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Project Director's Blog

If you would like to find out more about Footprint, why not check out our Project Director, Charles Curnock's blog.

Charles is involved in all aspects of the project and regularly provides updates via the Abbey's Weekly Notice Sheet - selected items are shared here in his blog. 


November 2017

After what seems a very long time the Footprint project has just reached a critical milestone.  Footprint is a large project which aims to make Bath Abbey fit for many years in the future.  It involves a range of work within the Abbey and will result in far more usable space outside the building all of which you can read about elsewhere on this website.  The project also involves the provision of interpretation facilities and a variety of activities which are principally aimed at disadvantaged and marginalised sectors of society.

The project grew out of the Abbey 2000 programme which included the cleaning of the Abbey inside and out, the design and installation of a new organ and the opening of an Abbey shop.  The earliest consultations with the leadership of the Abbey in 2005 and 2006 indicated a range of shortcomings in particular including “pews and loos” – uncomfortable and inflexible seating and the lack of adequate toilets.

By 2010 we had developed our ideas and needs sufficiently to warrant the appointment of architects and then engineers.  Since then designs have been developed and have been taken through a large number of consultations and approval processes.  It should not be easy to make changes to a Grade 1 Listed building in the middle of a World Heritage City and it is not.

Fundraising has also been challenging.  Many generous people from the Abbey community and beyond have very generously supported the project and we were also delighted to be awarded a major grants both by the Heritage Lottery Fund and by other Trust funds.    Currently we just have a little way to go – but that will probably be the most difficult bit of the lot.

When the Abbey was completed in 1618 the generosity of those who contributed to the cost of that work was recorded in Benefactors Book which we still have.  Following that precedent we have just commissioned a new Benefactors Book as a permanent record of all those who have financially supported Footprint and without which the project would not be possible.  A leading calligrapher will start recording the names in the New Year and the Bath bookbinders George Baynton have very generously agreed to make the book pro bono.

At present we are working hard with the two major organisations which are responsible for approving our work:  B&NES Council for Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent of works outside the Abbey and the Diocese of Bath & Wells for works in and on the building.  

We have received the main consents but still need approval for the minor changes made as the project design has progressed.  Recently the most visible part of the approval processes has been the holding within the Abbey of a Consistory Court case.  The hearing was requested by the Victorian Society who would like us to reinstate more of current furniture then we would prefer.  We should know the outcome in a few weeks.

As important as approvals is actually getting some work done on the Abbey and the other buildings.  We did an initial phase of excavations and construction work earlier this year which included the building of an access door between the Abbey vaults and those belonging to our neighbours in the Roman Baths.  At present we have just issued a large amount of documentation to the six shortlisted potential main contractors.  We are hoping to have an idea who we would like to appoint by Christmas and be in a position to make a formal announcement by late January.  Some of the underground work will also be starting early in the New Year by our colleagues at Wessex Water who have generously given us a gift in kind of a significant amount of labour.

As I mentioned earlier, another aspect of the project is the Interpretation facilities.  Here we have just been permitted to award contracts to the successful companies who will supply these key parts of the project – more of that in my next blog.

Finally, and on a lighter note, we have just had the annual Great Bath Bake Sale in the Abbey as a fundraising event for Footprint and for the 11 other local charities who joined us for a Saturday.  A great event enjoyed by those who came to sell and eat cake and to enjoy the range of other activities happening in the Abbey.


We're delighted that more than 50 volunteers have signed up to help record Bath Abbey’s historic ledgerstones, ahead of our 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 as part of the Footprint project.

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.

We are very grateful to all of the volunteers who are going to help with this very important project.


Some initial excavation work is being carried out just outside the Abbey shop on Kingston Parade. 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 are grateful to everyone for their patience and understanding while this work is carried out.

August 2015
Trials over the Summer

We have a number of partners who are currently helping us trial and test different parts of the plans for the project. Over the next month there will be 3 different trials happening around the Abbey.  

