Batheaston Village

The Parish of Batheaston is bounded on the South side mainly by the River Avon, the West side by the A46 Gloucester Road, and the East side by Morris Lane and the Bannerdown Road. It encompasses Little Solsbury Hill to the West, much of Charmydown, to the North, and Bannerdown to the East. It has been suggested that some or all of these hills should be included in the count that gives Bath its seven hills, like those of Rome.

St Catherine’s Brook, which drains down to the River Avon, runs down the centre. The main London Road crosses that stream at Stambridge (Stone Bridge); that area is now known as the Fiveways junction and evidence of the bridge has been lost under the modern tarmacing. The lower levels of the brook are in the flood plain, and the river regularly covers the lower reaches of the car park and the footpath alongside the river.

The area has been occupied since at least Neolithic times-for over 4000 years-and there were Bronze Age barrows on Charmydown (obliterated when a Spitfire Airfield was established in 1940 to defend Bristol) On the top of Little Solsbury (named after the goddess Sul), there is an Iron Age fort.

It was reputed to be the home of Prince Bladud who discovered the curative powers of the warm springs in Bath. When king, he was killed and parts of his body rolled down Solsbury giving rise to some interestingly named pubs in Swainswick.

There was certainly a village established here in Saxon times – named East Tun meaning the Settlement in the East – and the Romans had already built two roads through the village crossing at Stambridge, the London to Bristol road and the Fosse Way from Exeter to Lincoln. It is believed that this Fosse Way followed the old A4 trunk road through to, then along, Morris Lane then went up Bannerdown Road towards Cirencester. The Parish of St Catherine was associated with Batheaston and their two Churches were interlinked – as they are to this day.

The entry in the Domesday Book is detailed with counts of all cattle etc. Naturally the centre of the village was built around its church; the present building of St.John the Baptist was started in 1262 on the site of a previous place of worship. Both St John’s and St Catherine’s were administered from Bath, and the monks there are supposed to have built a Monks’ Causeway of stone slabs all the way from St. Catherine’s to Bath Abbey. Only some very short sections of this Causeway now exist: at the Batch and from Eagle House in Northend up to New House Farm, Upper Northend.

Batheaston enjoys two other denominational Churches. The Methodist Church in Northend (re-built in 1876) was established some time in 1796. The Roman Catholic Church replaced a wooden hut of 1948 by the (somewhat innovative) church built in 1967. The Congregational Church was established in 1868 and their building was completed in 1871; but the Church closed in April 2002.

Because of the closeness to Bath, the easy access by the main road, the railway station at Bathford (closed after the War) and the tram system which ran through Batheaston to Bathford homes were established here for Bath commuters. The considerable Housing Estate was started in 1948 and a third of the village now lives there – some residents remain from those early days.

There were further developments up Bannerdown Hill and off Northend. The Village now comprises four distinct locales,The High Street (including London Road East and West), Northend, the Estate and Bannerdown. Some of the properties date back many years, predating the Georgian/Regency development of Bath, and are now priced in millions of pounds.

Much of the Village remains rural, within the Green Belt, and the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Despite Bath being the source of the most employment, there is resistance to being administratively absorbed into the City.

As can be seen from the map of footpaths included in this pack, acreage is about 1800 acres, mostly in small agricultural holdings.

The population is some 2,600 with over 2,000 electors. There are over 1,100 homes in the village. It is one of the largest in the Unitary Authority of Bath & North East Somerset, and for local electoral purposes is partnered with Bathford, Bathampton, Swainswick and St Catherine as Bathavon North

It forms part of the Bath constituency; the current MP Don Foster lives in Batheaston.

The Parish Council has 15 Councillors elected every four years. It is one of 8,000 Councils in England and is NOT affiliated to any Church. Since 1894 it has been an elected “voice” of the local people, and is heir to one of the oldest systems of government established over the last 1000 years.

There has been schooling in this village from at least 1789. A “Sunday School” employed a succession of teachers in various rooms until the first “National School” building – a one room affair – was constructed in the churchyard in 1818. In 1834 it was enlarged by an upper storey as it was decided that girls should also be taught.

In 1837 there were 49 school weeks for 34 attendees. By 1840 the numbers had increased to 46 and the building could not accommodate further increases. In 1851 there were 324 potential ‘scholars’ out of a child population of 397, though some attended other establishments (there were 15 ‘schoolmistresses’ in the village). Expansion into the churchyard was not desirable, nor possible, and the present school was started in 1858 at the bottom of School Lane.

The ‘old’ School was demolished but the gateway still remains in the churchyard wall -with an appropriate plaque erected by the Batheaston Society. The School remains a CEVC (Church of England Voluntary Controlled*) school and has over 200 pupils from 4 to 11 years old. Most move on to secondary education in Bath.

*[The ‘control’ of admission is by the Local Education Authority – management is shared between the LEA and the Church.

Batheaston lay for many years on the main route from London to Bristol via Bath. These roads carried wagons and stagecoaches and then, as the A4 trunk road, heavy goods traffic, right through the heart of the village

For some 75 years there were campaigns to by-pass Batheaston. The Swainswick and Batheaston Bypasses were eventually opened in 1997 (at a combined cost of £75 millions)

Regrettably, a small part of this spend, intended for traffic calming – to complete the exercise – was devolved to the Local Authority at a time of re-organisation, and “lost”. Traffic calming has yet to be implemented fully.

Consequently, the removal of slow heavy goods vehicles has released the road to fast “rat-runners”, which now use the High Street as a short cut. The Parish Council has created 20mph zones here, and across most of the Village, with various traffic-calming measures.

Some 13% of adult families have no car, but there is a relatively frequent daytime bus service into Bath and Bathford; there is, however, scope for improvement in late-night services

For many years, agriculture remained the major employment in the area. Five mills were built: – one on St Catherine’s brook (now a home off School Lane), two at the Toll Bridge (both now restaurants) one at Bathford (now making quality paper) and one in Oakford Lane. There is no separate listing of all the shops and industries in Batheaston, but some 90 have been recognised by the planning Authority. Some are listed in this Pack. Sadly the proximity of Bath and its supermarkets has led to the closure of many small shops, but the village is still well served with the essential services

The Parish of St Catherine, centred on the Church and the Elizabethan grange (“The Court”), was administratively split from Batheaston in the 1700s but it remains in the same church parish. There is still a fierce independence, and the “Meeting” of St Catherine’s does not wish to become subsumed into the Parish Council of Batheaston.

The Court is a very fine example of Elizabethan construction. It currently has a well-known owner who, from time to time, opens it for local entertainment and for charitable causes. Locked within its grounds, however, the tiny church – which can seat only 60 bodies – is open to the public.

There is a very comprehensive history of the village compiled and produced by Dr. B M Willmott Dobbie – who died recently – entitled “An English Rural Community”.

Some copies are still available from St John’s Church;

it is recommended reading for its copious detail and insight into this attractive area.