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Persephone book no:

The Sack of Bath

by Adam Fergusson

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Redevelopment behind Kingsmead Square, pp.14-15

ISBN 9781903155837

The Sack of Bath is a fierce and angry polemic. Through words and photographs it is unashamedly outspoken, outraged and vituperative. The reason for the anger is as follows: in the 1960s local council officials in Bath took it upon them themselves to draw up plans to demolish large swathes of artisan housing while retaining the set pieces such as the Royal Crescent. As a result, hundreds of small Georgian houses, of the kind that it is nowadays everyone’s dream to live in, were brutally bulldozed. Adam Fergusson (with the late James Lees-Milne) wrote an article in The Times about what was happening and then turned it into a book. This had the benefit of distressing and poignant photographs by, among others, Snowdon, EL Green-Armytage and David Wood (it is impossible, now, to be certain who took which photograph: all were giving their services pro bono). This is a short, 80 page book – but every page is illustrated.

Here is the first sentence of Adam Fergusson’s new Persephone Preface: ‘The Sack of Bath was the product of the collective cultural blindness of those who ran Bath four decades ago, and of the simmering, bursting indignation of those who cared about it.’ He continues: ‘The Sack of Bath’s publication in 1973 was the culmination of an already prolonged effort to lever the progressive destruction of Bath’s Georgian character into the popular consciousness. If it came too late to save much, it was in time to save a great deal more – and not only in one city.’ And it is true, the book had a much wider effect than the purely local, for example the fight to save Covent Garden was helped by Adam Fergusson's rage. So it is an important book and an influential one, which is in many respects as relevant nowadays as when it was first published nearly forty years ago.


'The Stones of Bath' 1962, a textile designed by John Piper for Sanderson and Son.  

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