Abbey Hotel, 1 North Parade, City Centre
1 North Parade is a Grade II early 19th century building, formerly a townhouse with a later shop at ground floor that has now been merged into Abbey Hotel Bath, situated within the commercial core of the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. It forms part of the streetscape setting of a high concentration of Grade II* buildings along North Parade and Grade II buildings along Terrace Walk. The focus of this application is on the unusual subterranean vaults that connect the building with the Grade II Parade Gardens, public gardens established from the beginning of the 18th century and consolidated as Orange Grove in 1734. The vaults form part of the layered levels of the city, setting North Parade up and back from the river but these allowed for privatised access to the sunken Parade Gardens, level with the river edge. Unusually, the vaults are indicated to have had a more direct residential function to allow residents to move from the house to the gardens via a direct passageway accessed from the main building’s stairwell. 1 North Parade’s connecting door to the gardens has since been blocked, but examples of doorways remain in the northern retaining wall with glazed fanlights, indicating a more polite function and likely immediate use by residents rather than servants.
We maintain our opposition to works to listed buildings that go ahead without first securing the appropriate listed building consent.
The vaults are currently fitted with a homemade polyurethane and plywood drylining system with a fibreglass ‘stone effect’ skin, and in some vaults a “Vandex render treatment”, although this more likely refers to a cementitious waterproofing slurry.
In principle, we object to the use of cementitious tanking within historic buildings. These impermeable materials do not allow the permeable traditional building fabric to breath or moisture to pass through; thus, moisture is displaced or trapped and frequently this can lead to problems elsewhere. In addition, these approaches have a short life span and are known to fail over the passage of time, but can result in irreversible damage to historic fabric when removed. We are additionally concerned with the fitting of a homemade drylining system of which the effectiveness of mitigating damp ingress, and the impact on historic fabric, are unknown. The ‘stone effect’ finish is inappropriate and harmful to the material integrity of a listed building.
We strongly recommend that all unpermitted insertions are removed as part of this application. Where possible, the Vandex system should be removed to prevent further detrimental harm to historic fabric.
We are therefore concerned regarding the proposed retention of the existing system in Vaults 7-15, with the plastering over of the ‘stone effect’ skin to improve its unsympathetic appearance, without reference to appropriate inspection or condition assessment. We maintain that the effects of this type of drylining on historic fabric or its effectiveness are unknown, with no mention of incorporated drainage to remove water. Inspection of the existing drylining and ongoing water ingress has been limited to Vault 3 where the system remains accessible; the results of this indicate an issue with ongoing water penetration through the vault crown, but this is assumed to be the case throughout all of the vaults without further relevant investigation works. We consider that this is not an acceptable solution to address the long-term issues faced by these vaults and emphasise the need for appropriate works to reverse the harm already caused as best as possible.
We strongly recommend that an assessment of the vault stonework, once uncovered, is required to fully comprehend the extent of the reportedly ongoing water ingress, and consequently justify the fitting of a new cavity membrane system.
There is some evidence provided within the Heritage Statement of the fitting of dados and matchboarding, as well as plastering over of stonework, pre-1940s. Due to the unusual, residential associations of these vaults as access to the gardens, it may be considered that a similar internal decorative treatment may be considered acceptable, albeit it remains unclear as to the extent of this type of treatment and does not consider the possibility of a dual service use in vaults set back from the main access passage. Figure 21 directly references the removal of plaster from the basement “front room”, which includes a window, and the “back room”, which suggests a more polite room treatment on those vaults directly adjacent to, and accessible from, Parade Gardens.
We suggest further information is provided regarding the full extent of the proposed fitting of wainscoting and the reasons for doing so. The vaults appear to serve a variety of unspecified uses, in part associated with the service areas of the Abbey Hotel (Vaults 1-3). We maintain some concerns that possible aesthetic reasons for the proposed fitting works could indicate an intention for the habitable use of the vaults. Whilst these vaults may have had a more directly residential or polite function historically, exacerbation of conditions such as increased water ingress and poor ventilation mean that the vaults are no longer suitable for this type of use. A more immediate use, such as creation of further bedrooms or amenity spaces for guests would place the vaults under increased pressure for further invasive measures to manage the damp conditions, with further harm to the special architectural and historic interest of a listed building.