Footprint: Bath Abbey

abbey-floor1

This study explores issues concerning heritage, authenticity, repair and replacement of the floor of this Grade 1 listed site. This study brings theories of absence, erasure, memory and essentialism to bear on this complex project.

The Footprint Project is a Heritage Lottery Fund resourced scheme to explore the restoration of the floor of Bath Abbey, among other works. Led by architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, this project has become the subject of theoretical/conceptual investigation by David Littlefield, who presented a paper on the subject at the conference Body + Space at Middlesex University (18–20 September 2014).

abbey2

The Abbey floor comprises hundreds of ledger stones which record the details of the people buried beneath, although there are insufficient stones to memorialise all the 4–6,000 people who are believed to have been buried beneath the Abbey. The Abbey is beginning to experience subsidence and the floor surface is becoming uneven. Difficult and challenging questions must be confronted in dealing with these problems, not least of which is determining an approach to the authenticity of the stones themselves – which are not, in fact, in their original positions. Possible solutions include embracing the invitability of erasure, and exploring the role of pentimento¹ in the creation of new, replacement stones.

¹ The gradual appearance of once-hidden layers in oil paintings, as ageing upper layers become translucent.


Lead: David Littlefield
Location: Bath, England