Clockwise from top left: Song School, the front of Kingston Buildings, the Learning Centre, the new offices.
Project Director, Nathan Ward, gives an update on the progress of the Footprint Project.
Following handover of the S Aisle and south side of the Nave in March, there has been good progress since the resumption of site activity on 27th April. Although there has been slower progress due to the coronavirus working restrictions, the final ledger stones were lifted last week and are being repaired ready for re-laying in the autumn. We are currently excavating the South aisle, uncovering the carved footings of the Norman Abbey and a large collection of beautifully carved marble memorials, unceremoniously discarded during the Victorian renovations of 18.
The Jackson extension is an early 20th century addition to the Abbey, which will soon house the Abbey shop and new Discovery Centre. This new space beneath the shop is currently being excavated, where we have found some exciting archaeology including medieval, Georgian and Victorian structures. Work is continuing over the remainder of this year to allow the interpretation fit-out in the summer of 2021.
The Vaults and Kingston Buildings
Work is progressing well within the vaults beneath Kingston Parade. These areas will become the new Learning Space, kitchen and WCs. The historic vaults have been opened up to create the new spaces and we now have a real sense of how these rooms will look and feel.
Kingston Buildings, the row of Georgian terraced houses adjacent to the Abbey, is being transformed into the new Song School, volunteers’ room and staff offices, and we are progressing with the full fit-out of these spaces ready for occupation by the end of 2020.
The Abbey’s new heating system, which uses energy from Bath’s famous hot springs, is one of the most exciting parts of the Footprint Project. We are preparing the final details for the installation of the new heat exchangers to the Roman Great Drain, 7m below York Street. This innovative system will use a series of energy blades to draw energy from the natural hot spring waters that flow from the Roman Baths towards the river, ensuring that we have a sustainable and efficient method of heating the Abbey. We have been laying more pipework outside the Abbey and the new plant room is complete. When we install the heat exchangers at the end of the building contract, the Abbey will receive around 50% of its energy from a renewable source, which is a fantastic environmentally friendly use of this natural resource.
At the same time, we are continuing to upgrade the Abbey lighting with energy efficient LED fittings, along with new electrical and data services to ensure we maximise the flexibility of the Abbey floor for future events, concerts and presentations.
In these challenging times, there is increasing pressure on the remaining project budgets. We are focusing on a renewed fundraising strategy and reviewing cost savings where we can. The success of our fundraising will enable us to deliver the project to plan and fully develop all opportunities for community, school and visitor engagement.
If you are able to support Footprint with a monetary gift, your donation will be very gratefully received – and doubled by the Brownsword Matchfund, making twice the impact! Please visit the Footprint Donation page on the Abbey website to make your donation (www.bathabbey.org/donations/footprint) or post a cheque made out to ‘Bath Abbey Footprint’ to the Abbey Office.