'Revitalise Sydney Gardens as a beautiful Pleasure Garden with peaceful and tranquil spaces, that achieves a renaissance as a unique, fun and restorative environment, for all ages; - its remarkable built and natural heritage, people and events, told and experienced in witty and eclectic ways.'
Background of the Sydney Gardens project
The Sydney Gardens restoration project is a partnership between our Parks Team, The Friends of Sydney Gardens, local residents’ groups and the Holburne Museum.
In 2017, the partnership secured £332,000 to develop a detailed restoration plan for Sydney Gardens from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Following a public consultation period, we were successful in our Round 2 bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund in February 2019, receiving a grant of £2.7m. We have received a total of £3.4m in funding to improve the historic park.
Our restoration project in Sydney Gardens is taking place from February 2019 to December 2022. You can read the announcement about the funding on the Heritage Fund website.
Select a topic below to find out more about the project timeline, our design plans, access learning resources and more.
We are using the funding to restore historic buildings, invest in landscape and garden restoration works and create new play areas for all ages.
Alongside the works, we are organising a programme of events and activities around art, nature, horticulture, wildlife, play, sport, archaeology and history; celebrating the fascinating history of the gardens.
We started the delivery phase of the project on 1 February 2019, which has developed as follows:
- 2019: Detailed technical design, programming of works, with public events, activities, training and volunteering.
- 2020 to 21: Delivery of restoration, building works and landscaping, volunteering, and designing interpretation
- 2022: Continued delivery of the restoration and build with accompanying volunteer and training programme, activities and partnership events
- December 2022: Closure of the project
We submitted the original planning application for the restoration of Sydney Gardens on 15 August 2018, following a series of public consultations. We gained planning approval and listed building consent in October 2018. Following further design development, the Sydney Gardens Project Additions were approved in April 2020.
You can view the planning application, associated documents and subsequent permissions on our Planning Portal.
We undertook various rounds of design improvements and achieved a scheme that worked very well, passed planning and delivered a high level of specification. However, we had to bring the Sydney Gardens scheme within the approved budget prepared in 2016, and mobilise contractors on-site to start the restoration and build programme.
The tenders we received indicated that to implement the scheme in full, we would need £3.5m, whereas our approved capital works budget is £2.5m.
As a result, we made several changes from the original plan:
- We omitted the café and redesigned the area to provide pop-up refreshment opportunities, which can be licenced for seasonal or longer periods.
- The Bothy – the cost of bringing in water, drainage and light was very expensive for a building built as an electric substation, and out of balance with the intended purpose of the project. Instead, we refurbished the site through a different plan (detailed below).
- We decided not to re-install a boundary wall and iron railings on the southern side of the gardens. This was not in the original bid, and some of our community feedback indicated that it was not fully supported.
- Labyrinth – this is no longer a permanent feature as proposed in the planning proposal, as it was far too costly. We replaced this with an adult swing, with views of Camden Crescent and the Lansdown ridge.
- The former allotments only have a direct path from the new entrance on Warminster Road. We did not implement the trim trail and we postponed the orchard planting, both due to safety and maintenance concerns.
- We achieved other cost savings by reviewing some of the higher quality specifications, especially the amount of pennant stone paving and steps.
- We also implemented cost-effective furniture and soft planting features where possible.
Our build and conservation project started on-site in August 2020.
We have completed several elements of the project:
- The play area - we are opening the new multi-age playground and sports area in the first week of April 2022.
- Tennis courts - the two courts at the top of the park are now open, featuring new solar-powered gates. The lower tennis courts will re-open as two full-size courts in the first week of April 2022. You can book a court using our online booking system.
- Petanque - we have created a new Petanque court by the Bathwick Street entrance. The court is free to use, but if your club wants to hold an event or tournament, you will need to reserve it through the outdoor events process. You can find out more on our visit Sydney Gardens page.
- The Community Pavilion is now complete, but is only being used for activities run by our partners and activity providers while works continue on site.
- The public toilet (20p per use, pay by card) and the adjacent Changing Places Toilet is now open.
- The Bothy is a meeting point for volunteers and a store for gardening tools.
- The Temple of Minerva is now complete, with a new bat box installed in the roof. We are waiting for the plaster to dry so We will install interpretation and information boards in the spring, giving information about the history of the Gardens and providing a point of orientation for the completed scheme.
