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Bath Abbey’s historic ledger stones recorded by volunteers

More than 50 volunteers have signed up to help record Bath Abbey’s historic ledgerstones, ahead of a long-term project to restore the Abbey’s floor which is collapsing.

Ledgerstones are flat stones placed in the floors of mainly parish churches which usually bear an inscription of the name and date of the person who is buried there. Many also include interesting inscriptions about the person, their family and their life in the local community.

In partnership with The Ledgerstone Survey of England and Wales (LSEW), the Abbey aims to record all 891 of its ledgerstones, some dating back to the 17th century, before these are lifted temporarily in order to repair the floor and secure the foundations beneath.

This Autumn, building work will start inside the Abbey as part of the Footprint project, a £19.3 million programme supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund to secure the Abbey building and improve its hospitality, worship and service to the city. However, before any of the planned building work including floor repairs can begin, all 891 of the historic ledgerstones in the Abbey will need to be recorded accurately. This will ensure that once the stone floor has been successfully repaired and re-laid, each individual ledger stone is put back properly and in the right place.

In addition, the ledgerstone recording will also form the basis for new trails, tours and experiences for visitors developed as part of the Footprint programme.

Charles Curnock, Bath Abbey’s Footprint Project Director, said: “The ledgerstone recording signals the start of a really exciting time as the Footprint project moves up another gear. Many churches have a similar problem with their floor but with the Abbey being an especially busy church, together with the urgent need to repair the floor, recording the ledgerstones is increasingly a priority for us. Most of the ledgerstones have been hidden beneath pews for nearly 180 years. By the end of this project, this important part of our city’s heritage will be available to be newly appreciated by and preserved for future generations. We urge local people to discover more about the Abbey’s historic floor and see first-hand the work taking place.”

To read the press release in full click here

Butterflies swarm Bath Abbey

Last summer saw Bath Abbey filled temporarily with hundreds of colourful paper butterflies as part of the city-wide Forest of the Imagination Festival. The Abbey will see the return of these exotic creations on Wednesday 8th February in a year-long installation by Bath-based artist, Anthony Head.

iMigration 2 by Anthony Head is a large-scale sculpture, a swarm of colourful paper butterflies, spanning five metres and suspended ten metres up in the air in the Abbey’s South Transept.

The first impression for visitors is of a single group, a swarm of creatures that appear to be the same. However, on closer inspection, the viewer will discover that each butterfly is unique, with its own digital genetic code and individual wing pattern influenced by random mutations.


The artist, Anthony Head, explains: “iMigration 2 explores the themes of migration, diversity and individuality. In the swarm, each butterfly is unique, created with a variety of technologies and featuring colour and patterns designed using computer coding, influenced by the mathematics of nature. The butterflies will move gently in the air currents that fill the Abbey as if travelling on a migration. 

To read the press release in full click here.


James Irvine was clerk of works under Sir George Gilbert Scott during the restoration of Bath Abbey in the 1860s-1870s.  Irvine left a large collection of sketches, architectural drawings, and notes that tell a fascinating story of his work on many different buildings. His archive, which is kept in Bath Central Library, includes two boxes of papers about the restoration of Bath Abbey.  Although many people have looked at these papers, they have not been systematically listed until now.  In the autumn of last year, Catherine Chambers volunteered to take on this task, and with the kind help of Anne Buchanan, the Librarian at Bath Central Library, completed her list at the beginning of this year. 

Catherine has offered to talk about her work on the collection and to show some documents.  As Bath Abbey begins its Footprint project, following in the steps of Gilbert Scott, come and find out what the Irvine papers tell us about the Scott restoration, and how they might help the Abbey in its new and ambitious restoration project.

To find out more, join our short talk and mini-exhibition on 14th February at 1pm in the Downstairs Meeting Room, No. 9 Kingston Buildings. Please book a place by contacting Anna Riggs  (01225 303322)

For more information on Footprint, please click here.


Andrew and Christina Brownsword, via The Brownsword Charitable Foundation, have agreed to give £500,000 in match funding towards Bath Abbey’s Footprint project in order to encourage local businesses and organisations to support the project and raise £1 million.

The Footprint project is a programme of capital works and interpretation that will secure the Abbey’s physical future and improve its hospitality, worship and service to the city. After nearly a decade of planning, consultation and development work, building work will start this Autumn. However, the Abbey still needs to complete its major fundraising appeal in order for the building work to take place. This is where the Brownswords have stepped in.

The Footprint Appeal was set up to raise £19.4 million for the Abbey’s ambitious and transformative programme. Thanks to a grant of £10.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and additional funds from private individuals and trusts, as well as the Abbey’s own congregation and visitors, the Abbey now has just over £1 million left to raise.

