We were delighted to take a group of Bath High alumnae to Hope House, former home to Bath High and subsequently the Royal High Junior school, for a tour of the new development.
We all know what parking in Bath is like so we had invited our guests to gather at the Prep School where we all piled onto school minibuses for the short drive to Hope House, ‘just like a school trip’ as one of the alumnae commented. Instantly the chatter and memories began to flow amongst the ladies, who barely paused for breath as they were safely ushered into the front hall of Hope House from a notoriously precarious stretch of road, which is currently without a pavement!
Before long, with protective shoe coverings donned (very important – deep cream carpets throughout!), we were all gathered around a large-scale model listening to a presentation from the Regional Sales Manager for Acorn Properties, about their vision for the future of the site as a whole, as well as progress on the development so far. Clearly, no expense has been spared in transforming Hope House itself into four luxury apartments both modern in style whilst preserving nearly all of the period features. One guest was quick to observe the addition of steps into all rooms adjoining the hall, which was explained by the installation of underfloor heating in all rooms except the hall where the developers had not wished to disturb the original flooring.
Time was then spent looking around the show apartment from where we had wonderful views of the grounds and the wider development. Whilst the grounds are still a building site, there was a collective sigh of relief that favourite trees of yore continue to stand, proud and unscathed within their changing surroundings. There was much discussion of which room had become what and which wall/door had been moved where, with a little of something between consternation and amusement that the Head’s study had become part walk-in closet and part lavatory!
Soon it was time to return to Cranwell House where a very welcome cup of tea awaited us with WO1 Andy Bannister, RLC, the army’s lead on the removal of the WWII bomb from the grounds of Hope House during the early stages of the development. Andy gave a fascinating, eye-opening and very enjoyable presentation on the conundrum he was presented with in May 2016, much of which was more than surprising for the alumnae to hear as they learnt exactly what had been resting beneath their very feet for so many years.
Andy gave us a little history by way of background and explained that it is thought the bomb would have been dropped on 25th April 1942 during the Baedeker raids and would have been buried by the land dislodged by a neighbouring bomb, which created the bomb crater that is so well known to Hope House old girls and staff. Weighing 500 kg (yes that is kg and not lbs!), upended the bomb would stand at the shoulder height of an average adult and if detonated would have an impact nearly 2 km away – not an easy problem to solve so close to the centre of the City of Bath, World Heritage Site! All in all Andy told a tale that was not only an exemplary example of cooperation between the police, local authorities and military but one that demonstrated sound judgement, risk assessment and decision making in the face of a huge challenge – even if the local residents were rather impatient and the amateur press got in the way!
The Prep Schools’ Choir, who serenaded our guests from the main stairs in Cranwell House, then brought the afternoon to a close. They sang absolutely beautifully, and I daresay bought a tear to the eye of many of the visiting alumnae as the digested their afternoon of memories and revelations.