This month we will be trying out different sorts of lighting on the West front, the North transept and the tower. If you are in the city centre that evening you’d be welcome to come and look!

 Later in August David Odgers and a colleague will be doing trial repair to ledger stones. He will be working near the font to minimise disruption.

At the University of Bath, Dr Mike Lawrence is doing trials on different mixes of the grout we are planning to use to help stabilise the floor.

We're very grateful to all those who are contributing their expert knowledge and advice and helping us develop the plans for Footprint further.

April 2015
Eco-Friendly Heating

For the past few weeks excavation work has been taking place in Kingston Parade (outside the Visitor Information Centre) as part of a joint initiative by Bath Abbey’s Footprint project and Bath & North East Somerset Council. The purpose of this is to determine the feasibility of installing an eco-friendly system using Bath’s hot springs to heat the Abbey, and the Romans Baths & Pump Room complex.

Every day, a quarter of a million gallons of hot water flow through the Roman Baths from the thermal spring located at the heart of the site. A large quantity of this hot water eventually ends up in the nearby River Avon via the Great Roman Drain. If harnessed correctly and converted as part of the Abbey and B&NES Council’s joint initiative, it could produce 1.5 megawatts of continuous energy – enough to heat the Abbey and the Romans Baths & Pump Room complex.

Once the explorations are complete, a feasibility study will be produced with recommendations on where and how the thermal heat exchanger will be housed.

March 2015
Bath Abbey goes down the drain!

Well, not exactly. On Thursday evening after the Roman Baths were closed to visitors, eight of us went one by one into the Roman Great Drain helped by the council officer responsible for the Spring Water and a team from the drainage company who maintain the drain. The aim of the visit was to investigate in detail the optimum way to get the waste hot water out of the drain and into a heat exchanger so that we can then use the energy to heat the Abbey and surrounding buildings.

The inside of the Roman Drain is not a nice environment. It is very hot and humid, the lower parts of the drain walls are caked with 2,000 years of mineral deposits and the bottom is best described as sludge! But it was interesting and helpful and, I admit, an enjoyable experience. I’ve included a couple of photos showing us entering the drain. The outcome of the visit is that we will now do some trials of different sorts of pipes and filters; we will draw on the experience of similar work elsewhere in the world. I will let you know how we get on.

February 2015
A Day in the Life of a Monk

We have had a busy month, with lots of meetings considering the business plan, design work and the overall progress of the project. However for me the real highlight was Ollie Taylor’s “Day in the Life of a Monk” on Tuesday. If you were in the Abbey you will have seen the enjoyment, the concentration and delight as 30 children participated in 5 different activities around the Abbey as they learnt about different aspects of a medieval monk’s life. And it was great having a real monk with us, Father Christopher from Downside, at one of the stations for the children to speak with. As one of them wrote: “It was really special when I was with Father Christopher”. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him and all the other volunteers who helped on the day.

January 2015

Over the next 12 months, there will continue to be a great deal of activity on the Footprint project. However, a lot of this work, while significant to the development phase, will take place behind-the-scenes so will not be visible to the public or even necessarily apparent to those who are connected with the Abbey.

Trial Dais

One aspect that will be evident to all is the proposed raising dais which will be installed in the Abbey early January. Services in future will be led from this and it will be located just west of the crossing. The platform which forms the dais will normally be two steps high but when lowered it will provide a flat floor. We are also considering the option of the dais being able to rise up higher still and thus provide some storage beneath it for the furniture and equipment needed for worship when that is not required.

To make sure the eventual dais is the optimum size, over the next few months we will be trying out various mock ups; the first of these will be with our existing staging blocks. To provide enough space for the trial dais, during the next week the front two rows of pews in the nave will be removed and put into storage. I stress that they are just trials and not the final answer.


