17th and 18th Centuries

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One of the more unexpected features to be uncovered during our excavations is a small stone bridge, probably constructed in the 1690s, which provided a crossing over the partially silted medieval ditch. The bridge was subsequently incorporated into a mid-18th-century culvert which ensured its survival beneath later developments.
 
During the 18th century, Bath was transformed from a provincial city into a fashionable spa. It was during this period that most of the neo-Classical architecture that contributed to Bath’s status as a World Heritage Site was constructed. Whilst the Bath Stone used in the construction of these buildings could be sourced from nearby quarries, other materials, such as sandstone for paving, lead, timber, slate, bricks and tiles, all had to be imported from outside the area. Unfortunately, the construction of mills on the Avon during the medieval period prevented its use as a navigable watercourse. As a result, the only method of transporting goods into or out of the city were steep and poorly maintained roads. This was clearly not an ideal situation, which was eventually remedied by the construction of the Avon Navigation in the 1720s. As part of this development, a new quayside, known as Broad Quay, was constructed at the eastern end of the site, which provided a focus for subsequent development along the riverside. 
 
During the 1730s, a new road, Avon Street, was laid out between Kingsmead Square and the river. By the late 1750s, Avon Street was fully developed, with well-built houses that were primarily designed as lodgings for the city’s wealthy visitors. The proximity of the busy quay and competition from more fashionable developments in the north of the city soon led to a decline in the area’s status, and by the late 18th century the street had already acquired a less than salubrious reputation. By this date, the whole area around Avon Street and the quay had been infilled with streets of densely packed houses and industrial premises. In addition to the cheap lodging houses, brothels and tenement blocks that characterised the area during this period, our excavations have uncovered well-preserved remains of a parchments works, and the Duke of York beer house – one of the many taverns that once surrounded the quayside.
 
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Images:
18th-century tennements and warehouses along New Quay, c 1930 (courtesy of Bath in Time)
Excavating Little Corn Street 
Excavating lime pits within an 18th century parchment works
Stone footbridge, probably constructed in the 1690s