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The wheels of change: E-bike technology

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 07:04 AM PST

Huge advances in E-bike technology mean that this odd-ball of the cycling world is having a moment. Vishaka Robinson finds out why they might be a key part of the solution for Bath's traffic problems and meets the city's early adopters.

Bath is infamous for its bowl shape: flat in the centre but quickly sweeping into the limestone hills that surround it. For those trying to forego a car and commute to the centre by foot or bike, the hills around Camden, Bear Flat and the University of Bath can be more exercise than you bargained for, especially if you live in Lansdown, the city's highest point at almost 800 feet.

But now the next generation of electric bikes, lighter, cheaper and even more energy efficient, are making the idea of biking through Somerset – even up its steepest hills – achievable whatever your fitness level.

"We've had an average 30% increase in sales every single year since we opened seven years ago," says David Tod, owner of E-bike specialist, Take Charge Bikes on Lower Bristol Road. He stocks more than 70 models and can order in most brands.

He's sold battery-powered cycles to everyone from the Mayor of Bath to Richard Wyatt and thinks the city is set to embrace the new technology in a big way.

"We've had more than 100 people taking part in the trial scheme this year," says Tod, who's the go-to provider for the free, two-week electric bike trials offered through the council and the University of Bath.

In exchange for a deposit of £100 you can borrow an E-bike for a fortnight, along with locks, panniers and lights (you'll just need your own helmet), at the end of your stint you're under no pressure to buy – although of course many do.

Finding alternatives to using the car in our city centre is something we need to tackle head-on. Last year's Government Air Quality Plan singled out B&NES as one of the 29 local authorities with excessive levels of roadside nitrogen dioxide pollution.

"We are currently looking at options for supporting roll-out on street E-bike hire, which will overcome issues of maintenance, storage and security, which put off many potential e-bike users," says a spokesperson from B&NES. Also pushing for change is transport minister Jesse Norman. He's contemplating an E-bike version of the incentive given to those who buy electric cars; at present people buying electric cars receive up to £4,500 off the purchase price.

But many locals are already converted, citing health benefits as being just as key as ecological ones. E-bikers will burn on average 350 calories an hour and recent Norwegian research found that E-bikers are working out far harder than you'd imagine: The study discovered that E-bikers are 8.5 times as active as when resting; normal cyclists are only a little more active at 10.9.

For Stephen Paul, who runs a local food delivery business and is often seen peddling elegantly through town on his Urban Arrow cargo bike, having an electric bike was the cornerstone of his business.

“I think people have really twigged that an electric bike is a genuinely viable alternative to a car, which is brillaint for Bath with it's chronic air pollution and congestion problems.”

He bought his during a trip to the International Cargo bike Festival in the Netherlands and will tell you it's not just able to carry groceries, but comes with an interchangeable family box (complete with seat belts, a windscreen and a roof) that'll carry up to three children.

"I do see more and more electric bikes around which is great. I think people have really twigged that an electric bike is a genuinely viable alternative to a car, which is brilliant for Bath with its chronic air pollution and congestion problems," says Paul. Adding that even Bath's notorious hills are no match for a combo of peddle and electric power: "I can easily get up all the main hills like Bathwick, Lansdown and Ralph Allen. There's a killer one where Frankley Buildings is near our base in Larkhall, which some cars struggle with, thankfully I've never had a delivery there but think the bike could manage it."

Going via peddle also means you don't have to negotiate the city's expensive parking quagmire (B&NES collects an average of six million pounds in parking charges each year). "Once people try them the benefits are so huge that they never look back," says Tod. "Who knows, in five years time with some infrastructure changes Bath could give Amsterdam a run for its money."

Need to know…

1. As a rule, the more you pay for your E-bike the longer your battery will last. So a full charge will take you between 25 and 70 miles. Of course, how you use your bike (ie how much you peddle, your weight and how many hills you encounter) will impact the number of miles a fully charged battery will do.

2. You can buy an electric bike for as little as £600 for a no-frills commuter bike (expect a 25 mile run on a six-hour charge) to a to a limited edition Blacktrail BT-01 for a touch under £60,000.

