Century Casino, 6 Sawclose, City Centre, Bath
6 Sawclose is a Grade II building, indicated to potentially be mid- to late 17th century, situated within the historic centre of the Bath Conservation Area and World Heritage Site. It forms part of the newer Sawclose public realm which was completed in 2018, but can be cartographically identified as part of the mid-18th century Saw Close cattle market. It forms part of the setting of a high-significance cluster of Grade II* buildings including the Theatre Royal and Beau Nash’s house. The building remains unusual in form and use of materials with an external elevation in rubble stone with ashlar dressings, in contrast with Bath’s more typical, formalised use of Bath stone ashlar, which dates it in accordance with other examples of Bath’s surviving pre-18th century history in areas such as Abbey Green and North Parade Passage.
6 Sawclose’s ground floor has “former late Victorian pub frontages” (Historic England), incorporating elaborate detailing such as fluted Corinthian pilasters framing the windows and doors (on the west elevation, these also indicate an earlier doorway which has since been blocked up and turned into a casement window). The frontage as existing is therefore attributed evidential significance as part of the building’s narrative of use through the 19th century, and positively contributes to the eclectic mix of shopfront treatments and ‘vernacular’ styles present throughout the conservation area whilst enforcing common principles such as traditional use of materials, signage design, and colour palette.
Due to the building’s location within the commercial centre of the Bath conservation area, and retained use of traditional shop front vernacular, the shop frontage is expected to comply with relevant guidance regarding the appropriate use of materials, colours, and a lack of illuminated signage, in keeping with the wider historic character of the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site.
The proposed repainting of the shopfront in an “off-black” is contextually acceptable; we generally recommend that colours such as pure black are avoided as these can be too stark or jarring against the natural Bath stone palette of the conservation area. The use of a matte finish rather than gloss to avoid an overly reflective or shiny appearance would be the appropriate finish for a historic building.
The retention and repainting of the existing hanging sign is considered to be acceptable (as per the above recommendations).
Further details would be helpful regarding the proposed replacement aluminium-framed doors to ensure that these are of an appropriate finish and appearance in keeping with the building frontage and the wider conservation area (eg. will the frames be finished to match the shop front in colour?).
The proposed installation of acrylic, internally illuminated signage would be of detriment to the special architectural and historic of a listed building and the wider character and appearance of the conservation area, and should be resisted. The use of overtly contemporary materials such as acrylic is not compatible with the material palette and appearance of the listed building and the traditional shopfront character of the city centre. Acrylic lettering would therefore result in a jarring visual contrast with the attractive qualities of the historic shopfront and the wider appearance of the building.
The use of hand-lettered painted signage is a more traditional alternative that reinforces the visual amenities of the conservation area, as has already been used on this shop front when occupied as the Century Casino and is encouraged.
BPT has strong heritage concerns regarding to the principle of illuminated signage where this would be of detriment to the special interest of a listed building and harm Bath’s locally distinctive low-illumination character and appearance. Considering the character of Sawclose as a popular pedestrian thoroughfare and public space with a busy evening/night time economy, we do not consider that the use of illuminated signage would be commercially necessary and as such harm would fail to be outweighed by demonstrated public benefit.
The proposed signage would not preserve or enhance the appearance or character of the conservation area, and is therefore contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, section 16 of the NPPF, and Policies B1, BD1, CP6, D1, D2, D8, D9, and HE1 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, and should be refused or withdrawn.