Chapel, Prior Park College, Ralph Allen Drive, Lyncombe, Bath
The Chapel to Prior Park College is a Grade I mid-18th century building, later modified to form the Church of St Paul by Joseph Scoles, situated within the Bath conservation area and World Heritage Site. It forms part of the grouped setting of the Grade I mid-18th century Prior Park College, formerly a manor house by John Wood the Elder for residence by Ralph Allen. The Chapel originally formed one of the service wings of the house to balance the retained eastern wing (also Grade I listed and used as school accommodation by Prior Park College) but was remodelled to form a church in the later 19th century. The building complex has since been separated from the Grade I Prior Park Landscape Gardens, now in ownership of the National Trust, but remains highly significant within the retained, sweeping views through the park both to and from the Grade I Palladian Bridge. The interconnected significance of the house and the designed landscape, formerly priory lands, remains critical, although the frontage of the central college building remains the principal focus of wider views, with both wings including the Chapel being set back on the slope and recessed behind thick tree cover.
BPT appreciates the public benefits of improved accessibility to the Chapel with the installation of a new ramp. We highlight that there is potential for the enhancement of significance through the improved accessibility and associated enjoyment of the heritage asset.
The use of natural vernacular materials such as Bath stone to clad the ramp’s retaining wall would ensure that the new addition sits more comfortably alongside the building, although we strongly recommend that detailed material specifications are provided as part of this application rather than secured through condition to clarify a complementary and recessive material appearance.
We note there is a positive opportunity for resurfacing works of existing pathways and the replacement of detrimental tarmac finishes, but again maintain the importance of securing further material specifications and colour of the proposed path finish as part of this application rather than a later condition.
BPT does not typically comment on internal changes without the benefit of a site visit. However, we do have some concerns about the proposed interaction of the new ramp with the steps and internal floor of a Grade I building. The proposed sections indicate the use of a “concrete sub-base” to create a level surface over the external steps and into the lobby. The stone steps are identified as of “Medium/High” significance within the Heritage Statement. The existing finish of the lobby floor is unclear but appears to be of a mixed stone treatment in the photographs provided. We therefore maintain that the creation of a concrete floor in this area would result in harm to historic fabric and to particular features of noted interest. There is additionally little information about how the proposed concrete sub-floor would interact with the doorway stonework, also identified as “Medium/High” significance.
Concrete is not compatible with the natural, breathable qualities of Bath stone and is a less reversible option which can cause permanent harm to historic fabric if removal was attempted in future. We therefore strongly recommend the consideration of more sympathetic material alternatives such as limecrete, or appropriate mitigation measures such as a protective or elevated layer between the existing floor and the proposed sub-floor.
Should works be permitted, we encourage that the floor and steps as existing are appropriately recorded before works commence to document their value and contribution to the wider significance of the Grade I building.