3. Riding an E-bike costs 0.4p per mile, while a medium-sized diesel car costs 34p per mile. They can travel at up to 15.5mph with the motor on, and some bikes can cover 70 miles on a single charge.

4. E-bikes are like a normal bike with the addition of a built-in electric motor and battery. Riders still have to pedal, but the motor will kick in to help. The new generation of E-bikes are far lighter thanks to the introduction of lithium batteries.

5. With the modern systems on E-bikes you can choose how hard you want to work yourself and how much assistance you want from the bike. The electric motor won't assist you when you're travelling more than 25km (15.5 mph) making it no more dangerous speed-wise than a conventional bike.

The anatomy of an e-bike

1. Weight
Most E-bikes are heavier than traditional pedal bikes due to the added weight of the motor and the battery. On the road this is not a problem as the motor assists your ride. However it may be worth spending more on a lighter bike if you need to lift it regularly. e.g. if you live in an apartment.

2. Controller
Sensors constantly communicate ride data to the motor, the built-in computer calculates how much torque is needed and when the motor needs to assist the rider.

3. LCD Display, and power indication
Depending on the bike, the power options, digital displays and switching will vary. Most now have a digital dashboard that will display things like speed, distance, power and battery life.

4. Battery
Top of the range E-bikes are now incorporating the latest Li-ion battery technology housed into the frame. Some can be charged in under two hours, and will have a range of 75Km on a single charge.

5. Lights
Many e-bikes now come with lights as standard built in equipment, powered directly by the main battery.

6. Brakes
Like traditional bikes, the braking options are generally disc or calliper. The latest in E-bike technology senses when the brakes are engaged and will cut the E-bike motor motor to increase safety.

7. Gears
Most E-bikes have gears. These are either traditional manual pedal bike gears operated by a gearshift on the handlebars, or fully automatic.

8. Motor
There are two main types of motor: hubdrive and crank-drive. Hub driven motors deliver power to the front or back wheel. Crank driven motors are housed in the frame and deliver power to the pedal crank.

9. Connectivity
The trend is now integrated connectivity with Bluetooth chips built-in and smartphone apps allowing you to both track your bike and lock it remotely.

Visit: takechargebikes.co.uk

Featured image: Brompton Bikes

The post The wheels of change: E-bike technology appeared first on The Bath Magazine.

Murmurations of Avalon

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 05:21 AM PST

January is the best time to see the balletic midwinter spectacle of the starlings, says Andrew Swift.

Every winter, the Avalon Marshes near Glastonbury play host to one of Britain's most spectacular natural phenomena as, late each afternoon, the sky darkens with tens of thousands of starlings coming into roost. Far from being a decorous settling-down for the night, this is one of the most cacophonous and breathtaking sights you are ever likely to encounter, as flock after flock sweep in, merging into the mass of birds wheeling about the sky.

The sheer audacity of it takes your breath away. That something so sublime can be generated out of activity so frenetic, with never a mid-air collision, seems incredible. You may, if you've ever encountered one, be put in mind of a whirlwind, albeit a whirlwind of infinite beauty and grace, accompanied by the whispering rush of countless wings.

The setting for these twilight murmurations is a landscape of strange and haunting beauty. Some 6,000 years ago, it was a vast expanse of open water and reed beds, but over time the reed beds silted up, forming raised peat bogs. In the 1960s, demand for horticultural peat led to industrial-scale excavation. After the worked-out land had flooded once again, large tracts were acquired by conservation bodies and became nature reserves.

Today, the Avalon Marshes are one of the largest lowland wetlands in Britain and an internationally important wildlife site. The starlings use the reed beds only to roost, heading off at daybreak to forage in small flocks miles away, leaving the marshes to their other inhabitants and to seasonal visitors.

On a visit in mid-December, goldcrests, long-tailed tits, lapwings, shovelers, widgeon and teal were spotted, along with a kestrel, a cormorant, a great white egret, and an elusive glossy ibis. Marsh harriers and bitterns were also said to be around, as well as otters, but these proved yet more elusive.

