A couple of months back, when we hadn’t been open that long and every day was still crazy, a lovely bloke with a big bag of chips breezed into the pub to have a look at the ceiling upstairs.
He’d heard about it from colleagues and happened to be one of the conservators working on the Bath Abbey Footprint Project. It turned out they had found the remains of a similar ceiling in the floor of the Abbey during the conservation work and having found so many elements, wanted to check and see if our Jacobean ceiling might have been created by the same company of plasterers. The Abbey ceiling had collapsed in the mid C18th but even so, if the two ceiling were linked, it was an extremely rare find.
Conferring over the next couple of weeks it turned out some of the elements were identical and the search began to try to find the benefactor of both ceilings, though as you will see from the subsequent research that has been published on the Wessex Archeology blog , many benefactors were supporting the Abbey at the time the ceiling was constructed any time from 1602-1612.
It did help us find out more about our new home though and it is interesting to note that one of the first tenants of this house was the then Mayor of Bath, Richard Gaye. Having originally been built as a grand house that also included no’s 15 & 16 Westgate Street, the research t also cleared up some anomalies on the ceiling which are shields of double-headed eagles and heads that are certainly derived from the UK’s links to the tobacco industry, which had not been made in the Jacobean era. The researcher Chris Hambleton, conferred with his boss and we were told that almost certainly the shields had been added to the ceiling some 70-100 years after the original construction.
The double-headed eagle had most probably been added by a Dr Ostendorf of Austria who had resided in the house from the 1630’s onwards, who has a plaque in Bath Abbey and who we found out from Chris’s research, had paid for the whole of Westgate Street to be repaved when the level of the street’s across Bath rose. The good Dr was outlived by his widow who stayed on at the house for around thirty years after his death, so it could perhaps have been the lady of the house who had commissioned the additions to the ceiling.
One of the identifying features that linked the two ceilings were the lions heads, four of which surround each “jelly mould’ as I call them, which I hope makes sense from the picture above. It was a real thrill to get a present of one from the Bath Abbey ceiling from the team at Wessex Archaeology. We’re going to get it framed and put it up alongside an explanation of the link between the two ceilings and keep it in the room for everyone to enjoy.
They also made a pretty cool 3D image of one. Enjoy!