Charles Curnock, Footprint Project Director, said: “We are extremely  grateful to the Brownswords for stepping in with their generous offer. By pledging half a million in match funding towards the Footprint Appeal, they are giving added motivation and a real impetus to our fundraising appeal. We hope businesses and individuals will join in and will be more inclined to give once they know that match funding is offered.

To read the press release in full, click here.

A Nativity is not just for Christmas

Just because Christmas Day is now over for another year does not mean the Nativity scene has been forgotten. Bath Abbey is delighted that it will continue to display its unique Nativity exhibit, designed by local students, until Candlemas on Thursday 2 February.
Last year the Abbey ran a competition with Bath Spa University to create a Nativity with a difference for the Abbey’s beautiful Birde Chapel. Because the Abbey attracts thousands of visitors from all around the world, they wanted a three dimensional -artwork that would communicate the Christmas story to an international audience and that would work within the space of a chapel principally dedicated to private prayer.
First, second and third year students from Bath Spa University’s Three Dimensional Design course competed in teams to design a contemporary artwork for display in the Abbey’s Birde Chapel. The chosen winner, ‘Nativity Mobile’ presents the characters of the Nativity story and their relationships with one another and with Christ at the centre. It is in the form of a mobile, with suspended, gently moving figures.

To read the press release in full click here


Bath Abbey fundraising auction raises £9,000 for Footprint project

The first contemporary art auction held at Bath Abbey has raised £9,000 for the Footprint project.

The auction, held on Wednesday November 23, was organised by David Simon, owner of a contemporary art gallery in Bath.

Former Sotheby’s auctioneer Freya Mitton gave up her time to auction work from artists including Eileen Cooper RA, Nick Cudworth, Robert Cary-Williams, Luke Frost, Peter Brown, Emma Rose, Ben Hughes and Diana Matthews.

David Simon, who has dedicated every minute of his spare time over the last three months, on this project, said: “I’m delighted that we raised so much money and I’d like to thank all the artists who donated their work – the quality and variety of art donated was just wonderful. I’d also like to thank everyone who came along to support the auction, especially our bidders. This contemporary art auction is just one small thing that I can do to help make Footprint - a really great thing – become a reality.”

The Footprint project is one the country’s most significant church projects and will transform the Abbey’s facilities for the community and for worshippers. The Footprint project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Charles Curnock, Director of Bath Abbey’s Footprint project, said: “We are enormously grateful to David Simon for organising the auction, to all the artists involved and those who came along to support us. Footprint will enable us to improve how we inspire, engage with and serve our congregation, our community and our visitors. Thanks to Heritage Lottery funding of over £10 million granted earlier this year, and many other generous benefactors, there is now less than £1 million left to raise of the project’s £19.3 million total.”

Sharon Stevenson, Bath Abbey’s Fundraising Officer, said: “Bath Abbey, which is open to worshippers, schools, concert-goers and a whole variety of other visitors 364 days of the year, is in urgent need of repair and transformation. The Footprint project will help us to transform our facilities for the future. Thanks to the generosity of all these talented artists, David Simon, and all of those who came along to support our auction, we will be one step closer to making Footprint a reality.”


Tribute to the Ropers

For those familiar with the Abbey, you might have spotted a new engraving in the North aisle. This is a special tribute to Brian and Margaret Roper who have demonstrated such generous support of the Abbey and many organisations and charities in Bath. The stone was unveiled in the presence of over 120 business leaders who joined us for a business lunch on the day of the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Charles Curnock, the Abbey’s Footprint Project Director, said: “We are honoured to have had such a good relationship with Brian and Maggie. Like many in Bath, we have been touched and humbled by their tremendous generosity. Their lifelong support of and tireless contribution to so many our city is hopefully recognised by this engraving.”

This beautiful engraving was by sculptor, Iain Cotton, who also engraved the Cotswold Way Marker Stone, in front of the Abbey’s west doors.

We will be paying a full tribute to the Ropers in the new year along with an exciting announcement about Footprint fundraising so watch this space.

Footprint project PHASE 1 Excavations

As part of the Abbey’s Footprint project, some initial excavation work is being carried out just outside the Abbey shop on Kingston Parade from November 2016 to March 2017. This work will provide some much needed storage space in the short and longer term.

The work will not impact on our worship and events programme in the Abbey or Abbey Shop opening times over the next few months. We have also worked closely with Bath Tourism Plus to minimise the impact on the Christmas market. A small number of chalets have been relocated to Kingston Parade but there has been no effect on the number of chalets showcasing at this year’s market.

We are grateful to everyone for their patience and understanding while this work is carried out.

Footprint is a £19.3 million project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, to secure the Abbey for future generations; this will include repairing and restoring the Abbey floor; tapping into Bath’s hot springs to create a sustainable heating system, and creating a new underground centre for community use.

