Formalities aside, it was a great day and I was very touched and proud to have been involved in the project . The weather was pretty glorious on the day – so the glazing appeared at its very best., reflecting perfectly off the pool surface and creating the most beautiful backdrop for the day’s events. Positive comments all round was a great sign that the project had been a collaborative & creative success. A massive thanks to Art at the Heart and especially to the efforts of Hetty Dupays, Art and Design Manager and her brilliant team.
There are many threads of research and interest which have influenced the development and visual narrative of the artwork. The following notes and lists are from my own notebooks, where I made records of research sessions and information which struck me as inspirational.
The Mineral Water Hospital, affectionately known as The Min, was built in 1742 & overlooked open, ‘quiet fields’ and countryside. The Hospital was constructed on the site of Bath’s first Theatre of 1705, by the Architect George Trim, whose Mother was, apparently the sister of the Kings Architect, Inigo Jones. The theatre was demolished 1738.
This theatrical & dramatic connection has influenced the concept of using the glazed Hydrotherapy screens as inspirational painted backdrops – a way of creatively setting the scene within the new space & enhancing the experience of staff and patients using the Pool.
In 1859, with great ceremony, the foundation stone was laid for a new hospital building adjacent to the original site and built upon the grounds of a ‘large formal garden belonging to the Parsonage of St Peter Paul Parish’. This garden is shown on the John Speed map of 1610.
The new Royal United Hospital was built in open fields at Combe Park in 1932 (having moved from central Bath). Combe Park had formerly been the site of the Bath War Hospital built in 1916 to provide beds and medical services for WW1 Casualties. There was a small pond and a stream ran nearby. Patients and staff were encouraged to grow and maintain flower gardens & were rewarded with prizes.
In the Building Report on The Mineral Water Hospital, by The House Historians, March 2006, there is a detailed report on The Chapel, (now the home of Bath Medical Museum)and its architectural decorations.
This mentions a number of plants seen in carvings, stained glass and other architectural details, which are wonderfully useful in referencing the legacy of The Min, when it finally closes its doors to move to the RUH site:
Colour and pattern used within the stained glass is also influential. Patterns are influenced by the architectural decoration and tiling of The Min Chapel.
Various hydrotherapy treatments, methods and equipment as described as being newly installed in 1915 following extensive alterations, are also very evocative and inspire some abstract interpretation within my creative narrative.
Aix and Vichy Douches
Scotch and Needle Douches
Reclining and Vapour Baths
Radiant Heat Baths
Sulpher Baths of Potassium Sulphide
Mineral Water Baths
Hubbard Tank to treat the entire body simultaneously
‘A Vichy Massage required the patient to stand on a rubber covered slab whilst showered with jets of hot mineral water. The needle bath was a circular shower with an array of horizontal pipes which sprayed fine jets of water’.
Descriptions of the Coat of Arms for the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases – to give The Min its formal & proper title, is a useful source of colour references, decorative motifs, plants, animals and their meaning.
White for truth, sincerity, peace, innocence and purity
Circlet of Fountains
I like the colour of evening sky, that particular shade of indigo blue.
Water is by turns fluid and abstract, vaporous & ephemeral, contained within many shapes – rivers, ponds, streams, pools, baths, glasses & oceans – any number of vessels.
My creative approach is making connections between place & historic legacy, hydrotherapy practice and an imaginary landscape, which may be conjured up whilst being treated in the pool & feeling the benefits of floating & exercising, whilst being supported by warm water and the care and assistance and encouragement of staff.
‘This hospital was to be entirely self-funded, and even before the hospital was built the raising of monies for it began in earnest. Bath’s Master of Ceremonies, Richard Beau Nash arranged balls and collected subscriptions; wills, donations and even bequests of a diamond, and 1,000 oranges, contributed to the coffers. The list of donors reads like a Who’s Who of 18th century Bath society. Those who donated £40 or more were invited to become a hospital governor, including the artist William Hoare and the actor David Garrick’.
This Estate Map above – date unknown – shows the private estate of Weston Manor before the RUH incorporated it into its site in the 20th Century.
‘The hospital moved to its present site, Combe Park, on 11 December 1932. The site had previously been used for the large First World War Bath War Hospital which opened in 1916. In November 1919 it was renamed the Bath Ministry of Pensions Hospital, which it remained until it closed in 1929.
The site was also used by the Forbes Fraser Hospital and the Bath and Wessex Orthopaedic Hospital, both founded in 1924 and which merged into the RUH about 1980. The former manor house on the site, originally medieval but remodelled in the 18th century, became an administrative building. The building is a Grade II* listed building due to its fine Adam style interior’. Wikipedia
I was commissioned by Art at the Heart of the RUHin December 2017 to create artwork in response to the architectural glazing in the Hydrotherapy Pool room at the new Therapies Centre for the Royal United Hospital, Bath. These architectural glass panels are floor to ceiling glazed apertures with a combined 46.40 sq m of glass. I am working in collaboration with PROTO GLASS STUDIOS, Architectural Glass Decorators.
The project is being delivered by Kier Construction Ltd with Architects IBI Group
We have also been engaged with a large group of stakeholders, including staff and service users, some of whom have been are lifelong patients at the RNHRD & RUH. This is an ongoing process and we are taking everyone on the journey with us.
“Flow is active. It is not just the water, but it is the way our muscles are warmed and released, allowing blood to flow more freely. It is the freedom from stiffness of joints, when even a centimetre gained is a big triumph. It is active horizontally and not vertically. My spine is fully arthrosed and I cannot turn my head. This is a fundamental problem for AS patients and one of the big exercises in the pool and the gym is trying to turn and look over your shoulder without moving your body. That is flow. It is horizontal”. George Odam RNHRD Lifelong Patient with Ankylosing spondylitis (AS), speaking about his personal journey and experience of hydrotherapy treatment in 2017.
The new RNHRD and BTC will be built close to the main entrance of the Royal United Hospital or RUH; it will be an outpatient centre providing treatment, care and education for patients to recover from episodes of illness or injury, or to manage their long-term condition. The new building will house many of the services currently located at the RNHRD (also known as The Mineral Hospital/ The Min) and the existing RUH therapies and pain management services located in RUH North, under one roof. The Centre will create a centralised and integrated space for staff to work collaboratively, delivering a holistic and patient-centred approach to care.
The Min, as the RNHRD is affectionately known, has a small Medical Museum situated in the Old Chapel. It is a fascinating collection and curated and managed by a small group of dedicated and enthusiastic people, who allowed me access to the photographic Archives. This was very much appreciated.
‘In 2012 the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases [The Mineral Hospital] opened a small museum to showcase their collection. Now, with the imminent closure of the hospital in the centre of Bath, our museum has been granted custody of the Collection of the Min, which includes records dating back to the 1740s, artefacts, the paintings and other pieces of art from around the Hospital, memorabilia, and photographs relating to rheumatology, medicine and pharmacy’.