The elusive, glossy ibis at Ham Wall

As the light begins to fade, though, all attention turns to the starlings. Eyes scan the distant horizon, and, as the minutes tick by, the thought that tonight will be the night they abandon their accustomed roost and go elsewhere starts to nag, until a few trailblazers – a flock of no more than a couple of dozen – sweep past. Then, in the distance, you spy a larger flock performing desultory aerobatics, before another, having swept in low and unseen across the levels, brushes past, slicing through the air as a prelude to the murmuration to come.

These aeronautical displays have been called murmurations since the 15th century, and it is an apt term, for their sound is twofold – a vast sibilant, sweeping rustle, accompanied by a deeper muttering grumble. You may also, if the starlings wheel directly overhead, detect another sound – of soft drops pattering down – which is why it is advisable to wear a hat.

The sound, though, is cast into the shade by the balletic groupings and regroupings, at breakneck speed, and with sudden changes of direction, above. WH Auden wrote of the 'patterns a murmuration of starlings rising in joy over wolds unwittingly weave'. It is like watching waves or eddies swirling around the sky – not so much a vast assemblage of individual creatures as a single organism controlled by a vast and infinitely playful intelligence.

That is, of course, if you turn up in the right place at the right time. Having witnessed spectacular murmurations – including one which felt like being in the eye of a starling storm, with the sky all but blotted out – I also know what it is like to watch the birds drop down to roost with hardly a by-your-leave. And there is always the chance that tonight is the night they may decide to roost elsewhere.

With a bit of planning, though, the chances are you will end up witnessing something spectacular – but don't delay. The murmurations are a midwinter spectacle, with the greatest number of starlings roosting in December and January.

The most striking displays take place on dry, bright, still and relatively mild days. If it is raining, windy or bitterly cold, the starlings still come in to roost but any aeronautical displays happen just above the reed beds before the birds drop down for an early night.

Before setting off, a call to the Starling Hotline on 07866 554142 will tell you where the starlings roosted on the previous evening. Although they do not always return to the same site, this is the best indication of where you are likely to see them.

So far this winter – at least up to mid-December – the starlings have roosted in two locations: Ham Wall Reserve, administered by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and Shapwick Heath Reserve, administered by Natural England. These reserves are adjacent, and the main paths through them follow the trackbed of the old Somerset & Dorset Railway, running alongside the Glastonbury Canal.

For Ham Wall Reserve, turn south off the B3151 Cheddar-Glastonbury road in the village of Meare, and follow Ashcott Road for one mile. Just past the Railway Inn, turn left into a car park which has an information kiosk where you can pick up a map of the reserve.

There is another car park on the right just past the Railway Inn, with access to Shapwick Heath Reserve. However, this is some distance from the roosting sites, so for Shapwick Heath it is better to turn south off the B3151 in Westhay, following signs for Shapwick. After one mile, you will see the Avalon Marshes Centre, with a cafe and information centre, on your left. You can park here, although the entrance to the reserve is 350m further on, where there is limited roadside parking.

The car parks can get full, especially at weekends, so it is advisable to arrive no later than 2pm, which gives time to look round before the starlings arrive between 3.30pm and 4pm. It's worth noting that dogs are allowed on the main paths through Ham Wall Reserve but not on Shapwick Heath Reserve. Finally, be sure to wrap up warm, because the temperature on the marshes soon drops as the light fades, and you may find a torch handy when heading back to your car after sunset.

Avalon Marshes Centre, Shapwick Rd, Westhay BA6 9TT; avalonmarshes.org

Ham Wall National Nature Reserve, Ashcott Road, Meare BA6 9SX (01458 860494)

Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve, Shapwick Rd, Westhay BA6 9TT (01458 860120)

Railway Inn, Ashcott Road, Meare (01458 860223). Open from 4.30pm Mon, Tue, Thu & Fri; from noon Wed, Sat & Sun. Beer, local cider and filled rolls available. 

Feature image: The aeronautical displays are currently best witnessed from Ham Wall Reserve and Shapwick Heath Reserve

The post Murmurations of Avalon appeared first on The Bath Magazine.

