How are we responding to the historical evolution & significance of this Bath & National treasure?
Mineral Hospital Massing evolution diagram identifies that these proposals comprise the 6th major alterations to this building in its ongoing evolution.
As an enterprise (Like the well-known Sally Lunn’s est 1860) this hospital has been operational on the same site since 1738 – a remarkable feat for any institution. That alone could be significance enough.
However, because of its connection with Bath’s original mineral water treatments, the mineral water springs, the practice of nationally significant rheumatic medicine and association with architects and architecture of repute, its evolution is indelibly woven into the evolution of Bath.
The value of ‘The Min’ is not only through its significant contributions to society through medicine, but also its connectedness – being located opposite one of the remnants of the original medieval city walls and having been heavily bomb damaged during the Baedeker raids of World War II.
The design of any major alterations or extensions to this beloved Bath icon will need to respect this significant history, balancing the provision of better access for the amenity of guests and the Bath community alike, conserving and maintaining the significance of this asset within the demands of an operational hospitality venue.
Design Approach/ Evolution
In the telling of the fascinating story of the Mineral Water Hospital (1738-2019) through the vehicle of a Lifestyle hotel experience, the guiding principles are based on sound Historic Building Conservation principles, that is:
- Conducting a detailed assessment of the social, historic, evidential and community significance of the historic asset to inform design decisions
- To retain and reveal where possible the legibility of original hospital features
- Design interventions to be fully reversible where possible
- Design interventions to be located/ introduced in areas that have already been harmed by previous low-quality works
- Any extension design to be subservient to the original, but of exceptional design quality and of its time
- Ensure the balance of public benefits provided outweighs any potential ‘harm’ generated through the conversion to hotel.
Historic Interpretation Strategy
As part of a considered approach to improving access to this historic asset, a strategy is being developed to formalise how the unique features and story of the Mineral Water Hospital are best told to reach a wider audience.
This includes supporting the Bath Medical Museum relocation from the hospital, interactive opportunities for discovering more about the hospital, opportunities to display some of the original fixtures and fittings on loan and how best to display its unique attributes and features within a hotel use.
The well-known Bath personalities involved with the General and Mineral Water Hospital.
Hidden Secrets of the Mineral Hospital
Ongoing Detective Work
Seemingly having been omitted from the current literature on the History and development of the hospital, on a recent site visit with Historic England, it was pointed out that in one particular basement corridor there were external quoins typical of a Bath stone façade. Their initial suggestion is that part of the theatre that existed on the site previously was subsumed into the basement of the ‘new’ hospital. This appears to be supported by the random alignment of this thicker wall, as not being part of the design of the original hospital.
Photo – Original Theatre walls in East block basement.
Secret to the outside world but a lifeline to the hospital in many ways: the original connection back to the hot spring from the hospital, travels along beneath the vaults of Union Street from the Baths into a manhole in the basement of the hospital. It’s essentially a crawl space with defunct pipework but the intent is to reuse this tunnel to reconnect to the Mineral Water extraction now managed by BaNES.
To facilitate the smooth nursing service within the extended hospital, 9/10 Trim Street was purchased as nurses accommodation and an understreet tunnel formed to allow nurses to pass directly between the two properties, unseen. The Trim Street accommodation was disposed of by the NHS so sadly the glazed Victorian tiles are now blocked up.
To minimise potential harm to the barrel vaulted lath and plaster ceiling, a bespoke bedroom design is being proposed to allow corridor and bedroom views of this uniquely sculptural ceiling. Bathrooms will appear as lower ‘pods’ within the rooms and contain horizontal servicing to keep sight lines clear. A vertical glazed barrier will keep fire and acoustic separation, and for blackout, an integral blind or electrically dimmable frosted glass will be inserted at high level.
In the east ward, it is proposed to draw back the lines of the bedroom corridors to expose the original cast iron columns. The mechanical services will be horizontally routed above the bedrooms to enable any distinctive original column heads, to be displayed.
An archaeological evaluation of the Scheduled Ancient Monument beneath the car park was carried out, to provide information to ensure that any new building constructed will not harm the site. During the investigation a number of interesting ‘finds’ were made including: Roman pottery shards and plasterwork, Georgian glass and a single Roman coin, possibly used as a love token. Further archaeology work will be needed once the NHS vacate the building.