Context 159 - May 2019

24 C O N T E X T 1 5 9 : M A Y 2 0 1 9 RHYS BROOKES Historic lighting in Bath’s public realm Replacing the lanterns and overthrows of the houses in Great Pulteney Street has involved the skills of iron founders, blacksmiths, lead casters, glass blowers, metal spinners and many more. Great Pulteney Street dominates the eastern approach to the city of Bath.When commenced in 1798 toThomas Baldwin’s design, each house would have been gloriously lit by a lantern in an overthrow to conform to an Act of Parliament that required every household with a rateable value of one penny or more (the poor rate) to hang a light outside their house during specific hours or be liable to a fine1. By then Bath’s city commissioners had already started standardising requirements for servicing the public realm². Their Act, introduced in 1766, required that ‘if any person or persons shall hereafter at their own private expense set up any lamp or lamps… they shall cause them to be made of the same form, and to be affixed and arranged in a line with those set up by the order of the said com- missioners.’³ It is believed that many of the lanterns were removed to make way for municipal gas light in the late 1870s. Since then the aggregated effects of decay, changes in ownership and technology, and the improvement of municipal lighting, resulted in only a few fragments of the original structures remaining in 2010, and even these were at risk. Concerned by this, the Pulteney Estate Residents’ Association (PERA) approached Harrison Brookes Architects with the aim of reintroducing the lanterns and over- throws to the entire estate of 300 houses, and possibly beyond. Working in collaboration with PERA, Bath Preservation Trust, and the local authority’s highways and planning departments, it was agreed that a standardised design would be appropriate, but this had to be based on evidence, using traditional manufacturing techniques and, where possible, locally sourced skills. Fabric analysis and assessment On undertaking a detailed inspection of all the properties across the estate it quickly became apparent that the railings, rather than being wrought iron as elsewhere in Bath, comprised cast-iron palings linked by wrought-iron top rails. This is historically significant as the late 1700s marks the transition point between craft and industrial technologies and materials, giving an insight into the changing environment that Baldwin was working in. While several lantern overthrows existed, only two lanterns, clearly not originals, were in place in the entire estate, and no single overthrow was complete. Most were missing components, and others had been altered. Through detailed observation and frequency analysis of the remaining elements it was possible to piece together the constituent parts of a typical over- throw. Furthermore, by careful examination of the railings it was possible to prove that all the buildings across the estate once had overthrows installed in the same relative location. This was A new lantern and overthrow replicates one of the earliest public lighting schemes in Bath. ¹ Wood, John (1765) A Description of Bath ² An Act. To remove and Regulate…The City of Bath, 1766 (Michael Rowe, private collection) ³ The Commissioners Lampbook , CP/1–5 Guildhall Archive, Bath