30 great Bathonians throughout history

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 04:46 AM PST

Historian Catherine Pitt looks at the men and women, all born in Bath, who have made an impact on the world throughout history

A new year is a time for new beginnings, but also to reflect on the past. We've selected 30 famous and interesting Bathonians (the only premise being that they must have been born in Bath itself to count as a Bathonian), who have had an impact on the wider world. Which are you familiar with?

Succa Petronia

Roman occupied Bath, c43-410AD

This three-year-old girl, whose tombstone was uncovered in the city, represents all the un-identifiable children born in Bath of Roman or Romano-British parents during the time of the Roman occupation of Britain. The descendants of those children, who, unlike Petronia, survived into adulthood, are within the DNA of Bathonians, Britons, and people all around the world today. If it hadn't been for the Romans settling in Bath and continuing to live here over hundreds of years, the city would not have the very thing that makes it famous and gives it its World Heritage Status – The Roman Baths.

Adelard of Bath

Monk and natural philosopher, c1080-1152

Adelard was a Benedictine monk of Bath Monastery (Bath Abbey stands on the site of this once great religious community). He travelled and studied widely in Europe and the Middle East; becoming an expert in the Arabic language and is renowned for translating various Arabic and Greek texts into Latin so that they were more accessible to scholars. Adelard translated Euclid's Elements which remained the chief textbook of Mathematical schools of Western Europe until the 16th century. He is also recognised as introducing the Islamic ideas of algebra into Europe. Adelard died in the same city that he was born in, Bath.

Alyson (or Alys), The Wife of Bath

14th century cloth maker

Although the Wife of Bath is a fictional character, created by author Geoffrey Chaucer for The Canterbury Tales; she can, like Petronia, be used as a representative of Bathonians of this medieval period. Alyson was a cloth-maker in the city and her husbands (five in total) had all been wealthy merchants in their own rights. Many Bathonians at this time were involved in the wool and cloth trade from which Bath's wealth grew. Bath's good transport links between London and the port of Bristol, its close proximity to the River Avon to power the mills, and being surrounded by fields in which sheep grazed, enabled the city's success.

John Hales

Cleric, theologian and writer, 1584-1656

Dubbed the Ever-Memorable John Hales, this title has perhaps, until now, not rung true for many centuries. Hales was born in St James' Parish and studied at Bath Grammar School, now King Edward's School. He went on to study at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and became renowned as a lecturer in Greek. Later, while a cleric in the Netherlands, Hales was present at the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619) which attempted to resolve issues in the Dutch Reformed Church brought about by the rise in Aminianism. When he returned to England Hales wrote of his account at the Synod, and published a number of sermons. One collection called Golden Remains (published posthumously in 1659) is his best known work.

John Wood the Younger

Architect, 1728-1782

Baptised in Bath Abbey, Wood Junior followed in his equally famous father's footsteps and became an architect under his father's tuition. When Wood Senior died in 1754, the son completed the father's vision for Bath, including The Circus and The Royal Crescent. He continued to extend his father's ideas through further buildings in the city. Wood Junior also pioneered a new style of building in Bath, Neo-Classicism, which is reflected in such designs as The Upper Assembly Rooms. Wood will forever be remembered for transforming the city of his birth into the architectural wonder we see today.

John Palmer

Post office pioneer and theatre owner, 1742-1818

Eldest son of a prosperous Bath brewer and theatre owner, Palmer was instrumental in acquiring the first Royal Patent for a theatre outside of London in 1768. He also owned The Theatre Royal in Bristol and it was during one of the journeys, made between Bath and Bristol, that he noted the speed of the stagecoach compared to the mail coaches travelling the same route. It could take up to three days to deliver a letter along a route that would only be one day by stagecoach. In 1782 Palmer suggested using stagecoaches to the post office in London. His idea was initially rejected, but he was permitted an experimental run which was a resounding success. In 1785 Palmer became Surveyor and Comptroller General of The Post Office and his idea spread nationally, revolutionising the English postal service.


Elizabeth Linley

Singer (1754-1792)

The sister of the composer Thomas Linley, Elizabeth was born in Pierrepont Street into a very talented musical family. She was considered one of the most gifted soprano singers in England, and regarded as one of the greatest beauties of the age, immortalised in works by Gainsborough and Reynolds. Linley eloped to France with playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan in a scandalous manner that rocked fashionable society. Her marriage to Sheridan was a tempestuous one, ending on Linley's death in 1792 from tuberculosis.

