A tale of two ceilings
Reconstructing Jacobean artistry at Bath Abbey
The chance discovery in a Bath pub of an intact Jacobean plaster ceiling with striking similarities to fragments unearthed below the floor of Bath Abbey has inspired Chris Hambleton to research these two enigmatic ceilings – and it all came about thanks to a trip to the chip shop.
For the Wessex Archaeology team excavating at Bath Abbey, Friday lunchtime would not be the same without a large bag of chips from the local chip shop, and as designated chip marshal, my key role was to order and collect these vital resources. While carrying out one such mission in late 2019, I happened to look up as I passed The Grapes on Westgate Street and noticed what looked like an intact Jacobean plaster ceiling. The Abbey excavations had revealed large quantities of Jacobean plasterwork in a demolition layer associated with Sir George Gilbert Scott’s renovations in the 1860s, and I thought it would be interesting to compare the pub ceiling with these fragments. The landlady, Ellie, was more than happy for me to take a closer look, and I was astonished to see identical design motifs to those on the Abbey finds, including lionhead masks, acanthus leaves, and rounded and pointed bosses. Intrigued, I have since been researching the two ceilings to try to uncover the history surrounding them.
LEFT The ornate 17th-century plaster ceiling of The Grapes, a pub in Bath, shows striking similarities to fragments from another Jacobean ceiling recently excavated at Bath Abbey.
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: Wessex A
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