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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 74959 64878


UPPER BOROUGH WALLS 656-1/40/1727 (South side) Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases and Royal Mineral Water Hospital, with railings

(formerly listed as Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases) 11/08/72


Former Royal Mineral Water Hospital, now hospital for rheumatic diseases. 1738-1742, by John Wood the Elder, attic storey added 1795 by John Palmer, additional building to west of 1859-1861, by Manners and Gill, damaged by April 1942 bombing at west end, considerable modification with new attic storey 1962-1965 by Gerrard, Taylor and Partners. Two buildings connected by bridge across Parsonage Lane. MATERIALS: Limestone ashlar, slate roofs. EXTERIOR: First building in two storeys plus high attic, and basement, four+three+four windows, all plain sash, in moulded architraves, and with pulvinated frieze plus cornice hood to ground floor, plinth contains ten square openings to heads of basement lights, splayed to bays five-nine. Centre three bays contained in pedimented front with four giant unfluted Ionic attached columns to full entablature with modillion cornice, and pediment containing Royal Coat of Arms (of Coade stone?), above frieze inscription `ROYAL MINERAL WATER HOSPITAL'. Centre pair of three-panel doors under four-pane transom light, in deep reveals on five steps, and in architrave with pediment on pilasters with consoles. Ground floor windows have continuous plain sill band, and attic, with centre three bays brought forward, has cornice with blocking course and parapet. Return to Union Street was modified when that street was cut through in 1806, and in plain ashlar, with nine sashes at attic and first floor levels, and seven to ground floor. Plinth, and masonry to lowest level, below ground floor sill band, pecked. First floor also has sill band, and cornice and blocking course at this level, but all trim stopped off to end two bays. Over all attic cornice as to front. Inscription in Roman lettering at right hand end reads: `ROYAL NATIONAL HOSPITAL/FOR RHEUMATIC DISEASES/ROYAL MINERAL WATER HOSPITAL/ ESTABLISHED BY ACT OF PARLIAMENT AS/THE HOSPITAL OR INFIRMARY/IN THE CITY OF BATH/A D 1739'. Return to Parsonage Lane has single bay before bridge, including doorway, and six bays beyond, all plain sashes in reveals at three levels, and in splays to first and ground floors; to right basement includes early twelve-pane sash. Plinth mould, ground floor sill band, cyma cornice above first floor, and main cornice, swept down at bays three/four. Two storey flat roofed connecting bridge carried on four unfluted Roman Doric columns. Second building similar to Wood's, in four+three+four bays, but with full three storeys, late C20 mansard attic, and two basement levels. Windows plain sash, with architraves, with pulvinated frieze plus cornice hoods at ground and first floors. Central pedimented portico has unfluted Ionic columns, rising from platband above ground floor, has in pediment carving in high relief of the Good Samaritan, by H Ezard. First floor windows set to podium band with balustrades below windows, and balustrade with dies across whole. Basement has four+four large modified sashes, in very narrow area. Return to Parsonage Lane has seven bays beyond bridge with plain sash in reveals, to moulded sill bands, ground floor with four bays, windows in architraves. To left apse to chapel, with lead roof, and five small arched lights. Rear has five early bays with plain sashes in architraves, late C20 deep full height apsidal addition plus further three bays. First floor four windows are to balcony on cast iron brackets and with light-iron railing balustrade, and ground floor has two-light Bramantesque windows with form of plate tracery, lighting chapel. Return to Bridewell Lane in seven bays, with projecting two-storey central porch-like unit, including Palladian window with Ionic pilasters and Gibbsian surround, above door with two lights. Front has trim similar to main front. INTERIORS: Not inspected. The layout differs from that described at length in Wood's 'Essay on Bath'. The original block had a kitchen, laundry and stores in the vaulted basement(where original windows survive); a dispensary, boardroom and women¿s wards on the ground floor; and four wards on the upper floor. The ground floor of this block is now occupied by therapy treatment rooms. The staircase is concrete, and modern. Manners and Gill's addition contains a large open wooden staircase in Palladian