“You can see it from everywhere!” That was the reaction of two London-based friends on a visit to Bath some years back, when behind every scenic vista of golden, Georgian stone terraces and crescents lurked the gaunt metal framework of the ghastly gasholder.
“’Tis distance lends enchantment to the view,” wrote Scots versifier Thomas Campbell in The Pleasures of Hope (1799), a sentimental ditty he knocked out just a couple of years before he penned his great epic The Battle of Mad and Strange Turkish Princes.
“And robes the mountain,” he continued, “in its azure hue.”
|The Bath gasholder, trying to hide behind the trees. But failing.|
And few will shed a tear at its passing, although some may kick up a fuss if it’s replaced by bland, allegedly “Palladian” apartment blocks.
At a distance, the gasholder is an eyesore. Up close, it’s positively oppressive.
Between 1997 and 2008, The Bath Chronicle operated out of the squat and uncomfortable single-storey office building across the way. (The Western Daily Press used to send its out-of-favour reporters into exile there too.)
It was hardly surprising that there weren’t many visitors. The looming industrial ironwork and the delicate perfume of methyl mercaptan (the stuff they put in natural gas to make it smell) would have put anyone off.
Now the office block lies derelict too, its once proud corporate logo reduced either by random chance or a particularly inventive vandal to the phrase “Bat Chronic”. The present Chronicle Towers is a much more pleasant environment.
Redevelopment of the industrial wasteland that is Western Riverside is long overdue. But let’s hope they treat one part of it with respect: the war memorial in the driveway.
It commemorates employees of the Bath Gas Company, 11 of whom died in active service in the First World War and six in the Second, together with eight civilians who were killed in the Bath Blitz of April 1942.
This tribute to their sacrifice is already neglected and ignored. It would be a disgrace if it were to disappear entirely.