Thomas Linley the Younger

Composer, 1756-1778

Linley was regarded as the English Mozart, such was his talent. Although he came from a musical family, he surpassed even his father's talents as a composer. In fact Linley Junior's first public performance was at the tender age of seven in Bristol. Between 1768 and 1771 Linley studied violin and composition in Italy. It was here, in 1770, that he met and became friends with Amadeus Mozart. Returning to England Linley often performed both in Bath and at the Drury Lane Theatre in London. Tragically he died in a boating accident aged 22. After his death Mozart himself praised his friend as a "true genius".

Sir William Edward Parry 

Arctic Explorer, 1790-1855

Educated at King Edward's School, Parry left Bath at the age of 13 to join the flagship of Admiral Cornwallis. In 1819 he led an Arctic expedition to find the Northwest Passage, one that was considered the most successful at that time. It was on this voyage that the Parry Channel was named after him. In 1827 he undertook one of the earliest expeditions to the North Pole, setting a record for the furthest travel North in human exploration, only broken by explorer Albert Markham in 1875-76. Due to his long Arctic voyages Parry pioneered the use of canning techniques for food preservation; he also made detailed astronomical and botanical notes during his travels which were later published.

Sir Henry Cole

Politician and inventor, 1808-1882

At the age of nine Cole was sent to the Bluecoat School in Horsham, West Sussex, which he left at 15 to become a clerk in London. By 1838 Cole was not only one of four senior assistant keepers at The Record Office, but he also worked as an assistant to Rowland Hill who was in the process of reforming the postal system. It is believed that Cole himself designed the Penny Black, the world's first postage stamp. In 1843 Cole commissioned John Callcott Horsley to illustrate a festive greeting card he had invented for the public to send, thus producing the world's first commercial Christmas card. In later life he developed the Victoria and Albert Museum, becoming its first director, and also helped develop the Royal College of Art, Royal College of Music, and Imperial College London.

Abraham Marchant

Tailor and pioneering Mormon, 1816-1881

Marchant lived in Bath for 35 years, training and working as a merchant tailor. In 1844 he and his wife converted to Mormonism, eventually becoming the Leader of the local church. Ten years, eight children and after a move to the Midlands, Marchant and his wife made the decision to emigrate to America where the family moved around until in 1862. They then settled in what is now known as Peoa. Marchant became First Elder and later Bishop. As the area around Peoa grew, so did Marchant's Bishopric, and he is still remembered today within the Mormon community of what is now Summit County. Abes Lake in the Uintas is named after him.

Thomas Fuller

Architect, 1823-1898

Fuller trained as an architect in Bath, but left England in 1845 for Antigua, before emigrating to Canada in 1857. From 1881 to 1896 Fuller was the Chief Dominion architect for the Government of Canada. He is known to have had an input on the design and construction of every major federal building of the country, including the Canadian Parliament buildings and military colleges. He not only leaves examples of his work abroad; but we can view his early efforts in and around Bath by visiting the Anglican Mortuary Chapel in Smallcombe Cemetery, Bathwick, or the old Stothert & Pitt building on South Quays.

CJ Phipps

Theatre architect, 1835-1897

More often than not if you've visited London and gone to see a show you've sat in one of Phipps' theatres. Renowned as a theatre architect throughout the UK, Phipps' first major work was in his home city, restoring Bath's Theatre Royal in 1862–3 after a devastating fire. In London Phipps built most of the West End's theatres – the Queen's, Gaiety, Olympic, Vaudeville, Strand, Prince's, Lyric, Garrick, Tivoli, Dalys, and the original Shaftesbury. His Savoy Theatre was the first in the world to be lit entirely by electric light. He also built 40 provincial theatres including the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin, the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, and the Theatre Royal in Brighton.