revival style within central hall; many of the administrative functions of the earlier block were transferred to the new building. The chapel contained stained glass by Wailes of Newcastle (destroyed in WWII) but retains its coffered ceiling, chancel arch with figural corbels, and decorative wall treatment. SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: Across front of Manners and Gill building, enclosing very narrow areas, cast iron railings on stone curb, each side of entrance bays. Chapel reported as having glass by Wailes and carving by Ezard. HISTORY: Originally called the General Hospital, or Infirmary, the name was changed to Mineral Water Hospital in the mid-19th century. It was originally intended as an infirmary for poor patients from outside Bath, an idea first mooted in 1716 by Lady Hastings and Henry Hoare, but progress was only made after the opening of a subscription in 1723 by Sir Joseph Jekyl. Poor patients seeking a cure were becoming a growing social issue in Bath, and their removal from the streets was a major encouragement behind the foundation of the hospital. John Wood was enlisted in 1727, and he selected this open site, close to the Hot Bath, on land belonging to Robert Gay. Wood's design for a circular building, issued in 1731, was only dropped after Jekyl insisted on room for future expansion. After a delay, the site of a playhouse was settled upon and building commenced in July 1738, the Earl of Bath laying the foundation stone. Wood provided most of his services freely, and Ralph Allen gave much of the stone; by the time the building was opened, in 1742, £8,643 had been raised by subscription, in which Beau Nash played a prominent part. Wood conceived the hospital as a major public building, embodying the growing civic awareness of the City, and, on completion was a notable purpose-built hospital, which fittingly embodied Bath's reputation as a place of medical treatment. Wood's eleven-bay Palladian front was originally to have been enriched with a pedimental relief of the Good Samaritan; a lesser pediment on the west was to show Christ at the Pool of Bethesda. Models were prepared by Vincent Matthysens, but only in the 19th century did the former project reach fruition. Male and Female wards ran southwards from the frontage block, with a capacity of 108 beds in seven wards. Pressures on space led to the raising of the attic storey in 1793, designed by John Palmer, city architect. An Act of 1830 enabled the construction of thermal baths adjoining the site. Mid-19th century legislation and the pressures of a growing population led to further expansion westwards across Parsonage Lane, and the bath Abbey Rectory was acquired to this end in 1856, and demolished in 1858. Discussions to remove the hospital to a new site on Sydney Gardens, occupied by what is now the Holburne Museum, came to nothing. George Manners and John Elkington Gill were engaged to design the extension and link: the style adopted was, for the time, strikingly deferential to Wood's conception. The estimate for the second building was £8,354, but the total spent was £20,000. It was opened in 1861. The administrative functions of the hospital were moved into the new building, thereby freeing up space for more patients' wards in the older building, enlarging the capacity to 160. A chapel was added to the rear, with stained glass windows depicting biblical scenes of water, with an airing yard beyond. The hospital's west wing was wholly gutted and the west elevation destroyed by enemy action in April 1942. After a period of uncertainty as to the hospital's future it was resolved to restore the west block and continue the work of the original foundation: Dr George Kerseley was instrumental in ensuring that the buildings were returned to use, and the west block was largely rebuilt in 1962-65. The building is now a rare survival of a public mid-C18 hospital, designed in Wood's prevalent Palladian idiom. SOURCES: See Roger Rolls, 'The Hospital of the Nation. The story of Spa Medecine and the Mineral Water Hospital at Bath' (1988); R.E.M. Peach, 'Bath Old and New' (1891), 152-157; Walter Ison, 'The Georgian Buildings of Bath' (2nd ed. 1980), 75-78; Mowbray Green, 'The Eighteenth Century Architecture of Bath' (1904), 106; Tim Mowl and Brian Earnshaw, 'John Wood Architect of Obsession' (1988), 142-143; RCHME Report and Survey in NMR, ref. 101073.

Listing NGR: ST7495964878


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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.

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