12 Old Bond Street, City Centre
12 Old Bond Street forms part of a Grade II pair of terraced houses, now with ground floor commercial units and shopfronts, situated within the commercial core of the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. It strongly contributes to the grouped value and streetscape setting of a high concentration of Grade II terraced buildings along Old Bond Street, Burton Street, and New Bond Street. Old Bond Street forms a significant connector with the 19th century shopping street of Milsom Street, where the majority of buildings are now individually Grade II or Grade II* listed. Due to 12 Old Bond Street’s more southern position, it is set back from Milsom Street but instead has a more distinctive visual presence in the streetscape of Upper Borough Walls, and the setting of the Grade II* mid-18th century Mineral Hospital.
12 Old Bond Street is noted for its fine Art Deco shopfront attributed to Rolfe and Peto in 1934 with geometric detailing along the transom and in inset panels in the base plinth, and a curving wraparound design that accentuates its projecting addition to the main building body as viewed from the south. However, photographic evidence from 1937 (Bath in Time, H.L. Hancock) indicates that the transom is in fact a glazed transom light that has been subsequently painted over, likely as part of works to install a suspended ceiling.
The internal suspended ceiling has subsequently been removed (see application 19/03316/LBA), revealing an exemplary example of an 18th century plasterwork ceiling in relatively good condition, with a central rosette feature in the front room as well as finely-detailed cornicing and pilastered arches along the southern internal wall. As part of application 19/03316/LBA, BPT were invited to attend a site visit and will therefore comment as follows on the proposed internal alterations.
We note that internal and external painting works have gone ahead without the appropriate consent, and aspects of this application are therefore retrospective. We maintain that we do not support unauthorised works to listed buildings which may have an adverse impact on their appearance or character, without first acquiring the relevant consent.
BPT previously had strong concerns regarding proposals to fix suspended clothes hangers to the original plasterwork ceiling, and the resulting loss of historic fabric and the likelihood of added pressure on the ceiling to sustain significant amounts of weight. We are therefore pleased to see that this aspect of the scheme has been amended so that all hangers are either freestanding or fixed to the floor (which will likely “need to be replaced or over-boarded”).
However, we maintain strong concerns regarding the proposed installation of new suspended track lighting from the original plasterwork ceiling. The Proposed Reflected Ceiling Plan now indicates the location of the ceiling rosette in relation to the proposed lighting which more clearly illustrates that this fine area of decorative detailing would not be damaged. Nonetheless, we maintain that the installation of multiple, large lighting tracks would still require a number of fixings and would result in the irreversible loss of historic plasterwork, as well as added strain on the original lathe and plaster ceiling. We further highlight that no drawings or sections have been provided of the proposed fixings and how these would interact with the ceiling, as well as the mounting of any necessary cabling or connectors.
It may be prudent to try to reuse existing ceiling fixing points to minimise further loss of fabric, where this does not result in detrimental material or aesthetic impact on the special interest of the listed building. Further assessment of the viability of this measure is necessary.
There is a surprising lack of details regarding the proposed treatment and remedial works to internal features. From the photographs provided, the pilastered arches and lunettes and the adjacent chimney breast appear to be in poor condition but there is no methodology provided as to the scope and nature of repair works included as part of this application.
We maintain that it is difficult to assess the proposed scope of works to the back room, as the internal detailing and features in this room have been inadequately detailed as part of this application. We understand from our previous site visit that there are a number of fireplaces, as well as historic safes associated with the historic shop use of the building, present and therefore their retention and refurbishment should be included within the proposed scope of works.
The extent of the original plasterwork ceiling is additionally unclear, and further photographs and drawings ought to be included to document the back room and outline any potential conflicts with the proposed installation of the suspended lighting tracks. The proposed sections indicate the presence of an “existing decorative plaster coving” in both the front and back room, which precludes the possibility of a similar plasterwork treatment to the ceiling.
We note that the shopfront has already been repainted white, as proposed in the current application. We consider that the use of a single colour indiscriminately across the shopfront has unfortunately resulted in the original geometric detailing being obscured. This detailing had been enhanced by the previous Woods the Stationers colour scheme in which the geometric lines of the transom light had been picked out in a contrasting gold colour. As such, we consider that the proposed repainting of the shopfront would have a detrimental impact on the appearance of the shopfront and would result in a bland, blank exterior rather than appropriately accentuating the distinctive Art Deco features of the original shopfront design. We therefore strongly recommend that the geometric detailing of the transom light and plinth panels are picked out in a different, complementary colour.
We further note that there is a positive opportunity to strip the paint from the transom light to reveal the original fenestration of the shopfront and the original, designed height of the shopfront windows. We note that this would have the added benefit of improving natural light flow into the shop space and ‘lifting’ the perceived height of the room back to the original ceiling.
BPT resists the principle of illuminated signage. Bath is recognised as a low-illuminated city in which the maintained low levels of lighting complement the historic character and appearance of the city, and create a distinctive evening and night-time atmosphere. Therefore, the use of illuminated signage would be of detriment to the visual amenities of the Bath conservation area and the special qualities of the World Heritage site, and would be an over-dominant addition to the frontage of a listed building which would be of detriment to its special interest.
We maintain that the use of Perspex lettering is inappropriate within this context, and would fail to preserve or enhance the distinctive character and appearance of the conservation area. The use of plastic signage would result in a jarring visual contrast with the traditional material qualities of the listed building. Considering the prominent use of hand-lettered signage within the historic city centre, with a large number of positive examples present along Old Bond Street, we maintain a strong preference for hand-painted signage across the fascia. Where the use of individually-pinned lettering is appropriately justified, we maintain that traditional materials such as timber or high-quality metal with an appropriate finish should be used to ensure the signage is coherent with the appearance and material integrity of the listed building.
As proposed, this application constitutes an inappropriate, standardised signage intervention to the frontage of a listed building and a later shopfront of noted architectural and aesthetic value. We strongly recommend that a more bespoke approach is considered that better references the historic context and local distinctiveness of Bath’s commercial streetscape.
We maintain that this application as existing provides an inadequate level of information proportionate to the significance of a heritage asset, and as such we are unable to make a fully informed assessment of the proposed impact to historic fabric. We maintain that the treatment of the shopfront would result in harm to the special interest of a listed building and the wider grouped significance of multiple listed buildings and the conservation area. The cumulative impact of this application would therefore be of harm to a listed building and its contributions to local distinctiveness, would not preserve or enhance the appearance or character of the conservation area, and would be of harm to the special qualities of the World Heritage Site. As such, this application is contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings & Conservation Areas) Act 1990, Section 16 of the NPPF, and Policies B1, BD1, B4, CP6, D1, D2, D3, D8, and HE1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan and should therefore be refused or withdrawn.