John Arthur Roebuck Rudge

Inventor and cinematography pioneer, 1837-1903

Rudge was a scientific instrument maker by profession, but he also put on countless early moving picture shows using his Biophantic Lantern, earning him the nickname The Wizard of the Magic Lantern. In 1880 Rudge met William Friese-Greene who had a photographic shop in The Corridor, and the pair formed a close working association. In the mid-1880s film was still in its infancy, and although Rudge developed a much improved method of moving pictures he never completed the provisional patent he took out for it in 1884. It was through his work with Rudge that led to Friese-Greene realising glass plates would never be a practical medium for film, and eventually leading to the development of celluloid. A plaque to Rudge (and Friese-Greene) can be found at the entrance to New Bond Street Place.

Image of John Rudge courtesy of the Bath in Time archive. Bathintime.co.uk 

Henry Stafford Smith

Philatelist, 1843 – 1903

Smith began collecting stamps in childhood while recovering from measles. When he turned 18 Smith advertised some of his collection for sale in a national newspaper and much to his surprise he was inundated with replies. Realising there was a market for stamps, in 1862 he and his brother set up the first stamp dealership in Bath (although not the first in the country – Stanley Gibbons pipped him to the post with that in 1856). Smith's first shop was at 13 George Street. In 1863 he published the pioneering philatetic journal The Stamp Collectors' Magazine.

Sidney Horstmann

Engineer and businessman, 1881-1962

The youngest son of a German clockmaker who moved to the city in the 1850s, Sidney founded Horstmann Gear in 1904 with his elder brothers. They became famous for producing a variable speed gear box for cars and motorcycles which Sidney himself had invented. In 1913 Horstmann cars was founded. The factory that opened at Newbridge in 1915 produced around 3,000 cars until its closure in 1929. In 1922 Sidney had patented a coil spring suspension system known as the Horstmann Bogie (nine years prior to Porsche's similar system), which was used up until the 1960s in many western tanks such as the Chieftain and Centurion. Horstmann's later became a general engineering company and today, although no longer family run, specialises in heating controls.

Arnold Ridley

Actor and playwright, 1896 – 1984

Perhaps best known today as Private Godfrey in the popular 1970s TV series, Dad's Army, Ridley began his career as a talented writer. His biggest success was his play The Ghost Train (1923) which became a popular West End production and was later turned into a film. Ridley went to school at Clarendon School and Bath Secondary; and saw action in both the First World War at the Battle of the Somme (1916), and the Second World War. His first foray into acting came soon after he was medically discharged from the army in 1916. When medically discharged again in 1940 Ridley not only joined ENSA but also the Home Guard. His acting legacy lives on in his great-niece, actress Daisy Ridley who starred in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) and Murder on the Orient Express (2017).

Harry Patch

Last surviving First World War combat soldier, 1898 – 2009

At the time of his death Patch was not only the oldest man in Europe, but the last surviving First World War combat soldier from any country. He grew up at Combe Down and was a plumber by trade. He fought at the Battle of Passchendaele (1917) where he was wounded. During the Second World War he served as a firefighter during the Bath Blitz. Patch's fame was coincidental – down to a twist of fate and his longevity. He only began speaking of his first-hand experience when he turned 100. At the time of his death he was seen as representing the ordinary men who went to fight in what was an extraordinary war. More than 1,000 people attended his funeral at Wells Cathedral.

“He was seen as representing the ordinary men who went to fight in what was an extraordinary war”

Alberto Semprini

Pianist, composer and conductor, 1908-1990

Semprini showed great talent for the piano and cello from an early age. Sent to Milan to study he graduated from the Verdi Conservatory in 1928. In 1938 he conducted his first radio orchestra in Italy. On returning to the UK Semprini was chosen to host a light music radio programme Semprini Serenades, which first aired in 1957 and continued for around 25 years. He also produced a prolific number of records for EMI. Perhaps his most unusual claim to fame is the fact that his name was used by the comedy team Monty Python as one of the prohibited words in their The Chemist Sketch (1971). In the sketch, anyone saying "Semprini" was arrested.

