BBC News Online - August, 2003
VOTE - 0901 077 5001 Listing: Grade II*
Date of building: 1903-1906
Fifty years before the plans for the Victoria Baths, the seaside became a popular attraction, capturing the public's imagination. By the end of the Victorian age, due to the introduction of a well-established railway network, those with enough money to travel were familiar with swimming. However, the poor of inner city Manchester were not, so in 1898 the plans for Victoria Baths were announced. Indeed when the baths opened very few of the houses in the area had bathrooms, so the slipper baths or wash-baths were a vital amenity, providing the opportunity for a real bath. The corporation realised that prevention was better than cure, and offering the working people of Manchester a ‘real bath’ went some way towards promoting good health and helping to fight disease, although some who used the baths as children recall being scrubbed raw by attendants before they were allowed in the swimming pool.
When the Lord Mayor opened the building in September 1906 he described it as a “water palace” of which “every citizen of Manchester was proud”. In June 1902, Mr Henry Price was appointed as the first City Architect and took on the responsibility for managing the construction of one of the most splendid municipal bathing institutions in the country. No expense was spared, with lavish use of stained glass and ornate tiling around the three pools, 64 wash baths, and Turkish and Russian baths. It even boasts an Aerotone, fitted in 1952, which was the precursor of the Jacuzzi, and despite having segregated areas for 1st class males, 2nd class males and females until 1914, the baths were where Sunny Lowry, the first English woman to swim the Channel, learnt to swim. However, in 1993 the baths were closed amidst much local protest.
The centre proposes to restore and reopen the Turkish baths suite so that this site could once again become a useful public service to the local community.
Click here for Richard E. Grant's plea to save Victoria Baths.