Find out more at


We are delighted to announce that the new Director of Music will be Huw Williams.
Huw is an organist, conductor and composer of international reputation and has 20 recordings as accompanist with The Sixteen and with St Paul’s and Hereford Cathedrals' Choirs and broadcast live on television and radio as both director and accompanist.  Huw is currently Director of Music at Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace.
Huw has worked extensively in the UK, USA, Africa and in Europe as a conductor, organ soloist and accompanist. He has performed with many British orchestras including the London Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, Philharmonia, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
Born in Swansea, a graduate from Christ’s College, Cambridge and the Royal Academy of Music he became Assistant Organist at Hereford Cathedral in 1995. In 1998 he moved to St Paul’s Cathedral where for ten years, as the principal organist, he played for all the major recordings and broadcasts and worked daily with the world famous choir.  In recognition of his work in the musical world he was awarded the Associate of the Royal Academy of Music in 2001 and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.  
Subject to Contract and Safeguarding, Huw will take up his appointment at the Abbey in January 2017.  
During the busy months from September to December, the Abbey music will be in the safe hands of Shean Bowers.  Shean will be reducing his schools work to give time for rehearsal of the Abbey choirs and working with the clergy team in planning music for both Sundays and the frequent festivals of that period.  I am confident that the Abbey community will support Shean and offer both practical help and significant encouragement to him and the other Abbey musicians.
Huw says:  "I'm really looking forward to joining the community at Bath Abbey and working with the staff and wonderful choirs there. Dr Peter King has left an outstanding legacy with consistently high quality music making and I'm thrilled to be joining you."
So already we find ourselves walking in a new landscape together.  There will be new opportunities and challenges.  As always this demands prayer and a holy discernment of what is good and true.  Please pray for Shean, and for Huw as he prepares to come to Bath.
The Revd Prebendary Edward Mason


Bath Abbey’s Footprint project, an ambitious and transformative programme of works planned to secure the Abbey’s physical future and open it up to the community, took a huge step forward this week, as it announced its success in its latest bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), unlocking £10.7 million of funding.

This grant will help fund the physical work needed to the fabric of the Abbey and provide the space to enable the Abbey’s facilities for education and for music to be developed. The project will make a major impact on the ability of the Abbey to fulfil the various roles that it plays for the city of Bath and the surrounding region. The success of this application means that the Heritage Lottery Fund is confident in Bath Abbey’s plans and believes that a high-quality project will be delivered.

Footprint will provide a stable, level and restored floor within the Abbey by filling voids caused by thousands of burials together with an innovative, eco-friendly hydrothermal heating system, using energy in the water from Bath’s famous hot springs. In addition, the HLF funding will enable the Abbey to realise exciting plans for a Discovery Centre and a Song School, two key resources that will enable the Abbey to better serve both the residents of Bath and the hundreds of thousands of visitors it welcomes every year.

The Reverend Prebendary Edward Mason, Rector of Bath Abbey, said: “We are all delighted to learn that we have secured this support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This is great news for the Abbey, the city and the region and also for those who have personally put so much time, effort and money into the project. The Abbey has been at the centre of the Bath community for over 1,200 years and, thanks to the HLF, Footprint will enable it to continue serve current and future generations for hundreds of years to come.”

Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: “The great medieval Bath Abbey has a rich history and the innovative Footprint project will ensure that this special place can continue to play a vital role in the lives of the thousands of people who visit every year. Our support for the essential capital works, collections care and use of sustainable energy will bring the Abbey into the 21st century, enabling people from Bath and further afield to enjoy this special place long into the future.”

Charles Curnock, Director of the Footprint Project, said: “We are enormously grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for this wonderful grant. We can now believe that we really have a project. The grant also provides a fantastic boost to our remaining fundraising. In addition to other funds which have been so generously given, the total project cost of £19.3 million is now firmly within our sights – there is £1.5 million left to raise. We don’t however underestimate the effort which will still be needed to secure this funding; we do however very much appreciate all those who have helped the project to date in many different ways.

This final fundraising phase is now a chance for everyone to get involved. In particular we are collaborating with LocalGiving and the Bath Percent Club with the aim of raising £50,000 from friends and visitors – with the added bonus that every pound donated will be matched with another pound from the Bath Percent Club. This campaign is being run on LocalGiving’s secure online giving platform, meaning that everyone can keep a track of progress, and donate online, at Bath Abbey belongs to all the people of the city and we hope very much that local residents will want to leave their own footprint here for hundreds of years to come.”


Bath Abbey has announced that its long-standing Director of Music, Dr Peter King, who retires in August 2016 is to become Bath Abbey Director of Music Emeritus in recognition of this outstanding contribution to the music of the Abbey over many years.

