Bath’s Western Riverside development

Shoppers to Sainsburys will have noticed a hive of building activity behind Homebase as developer Crest Nicholson Regeneration starts creating the road network and laying foundations for the first 800 of the 2,000 planned homes of Bath’s Riverside development between the Lower and Upper Bristol Roads.  The first phase will include 100 affordable and 199 private homes.  There will be a mixture of three and four bedroom terrace houses, and one, two and three bedroom apartments.  Somer Community Housing Trust have been awarded £6m to provide the 100 affordable homes. At least 48 homes are due to be finished by the end of the year and the first residents are expected to move in before Christmas.  The development will be using Bath stone sourced from Stoke Hill Mine at Limpley Stoke, with 1,500 tonnes ordered for the buildings currently underway.

The brownfield site covers the now derelict site formally occupied by the Stothert and Pitt engineering works and the old gas works.

 When Stothert & Pitt announced, in January 1989, the closure of its engineering works, 580 local people lost their jobs and the city of Bath lost its single largest manufacturer. For over 250 years the heavy engineering and metalworking business had employed local people (over 2,000 in 1945) and supplied a wide variety of products from bedsteads to boilers and cement mixers to cranes.  The history of Stothert & Pitt can be traced to 1785 when George Stothert moved to Bath to take over an ironmongery.  Robert Pitt joined the company in 1834 and was later made a partner in 1854.  By the mid 19th century Stothert & Pitt had developed an expertise in crane making, leading to the expansion of the company to the Victoria Works in the 1890’s.

 The name Stothert Avenue has been chosen by the developers for the main thoroughfare across the Western Riverside development situated on the site of the former Stothert and Pitt Factory; the road name is just one of the ways in which developers Crest Nicholson are honouring the site’s industrial heritage.  Bath’s Mayor Bryan Chalker has been a driving force behind a campaign to honour Bath’s industrial past; the mayoral theme for the year is industrial heritage and in his role as a heritage champion Mr Chalker is keen to see the names related to Bath’s industrial past, such as Stothert and Pitt and William Harbutt, the inventor of Plasticine, given the same importance as Aquae Sulis or John Wood.  Mr Chalker has worked with Museum of Bath at Work director Stuart Burroughs to produce a list of names that Crest Nicholson will be able to use for streets, buildings and park areas within the development and the former Belvoir Castle pub on the edge of the site has already been renamed the Victoria Works in recognition of its connection to Stothert and Pitt.     

A crane made by the firm is to provide a focal point at the entrance to Western Riverside.  Currently housed at the Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust Museum at Washford, the 25-tonne crane was built in 1908 and served at the Stothert and Pitt works before being moved to the Green Park locomotive depot.  The crane will be positioned at the entrance of the 2,000 home Western Riverside development.

 Part of Bath’s old gasworks was situated on this site.   The gasworks were served by the Midland and Somerset and Dorset railways.  By 1918 the works covered 12 acres, on both sides of the river.  In 1983 much of the works was pulled down.  The last gasometer can still be seen on the site. The gasometers had long been a telling sign of how much gas the city was using. At peak times, such as first thing in on a winter morning when people turn their heating on, the crown of the holder falls with increased consumption.  Stuart Burroughs from the Museum of Bath at Work told The Bath Chronicle at the time that the site had a proud history. He said: “It was one of the first works to make gas from coal when it opened in 1818 and when it stopped making gas from coal in 1971 it was one of the last. The coal used to be bought in on trains to Green Park Station.”

 The historic Victoria Bridge has formed part of the promotional material for the Western Riverside development.   Victoria Bridge, a Grade 2 listed structure, is an example of the work of Bath engineer James Dredge. It was built in 1836 and like the many other bridges he designed that are still in use all over the world it is a radical alternative to the established suspension bridge design.

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