Reprinted from Newsletter 122, dated 2007 May

Anti-motor mystery: scroll materializes behind Chilkwell books;

Jim Nagel

A woman holds a scroll titled “petition”.

Maggie Stewart with the 1926 scroll that mysteriously fell from behind books in her very old house.

A scrolled-up petition to the town council about the Abbey surprised Maggie Stewart last week when it fell out from behind books. She lives at 51 Chilkwell Street, a house known to exist in 1300 when the Abbey was in its heyday, and has no idea how the document came to be there.

19 years after the Church of England bought the Abbey, the borough council wanted to buy the land between the Abbot’s Kitchen and Magdalene Street to use as a carpark. There was opposition:

“The petitioners view with alarm and disfavour the proposed purchase,” says the document, dated December 1926. “Although a cheap tourist traffic might be stimulated by the provision of the further space for motors, the place would be vulgarized and the better class of visitors disappointed.”

The first signatories were at 6 Buckingham Gate, London, and the rest in Bath — which the document cites as a town “which has acquired a new lease of popularity through the preservation and restoration of its … antiquities”. It seems this was radical thinking at the time.