Royal Victoria Park, Bath

Royal Crescent, from the park

In warmer weather, a pleasant stroll may be made to Royal Victoria Park, 10 minutes or so from the centre, past the Circus, where there is a chance to pick up one significant Victorian sculpture, and one work of classical antiquity, as well as the best view of the Royal Crescent.

Near the entrance, entirely ignored and with no plaque, denuded of its classical cover and thereby much corroded, is the once famous Batheaston Vase. It came from Cicero’s house, near Rome, and was taken to England in the 18th Century. Lady Miller, of Batheaston, near Bath, used the vase in parlour games: verses and rhymes were written, dropped in the vase, and extracted by Lady Miller’s younger female guests, who had to read them out. Those voted the best readers won prizes, and a collection of the verses were published in 1776. Lady Miller died young, aged just 41, and her monument may be seen in the Abbey.

The vase itself was described, in one account of around 100 years ago, thus:

A Roman urn sheltered by a stone fabric, still stands firmly on its pedestal, but not inviolate, in the Royal Victoria Park at Bath. Recently some Mohawks, of malice aforethought, attempted to overthrow it, and grievously injured the base of this curious and beautiful relic of antiquity… Carved in stone, this old Roman urn, with handles of twisted snakes, should endure for ages yet to come; the human figures are weather-worn, but a winged boy carrying a cup is less mutilated than the four or five others in relief. A large acanthus adorns nearly half of the surface, and the neck is surrounded by a chain of trefoil. Below it is a cable pattern, all in excellent preservation…

The Batheaston vase, as it used to be, and as it is today.

In the extension to the botanical gardens part is a large head of Jupiter, raised on a tall support some 12 or 15 ft off the ground, by a local man, John Osborne of Bath. Apparently also in the gardens is a Goddess of sculpture by him, or was some half century ago, but I could not find it despite questioning one of the gardeners.

Head of Jupiter, by John Osborne.

Also in the park is the 3-sided Victoria Obelisk, dating from 1837, commemorating the 18th birthday of the Queen. The monument itself bears her portrait, and there are two free-standing (seated, rather) rather lugubrious lions. I don’t know the sculptor, but the architect was a certain G. Manners. Nearby, two gates with small sphinxes on top, again anonymous.

Victoria obelisk

Other than that, one set of entrance gates to the park bears small carved figures of a lion and a bear, symbols of the town. We have already remarked on the fine view of the Royal Crescent (see top of page). The walk back to town can go via the Circus, a magnificent and complete Classical composition (pictured on the Classical style page).

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Victoria Art Gallery // Sculpture in central Bath // Bath Abbey

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