On a different topic, we now have the full team of consultants selected or re-selected who will work on all aspects of Footprint over the next few years. On Wednesday 14 January we have invited for a one off meeting all those either working on Footprint or who will be impacted by the project. The aim of this is to make sure everyone understands all aspects of the project and, perhaps more importantly, to make sure all know the other members of the team.

2015 is going to be a busy period for all working to make this project a reality.

December 2014

New Consultants

Recently we have been interviewing many companies to form the team of architects and engineers to take the Footprint project through to completion. I was keen that we completed this before Christmas so that we could get going in earnest at the beginning of January. This process was completed on time and the team are now all appointed. Not surprisingly many excellent companies wanted our work and I would like to thank both the unsuccessful and successful companies for all the effort that they put into bidding for the contracts.

We have selected Synergy LLP to provide both project management and quantity surveying for Footprint. This work will be led by Paul Grinham and Duncan Ball respectively. Paul has successfully managed many projects of a similar size to Footprint and he also leads the company’s team of project managers. Duncan appears to be gaining the track record of being the QS of choice for work on cathedrals and large churches; he has very recently been appointed to the Gloucester Cathedral Pilgrim project and he also manages the company’s Bath office. We are looking forward to working closely on the Footprint team with two very competent and experienced people.

October 2014


It is a few weeks since I last wrote one of these updates. I am sure a lot of people will be saying ‘just as well’ but a few have said that they miss having them – thank you for that – here we go!

So, what’s been going on whilst these updates have been silent? “Why aren’t we seeing any major works yet?” The answer is that we still have quite a lot of studies, detailed design work and fundraising to do before we can get on with the major works – but we’re going as fast as we can! For example during the last few weeks:

  • We moved ahead with selecting architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and a project manager – using a European wide process. The new team should be on board by Christmas.
  • We’ve also selected an interpretation team to help Ollie Taylor and Dawn Farmer design the displays and activities which will help us tell people about what the Abbey is and what it stands for.
  • We have had a lot of things surveyed including the Montague Tomb and the artefacts that are stored in places like the Vaults and the Cemetery Chapel.

We have commissioned 3 pieces of work by the University of Bath both to help the detail of how we best repair the floor and end up with a flat surface and also to get the most energy from the waste hot water in the Roman Great Drain. Four physics students have come up with a very novel design which may enable us to further reduce our Carbon footprint.

August 2014


I was recently asked to sum up Footprint in a sentence. When asked this question we often struggle to limit our response to only one sentence. As you may be aware Footprint is an exciting and complicated project covering all aspects of Abbey life. Our standard written response to the question is:

Footprint is an £19.3 million programme of capital works and interpretation which will provide innovative and sustainable solutions to our needs including:

  • Stabilising the ground beneath the Abbey floor
  • Tapping into Bath’s greatest natural resource and heating the Abbey using energy from the hot springs
  • Adapting the interior of the Abbey so that it better expresses the faith and practice of the Abbey community and is more inviting for worship
  • Installing energy efficient lighting and providing storage for staging
  • Opening a new Song School for our Choirs and our expanding singing programme for local primary and secondary schools
  • Providing a modern, welcoming refectory where all our visitors can, at last, spend a little more time with us and enjoy our hospitality
  • Creating 200 square metres of new space to provide a contemporary interpretation centre which will act as the hub for projects and activities displayed throughout the Abbey

So as you can see, not a short response at all! If you would like to help us come up with one succinct all-encompassing sentence which captures what Footprint is please let me know your ideas!

July 2014

Building Works

As I write these notes on a beautiful sunny morning I can’t help but marvel at the amazing building that has been bequeathed to us by previous generations.  With everything we are planning as part of the Footprint project we will do all we can to respect and where possible enhance that beauty before we hand the building on to those who will worship here in future.