Dr King has served as Director of Music since 1986, and has been described by colleagues as a “most distinguished holder of the post.” Under his leadership, the music programme of the Abbey expanded to include new choirs, including our Abbey Girls’ Choir. His work featured regularly on BBC Radio 3 and BBC TV, as well as numerous record releases, and helped raise the profile of the Abbey and our music programme for over a generation.

On the announcement, Reverend Prebendary Edward Mason, the Rector of Bath Abbey, said:

“It is with no small measure of sadness that I learned of Peter's decision to retire. Peter has been Director of Music at the Abbey since 1986 and has been a most distinguished holder of this important post. 

“Peter has been a pillar of the Abbey and we will be very sad to see him leave. We will pray for him as he adjusts to a new future, and ask all friends of the Abbey to join us in this.

“He is a superb organist in his own right as well as being a creative and inspirational director of the choirs. 

“We will concentrate on sustaining the excellence he has instilled in us all, and we will seek to build on all that has he has achieved over thirty years.”

Announcing his decision to colleagues at the Abbey, Dr King said:

 “During my time there have been many changes. The building of the new organ by Johannes Klais of Bonn, and the establishment of the Girls’ Choir, both in 1997, are just two achievements that have made me particularly happy, along with the development of the Boys’ Choir. Having been a choir boy myself, it has been equally important for me to maintain the tradition of a boys’ choir. Both the organ and the Girls’ Choir were quick to establish themselves as among the finest in the country. We have produced 8 albums with our choirs, and 12 on the organ; my Organ Concerto recording with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales was Editor’s Choice in both Gramophone Magazine and BBC Music Magazine. My recording of Poulenc’s Organ Concerto was the recommended performance in the “Building A Library” segment of BBC Radio 3’s CD Review last December, which along with the performance our choirs gave on the BBC One’s Christmas Day Service, made for a very nice Christmas!

“However, we have always looked to the future. Working with Shean Bowers, I helped establish the Schools Singing Programme which has brought the joy of the sung voice to a generation of children in Bath’s schools, and I am proud of the hard work Shean has put into it to make it the success it is.

“My brain says it is time to stop, though my heart hurts. Though I may be retiring as the Abbey’s Director of Music, I will not be retiring from music.”


Families are invited to join Bath Abbey on Saturday 12 March, between 10.30am to 1.30pm for a morning of fun, thoughtful, and messy activities on the theme of Easter.  We will be making hot cross buns, plantable paper, and crosses and stones for an Easter Garden, after which there will be a short celebration followed by lunch in the Abbey (which will be provided). 

Ollie Taylor, the Abbey’s Interpretation Officer, said:

“Messy Easter is a wonderful opportunity for families to spend a morning in the Abbey creating, baking, reflecting on the Easter story and having fun together.  It’s the first time we’ve offered this free session and I hope that many local families will come.  If you’ve not brought your family to the Abbey before this is the perfect opportunity to find out what we do.  I’m really looking forward to making hot cross buns in the Abbey and families who come can take away what they make too!”

The event is free but there will be a collection during the celebration.  The activities are suitable for children over 5 but there are limited places so you will need to book before the day.  Families are asked to contact the Abbey Office on or 01225 422462 to book their place. 


During February half term, Bath Abbey is running family friendly tours for children and the young at heart.  On the tours visitors will hear – and take part in – some fabulous stories and discover some of the hidden treasures of the Abbey along the way.  Guides will bring alive their favourite stories from the Abbey’s 1,300 year history and keep you entertained with little-known-facts.
These family friendly tours will be running on Tuesday 16th and Wednesday 17th February.  They begin at 10.15 each day and run hourly up to (and including one at) 16.15.  Each tour lasts 30 minutes.  Tours are free and can be booked on the day on a first come first served basis. 
The tours will take visitors from the very beginning of the Abbey’s story and the coronation of King Edgar in the Abbey in 973, through medieval and Tudor times, into the present day.
Visitors will be able to meet historical figures such as the Abbey’s Prior during medieval times, see re-enactments of many of the famous – and not-so-famous – names from the Abbey’s past and those buried within the Abbey’s walls, as well as Abbey staff who today are taking the Abbey into the future with the Footprint project.
Ollie Taylor, Interpretation Officer for Bath Abbey, said:
“These short tours are a fantastic opportunity for local families to have fun and discover more about the Abbey together.  They’ll be opportunities to see and hear some amazing stories from the Abbey but also to smell, taste, touch and take part in them too!  It’s the first time we’ve run these tours so why not be the first to bring your family to the Abbey for something fun, free, and new!”
Why not make a day of it? BANES Residents can use their Discovery Cards to get 2 for 1 entry for our Tower Tours!