Historic covering sett to return
Wonderful Mediterranean nights walking across warm cobblestones, patterned Scandinavian squares in winter. Latin quarters, street festivals and markets, evocative and unique streets the world over. Then there is our truly beautiful city of Bath ... which mostly has asphalt under foot. Fair enough for the main through roads but what about the smaller streets?
Bath has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List for 25 years. It's as rare and wonderful as Venice because the UNESCO designation applies to pretty much the complete city not just sections of it.
So we live in a Palladian architectural treasure. But one authentic element of this heritage continues to be eroded even though it's still there just below the surface. Recent road works revealed the sett stones (often called cobblestones) beneath Burlington Street and little Gloucester Street opposite.
For example there are substantial setts in Portland Place, Rivers Street, Rivers Street Mews, Catherine Square and also Russell Street, occasionally punched through with road works but still largely intact.
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It is the same story for so many other streets in the Georgian city. The sett stones of Bath are not weedy cubes they are high-quality, large, well-shaped and flat topped. An individual reclaimed sett can cost about £5 and there are many many thousands of them. They should not be lost forever.
In any process of renewal they may easily pay for themselves. There is the green option of removing old asphalt and sending it off for recycling, but much more important are the long-term savings because setts are the ultimate in being pothole free.
This year a huge amount has been set aside for a national programme of pothole repairs. Recent cold winters in Bath have led to some hilarious patchworks of asphalt repairs which in turn have to be repaired again and again. I've included a picture of my favourite Georgian intersection, which reflects the real repetitive costs of "making good". Restored streets lend themselves to higher property prices and increased business turnovers.
As all the new and old service industries have ever-expanding road works programmes the history beneath our feet will continue to be lost, unless the issue is addressed now and time is running out.
What about a pilot programme to restore three or four streets a year, building up the expertise and enforcing a rule that after any new road works the setts are properly relaid. In Bath there remains a handful of old streets, and of course the setts in Royal Crescent represent a gold standard. So why cannot this gold standard be set elsewhere?
STEPHEN ANGEL Whitley