On a more prosaic level I have just had a very helpful meeting discussing the order we do the Footprint work.  You may think that is very obvious but actually it is quite complicated.  For instance we will need to make sure the new choir practice room in Kingston Buildings is ready for use before the current practice room is taken out of service; we would like to make the energy from the hot spring water in the Roman Great Drain available early so that as we complete sections of the Abbey floor we can heat them; and, as we repair the floor, we will make sure that as many of the existing heating pipes are still working until the new heating takes over.  Unlike other large churches and cathedrals which have had major work done we have no intention of shutting.  From time to time various parts of the building will be inaccessible and we will have to change the way we do things but we have every intention of doing all we can to ensure that the work will be done around the services and other events happening in the Abbey.

June 2014


The University of Bath has recently held its graduation ceremonies in the Abbey.  Last Autumn HRH Prince Edward was installed as the Chancellor of the University and so this week he has been here again awarding degrees.  During the speech he made at the beginning of each ceremony, having been very polite about the Abbey, he then added:  “We’ll gloss over the introduction of the pews, a classic Victorian addition to so many churches and which just goes to show that even the most gifted and visionary can still make mistakes.  Who knows, perhaps one day somebody will be brave enough to re-design seating in churches so that these magnificent buildings can fulfil their potential.”  As I’m sure you know we are giving the issue of future seating our full attention

June 2014

Other Church Projects

One of the more enjoyable aspects of Footprint is learning from others and also helping those who are in the early stages of their church and cathedral projects.  As I may have mentioned before, our rector Edward Mason, Dr Peter King, our Music Director and I learnt a lot in 2010 by visiting other projects when we were in the process of selecting architects for Footprint.  Many highlights of this included visiting the amazing Refectory at Norwich Cathedral, the cleverly designed Song School at Chester Cathedral, a beautiful little church near Worcester which was using Ground Source Heat Pumps, the major reconstruction of the Ashmoelean Museum in Oxford and the subtle, sympathetic education centre at Hampton Court Palace (which was designed by the architects who we eventually selected – Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios).

Since that time we have offered advice to a number of other churches when they have come to us asking for assistance.  The most recent was on Thursday when we had a very interesting time with a delegation of 6 people from Malvern Priory who had come to pick our brains.  Their project has many differences to ours – for instance there is earth under their pew bases so that when they remove their pews they won’t have ledger stones as we do.  Despite this there are also many similarities and I hope they felt that their visit was worthwhile – we enjoyed talking with them.

May 2014

Environmentally Friendly Energy

We are currently discussing a small but interesting area of work with our mechanical consultants from Buro Happold – who are based here in Bath on the Lower Bristol Road. As part of the project we are planning to extract energy from the waste hot spring water in the Roman Great Drain and then use the energy to heat as many of the Abbey’s buildings as possible. At its source in the King’s Bath the hot spring water is at about 45°C. By the time some of the water has been through the Great Bath and all the water is in the Drain under Kingston Parade it is still at 35-40°C. From there it progressively cools until it reaches the river in Parade Gardens.

We are currently planning that the plant room which will extract the energy will be in unused vaults in front of the Tourist Information Centre which are right on top of the Roman Drain. We now believe that a single set of equipment in that area would have the potential to provide heat to a wider range of users than we originally thought.

Following a recent very helpful meeting we had with officers from B&NES Council, Buro Happold are proposing to look in more detail at the potential heating loads of our buildings and of other buildings that could use some of the energy such as the Roman Baths complex. We will also be asking the team to look in a little more detail at the plant room and to assess the financial viability of the various options which are open to us bearing in mind such things as possible government subsidies – the Renewable Heat Incentive. We also have planning, legal and historic issues to further investigate. A really interesting aspect of the whole project.

May 2014


I have been in the vibrant city of Manchester this week for a conference at the cathedral on church lighting.  Lighting the Abbey is something we are planning to improve as part of Footprint, building on the changes we made last year to our chandeliers.  In addition to learning a lot from the conference, I realised that a raising dais has just been installed in Manchester cathedral similar to the one we are planning for the Abbey.  It was very helpful to be able to discuss the dais with both the Dean of the cathedral and with those responsible for its design and installation.