- IronArt has restored the Edwardian Gents Loo and the 1920s Ladies Loo. The Grade 2 Ironwork Loos will contain information about the story of public toilets, which visitors can view through glass panels in the side. The 1920s Ladies Ironwork Loo is being run as a 'learning lav' by Foxglove Forest School for under 5s and early years outdoor learning.
Several works are still ongoing, as the project nears completion:
- Some areas of the park are still fences while works are completed, including the Temple of Minerva and the depot area.
- The Bathwick Street main entrance is still subject to occasional closure for deliveries and vehicular access for the build, and this will continue until mid-2022.
- Network Rail are on-site carrying out out fencing works alongside the railway, as it passes through Sydney Gardens. These works will continue until the end of June 2022. Network Rail access the site through the Bathwick Street entrance, and have installed a site compound on the lower lawn.
- Edgars Builders are continuing to manage the construction site (except the Network Rail working area).
We have created three trails that explore the built and natural heritage of Sydney Gardens.
You can either collect printed leaflets from the park entrance behind the Holburne Musuem, or use the mobile-friendly PDF versions below.
The History and Heritage of Sydney Gardens
Explore over 200 years of history by following this trail around the park, from when Sydney Gardens opened in 1795 as a Georgian Pleasure Garden to the contemporary public park.
Jane Austen in Sydney Gardens
Explore Jane Austen's relationship with the Georgian Pleasure Gardens. Jane lived just across the road at No 4 Sydney Place between 1801 and 1804 and wrote of Sydney Gardens both in letters and several of her novels (Persuasion and Northanger Abbey).
Diana White, an author, historian and journalist, has written this trail as a volunteer on our restoration project, helping us to imagine both the time and the place from Jane's perspective.
Sydney Gardens Tree Trail
Follow the Sydney Gardens Tree Trail and find the amazing trees in the park. Each of the featured trees has a QR code on the tree which takes you to more information about the species.
The Tree Trail has been developed by the Friends of Sydney Gardens and written by Gill Gazzard from personal research, with additional data from an Arboreal Assessment by Bosky Trees for the Sydney Gardens Project in 2020, our tree team and Richard S White.
Download the Sydney Gardens Tree Trail
Read more about one of our special trees - The Peace Oak
We have also created or helped with the creation of several learning resources as part of the Sydney Gardens park restoration project.
Activity trails for kids
We have created two engaging activity trails for children, as well as accompanying resource packs for teachers:
Heritage Activity Trail for kids
Teachers' notes for the Heritage Activity Trail for kids
Roman Burials in Sydney Gardens
This learning resource for young people has been created by Susana Parker, Associate Director (Heritage) at RPS.
Susana worked as the project archaeologist on the Sydney Gardens Project, and has compiled all of the different Roman finds in the Gardens.
The Garden Chronicle - the Sydney Gardens Newspaper
In Autumn 2021, Bath Spa University student Emma Moseley created this beautiful newspaper. We printed 500 copies and sent them to people who couldn't visit the Gardens in person.
Sydney Gardens: Botany, empire, and deep time
Find out what the park can tell us about our history and heritage, about how it is connected to other places around the world across time. This essay series was created by Dr Richard White, a writer, artist and lecturer at Bath Spa University.
Read Part 1 - Botany, Empire and Deep Time 1 - Sydney Gardens, a reluctant history
Read Part 2 - Botany, Empire and Deep Time 2 - from Bath to Vellore, tangled dates, loot and two rebellions
Read Part 3 - Botany, Empire and Deep Time 3 - of horses, names, mechanical toys and some loose ends
Learn about birdsong with Lucy Starling
Learn how to identify birds through their song in this podcast made with bird listener Lucy Starling and wildlife sound recordist Gary Moore.
Lucy Starling is a member of Bath Natural History Society & RSPB Bath District. Lucy's talks are full of insights and wonderful information about birds. Gary Moore is a sound recordist whose work can usually be heard on BBC Springwatch.
Get involved and stay informed
There are many ways you can support Sydney Gardens:
- Joining Volunteer Gardening sessions in the park
- Joining the Friends of Sydney Gardens to support the park now and in the future
- Volunteering with the Friends in their gardening sessions, every second Sunday from 10am to 12pm
You can visit our events page for details of current activities.
We also publish regular updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
You can also read past editions of our Sydney Gardens Project newsletter.