Eric Snook

Councillor, Mayor and toy master, 1921-2016

For generations of Bathonians Eric Snook was Mr Bath. He not only owned one of the longest running businesses in the city – his toy and pram emporium established in 1950 supplying generations of Bath's parents and babies; but also served as a councillor. He later became Mayor of Bath from 1992-1993. Resplendent in a bow tie he continued working tirelessly well into his 90s. The popularity of Snooks was such that in 1980 he opened a branch in Covent Garden. Sadly after 67 years Snook's toyshop shut its doors in Bath for the final time in 2017. A vocal supporter of local independent traders Snook helped form the Bath Independent Group (BIG) in 2008. He also supported many local events and charities including Bath in Bloom and Fight for Sight.

“Resplendent in bow tie he continued working tirelessly well into his 90s”

Alf (1921-2012), George (1924-2013), and Gordon (1933-2016)

Sparrow Crane hire specialists

These three local brothers were influenced by their entrepreneurial father, GW Sparrow, who opened one of the most successful petrol stations in the south-west. The post-war building boom saw a rise in demand for cranes across the UK and in 1948 the brothers stepped into the breach and formed Sparrow's, where they designed and built their own cranes, becoming international pioneers in lifting technology. Operations opened up in the Middle East and USA, as well as in other countries, and they would own and operate the first 1,000 tonne capacity truck in the world. The business was sold in 1986 but still holds the Sparrow name, still has its headquarters in Bath, and also still sports the familiar crane livery known throughout the world – the Sparrow red.

Mary Berry

Cook, TV presenter and writer, born 1935

A familiar face on our televisions today Berry first presented her baking skills following catering school at Bath College at the Bath Electricity Board showroom (Churchill House). There, and in customers' homes, she would bake the perfect sponge to demonstrate the new electric ovens. Berry's love for cooking was encouraged by her domestic science teacher at Bath High School. After college and her stint in the electricity showroom, Berry moved to France to study at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu school. In 1966 she became editor of Housewife magazine, and her first cookery book was published in 1970. She's gone on to become a household name, mainly as one of the judges on The Great British Bake Off (2010-2016).

Ann Widdecombe

Former Member of Parliament and author, born 1947

Although born in the city, Ann's father's job in the MOD meant that Widdecombe spent part of her childhood abroad. The family returned to Bath for her to complete her schooling, and she attended the since closed Roman Catholic Convent School, La Sainte Union, on Pulteney Road. In 1987 Widdecombe was elected as Conservative MP for Maidstone, a seat she held until 2010. A controversial figure; even though she is now retired from politics she can still be seen on our stage and TV screens in various guises – whether tackling current affairs on panel shows and documentaries, or treading the boards in pantomime or on dance programmes.

Claire Calvert

Ballet Dancer, born 1988

Today Calvert is First Soloist of The Royal Ballet; but her passion for ballet began in her home city of Bath when her mother enrolled her in local classes. Aged seven she was encouraged to audition for the Junior Associates of the Royal Ballet in Bristol where she was successful and trained for three years. At 11 she was taught by principal ballerina Darcey Bussell at the Royal Ballet Lower School in Richmond. Calvert graduated from The Royal Ballet School in 2007. This winter Calvert plays the lead role of The Sugar Plum Fairy in the 2017-18 production of The Nutcracker at The Royal Opera House in London.

Jeremy Guscott

Bath and England rugby player, born 1965

The Prince of Centres was educated at Ralph Allen School where he excelled on the rugby pitch. He played for Bath Rugby during both the amateur era, holding down various jobs whilst also training, but also when Bath became a professional side. Renowned as one of the greatest centres in Rugby Union history, Guscott made his England debut in May 1989, winning with a hat trick of tries against Romania. He continued to play for England for ten years and also toured with the British and Irish Lions in 1989, 1993 and 1997. Today Guscott works as a rugby pundit on television.

Claire Coombs

Princess of Belgium, born 1974

Her Royal Highness was born in the city to a Bathonian father and Belgian mother. She lived in the city for the first three years of her life before moving to Belgium with her family in 1977. She trained as a land surveyor, qualifying in 1999, before meeting Prince Laurent, the younger brother of King Philippe of Belgium, at a mutual friend's home in 2000. The couple married in 2003 and have three children. Although Princess Claire has no official role, she and her husband support many animal and environmental causes. She also serves as Patron of the Brussels Choral Society and is a member of the Board of Trustees at the British School in Brussels. Princess Claire also became the first member of the Belgian Royal family to take on a public job, as an assessor at a polling station in the 2004 regional and European elections.

