotel or Tavern, and was intended as the centrepiece of Baldwin's Great Pulteney Street development. Masters succeeded Baldwin as architect after the latter's bankruptcy in 1793 and oversaw the construction of the building, which became an integral part of the pleasure grounds at Sydney Gardens. It was subsequently used as a therapeutic centre for patients; the future Napoleon III numbered among the patients. Around 1850 the site was considered for demolition as the new location for the Royal Mineral Water Hospital, but the ground landlord ruled out this scheme. Used from 1853 until 1880 as the Bath Proprietary College, it was bought (along with Sydney Gardens) by Bath City Council in order to provide a home for the collections of Sir William Holburne, and sold in 1912 to the Holburne Trustees for £2,650. Five times this amount was spent on the major remodelling of the building: Blomfield's design for this was shown at the Royal Academy in 1911. The museum opened in 1916. Blomfield's enrichment of the principal front in a Louis XVI style emphasises the Neo-classical monumentality of the Great Pulteney Street layout, of which this forms the north-eastern terminal.

SOURCES: Walter Ison, 'The Georgian Buildings of Bath' (2nd ed. 1980), 84-86 Neil Jackson, 'Nineteenth Century Bath - Architects and Architecture' (1991), 253-254 Lutz Haber, 'The first 75 years of the Holburne Museum', Bath History vol. 5 (1994), 170-192 Brenda Snaddon, 'The Last Promenade. Sydney Gardens, Bath' (2000)

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION: The Holburne of Menstrie Museum is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons: * The building is a fine example of late C18 Neo-classical building, by Thomas Baldwin and modified in execution by Charles Harcourt Masters, designed as the terminus of Great Pulteney Street, one of the most significant streets in the planned westward expansion of Bath into Bathwick during the last quarter of the C18 * A notable and increasingly rare survival of a late C18 hotel building * The high quality alterations to the main elevation by Blomfield in the 1910s, which enhanced the original design and added details influenced by French architecture of the C18 * Its integral relationship with Sydney Gardens, one of the most significant pleasure gardens of the late C18 and early C19, and the only example to remain largely intact * Strong group value with the Grade I listed buildings lining Great Pulteney Street, and the other listed buildings within and surrounding Sydney Gardens

Listing NGR: ST7567765248


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This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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