Swindon builder Beard’s modern innovation helps visitors to Roman Baths step into the past

June 26, 2014
By

Visitors to Bath’s iconic Roman Baths now get a much better view of the world heritage site thanks to the completion of a challenging project by Swindon-based building firm Beard.

The firm has installed a walkway giving a panoramic aerial view of the Temple Precinct and the life-size, gilt bronze head of the goddess Sulis Minerva.

The £500,000 project for Bath & North East Somerset Council is the main part of a phased programme of enhancement aimed at improving the visitor experience and access to baths.

The new lightweight steel walkway is suspended over the Temple Precinct – one of the great wonders of Roman Britain in Bath 15 ft below the Grand Pump Room and modern street level.

Pictured: The suspended steel walkway over the Roman Baths’ Temple Precinct with the head of Sulis Minerva in the foreground

It houses the original remains of the temple steps, the great altar, and Sulis Minerva, the Roman goddess of the Baths’ sacred spring.

Sixteen hundred years ago her gilded statue once stood within the temple, but is now displayed on the new walkway as the focal point of the new display.

The new step-free, suspended walkway has significantly opened up the viewing area for visitors who now have a panoramic aerial view of the monument below. It is also an essential pre-requisite for opening up almost the entire site for wheelchair access later this year. 

Beard site manager for the project, Doug Gray, said:  “It was a challenging construction because the baths and the Pump Room restaurant, which was above the works, had to remain open throughout the construction so we had to be extremely quiet.

School children on the new suspended walkway built by Beard over the Roman Baths’ Temple Precinct

“Before we could build the walkway we had to carefully remove the existing 1980s pathway which was sitting right on top of the Roman remains and prop-up the existing masonry. It all had to be done without disrupting visitors or disturbing the ancient monument and we did it using a very quiet cheese wire-cutting technique, a sand cushion and protective foam matting.”

Beard received advice during the project from archaeologist Peter Davenport from Cotswold Archaeology, who excavated the area in the 1980s, to ensure that any Roman artefacts uncovered in the works were preserved. 

Beard worked with Bath architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios on the walkway. The project team also included regional company TR Scaffolding, structural engineers Mann Williams and Taunton Fabrications, which made the steel.

Bath & North East Somerset Council cabinet member for sustainable development Ben Stevens said: “We are delighted with the outcome of this project which has improved the visitor experience enormously.

“Beard worked in very challenging and constrained circumstances and delivered the project to the very high standard the public now expects when works take place on this ancient monument at the heart of the World Heritage site.”

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