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Mid-19th century

The regeneration and subsequent rise in fortune of the Abbey was mirrored by the fate of the city of Bath itself and its renaissance as a fashionable spa resort. Bath's reputation for reviving the spirit and its wondrous restorative waters continued to grow and before long it had become a most fashionable place 'to take the waters' and socialise with other prominent members of society. Its popularity as a tourist destination grew throughout the 17th and 18th centuries right up to today thanks to the vision and achievements of the architect John Wood and Ralph Allen, and in no small part, to Jane Austen’s novels, two of which, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are set in Bath. It was also Austen’s home from 1801 to 1806. 

By 1833, cracks had begun to appear in the tower due to the weight of the clock. The City Corporation which was responsible for the maintenance of the Abbey at this time realised that the clock would have to be moved, and called in local architect George Manners.  It was the start of restoration work costing over £10,000.

Manners and the ‘Pinnacles War’

Manners carried out extensive changes to the exterior of the Abbey, many of which remain in place today:

  • The walls of the south and north choir aisles received battlemented parapets

  • Pinnacles were put on the turrets and ends of the buttresses

  • Square turrets on the East Front were replaced by octagonal turrets to better suit the pinnacles

  • The clock moved from the tower to the side of the north transept

While the ornamental pinnacles and the ‘battlemented’ parapets are widely admired today, these were very controversial when first introduced. Many people believed that they were out of keeping with the architectural style of the Abbey. However, Manners kept true to his vision and insisted that his plans would complete the intentions of the original medieval builders.

Manners’ transformation of the Abbey

  • General Wade’s elaborate marble altarpiece was removed and a new ‘reredos’ (a decorative screen behind the altar) was put in the Sanctuary

  • A new pulpit was installed

  • A new organ screen designed by Edwin Blore was installed between the nave and the choir. The screen contained a new organ built by John Smith of Bristol

  • New seats were installed in the choir aisles and new galleries erected above them.

  • Heating was installed in the choir

George Manner’s sketch of the Abbey's clock