The History of the Holburne Collection
The Museum Building: The Sydney Hotel
Since 1916 the Museum has been housed in the former Sydney Hotel at the end of Great Pulteney Street. The original design for the Hotel, prepared by Thomas Baldwin in 1794, was a two-storey building which would serve the pleasure gardens laid out by Baldwin beyond. These gardens still survive and are the only remaining eighteenth-century pleasure gardens in the country. Owing to the failure of the Bath Bank, Baldwin was bankrupted, and his design for the hotel was never implemented. Instead a three-storey building was designed by Charles Harcourt Masters. The foundation stone was laid on 16 November 1796 and the building was ready for use in the summer of 1799 (A296). Visitors entered the gardens through the Hotel (J250). Projecting from the rear of the building at first floor level was a conservatory and a semi-circular Orchestra with a wide covered loggia below. Two semi-circular rows of supper boxes projected from the sides of the building (1997.2, 1995.6). The gardens were used daily for promenades and public breakfasts. At public breakfasts tea, coffee, rolls and Sally Lunns were served at about midday, followed by dancing. There were generally three evening galas each summer, usually on the birthdays of George III (4 June) and the Prince of Wales (12 August) and in July to coincide with the Bath races. During these galas the gardens were lit with thousands of lamps and the guests enjoyed supper accompanied by music and fireworks. Breakfasts, coffee-drinking, newspaper–reading and card-playing all took place in the ground floor of the Hotel and there was a ballroom on the first floor. All the rooms could be hired for private parties and meetings. In 1836 the Hotel was changed into a private lodging house and an extra storey of bedrooms was built on top (1992.4). From 1853 until 1880, the building was let to the Bath Proprietary College. In 1891 the original 99-year lease of Sydney Gardens expired and its financial affairs had to be wound up. The Hotel and Gardens was then sold. The building remained empty and derelict until 1913 when it was acquired by the trustees of the Holburne of Menstrie Museum. Sir Reginald Blomfield was appointed to carry out the extensive restoration and alterations necessary to render the building suitable for Museum purposes. The new museum opened to the public on 6 June 1916.