Bill Bailey

Musician, comedian, actor and writer, born 1964

The multi-talented Bailey grew up in nearby Keynsham and was educated at King Edward's School in the city centre. Trained at the London College of Music, Bailey's musical talents are reflected in his comedy routines. After years of playing in bands and various in-between jobs Bailey began to make waves in the comedy circuit and in 1996 he narrowly missed out on winning the Perrier Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Festival. His leftfield, often dystopian, style of humour did win him Best Live Stand-up at the British Comedy Awards in 1999. He tours regularly as well as acting and is a panellist on television comedy shows.

Jason Gardener

Athlete and Olympic gold medallist, born 1975

Nicknamed The Bath Bullet, Gardener was educated at Beechen Cliff school then studied at Bath College and the University of Bath. His first success on the track was at the World Junior Championships in 1994, later taking European gold medals in 60m sprint in 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2007, as well as gold in the 2004 World Indoor Championships in Budapest. This success was topped off in Athens in 2004 with his Olympic gold medal win in the 4×100 Relay. Today Gardener is a motivational speaker and sports consultant. He was given the Freedom of the City of Bath in 2004 and awarded a MBE in 2005. In June 2017 he was also awarded an honorary degree from the University of Bath in recognition of his contribution to not only athletics but in raising the international profile of the university.

Ben Rushgrove

Paralympian, silver medallist, and world record holder, born 1988

Rushgrove has had a need for speed ever since he was a teenager. Born with cerebral palsy he was not meant to survive the night, let alone into his 20s. It was at school in Hampshire that Rushgrove's love of running was developed. He returned to study sports performance at the University of Bath and is today part of Team Bath. He competes in the T36 100 and 200 metres. Rushgrove set a world record for T36 200 metres in the 2007 Paralympic World Cup and won a bronze and a silver medal in the Paralympic Games in London 2012 and Beijing 2008 respectively.

Charlie McDonnell

Musician and vlogger, born 1990

McDonnell attended Beechen Cliff school and in 2007, while still a student, he began broadcasting on YouTube.Today he presents Fun Science vlogs and has written a corresponding book on the subject. In June 2011 he became the first YouTuber in the UK to reach 1 million subscribers. McDonnell has diversified into film making and writing and continues with his music which is frequently featured on his channel. He recently moved to Canada.

Featured image credit: Adrian Sherratt

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A Large Sale For Bath Business Evilcorp

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 03:33 AM PST

Bath solicitors Mowbray Woodwards have recently acted for the owners of local animation and design studio A Large Evil Corporation on the sale of the company to US giants Funko LLC for $4 million.

Since its foundation by owners Guy Thomson and Seth Watkins in 2006, Evilcorp has developed a unique reputation for its animated commercials for brands including Gu, Kia Motors, Greenpeace and Now TV. Evilcorp has also achieved acclaim for its Vinyl Idolz designs, a range of quirky collectible figurines featuring characters from cult movies such as The Big Lebowski, Shaun of the Dead, Batman, Ghostbusters and Back to the Future.

Evilcorp will shortly be rebranded as Funko Animation Studios, with Guy Thomson and Seth Watkins continuing as general managers. The deal coincides with Funko's own floatation on the NASDAQ stock market in November.

Evilcorp was represented by Mowbray Woodwards' partner Patrick Mears and assistant Karling Lau. "It has been so exciting to see one of our most talented and unique local creative companies attracting such flattering attention from an international big-hitter" says Patrick Mears "It is particularly gratifying to see so much genuine warmth and creative optimism underpinning a deal. I have no doubt that Funko Animation Studios will achieve even greater things!"

"Patrick and the team were excellent throughout the process" says Seth Watkins, "a very thorough interrogation of the myriad of documentation flying back and forth, skilfully guiding us through the US/GB pitfalls and always available for the inevitable late night trans-Atlantic calls."

Visit: mowbraywoodwards.co.uk

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