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Victoria Baths
Hathersage Road, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester, UK
Victoria Baths
associated engineer
Thomas de Courcy Meade
date  1903 - 1906
era  Modern  |  category  Building  |  reference  SJ856959
photo  Paul Dunkerley / ICE R&D Fund
Manchester's Victoria Baths were planned a decade before construction began and represent a fine example of Edwardian public swimming establishments. Now Grade II* listed, the building is notable for its decorative façade, stained glass windows, mosaics and terracotta features.
Victoria Baths closed on 13th March 1993. However, a groundswell of public support to save them led to a major grant through the BBC's first Restoration television programme, which gave the public a chance to vote for endangered structures that they would like to see saved.
The site for the baths was bought for £750 in 1899, and construction was to cost was over £59,000 of public money — a lavish budget for the time. The water supply for the pool came from from an on-site well drilled during construction.
The complex consists of a three storey building fronting the street, a two storey bath house complex behind (which included Turkish and Russian baths), and a boiler house and tall brick chimney to the rear. Originally there was also a laundry and private bathing facilities. Its architect was Henry Price, Manchester's first City Architect. Its engineer was Thomas de Courcy Meade, municipal engineer.
The ground floor level of the front building is some 1.2m above pavement level. There are four entrance doors, three have in-built signs — Males 1st Class, Males 2nd Class, Females — and lead to three separate swimming pools. The roof of this front building is steeply pitched, with gables and a clock tower and cuploa. At each end of the frontage is a single storey wing. The walls of the building are distinctive, with alternating bands of Ruabon red bricks and yellow terracotta bricks.
The bath house is roofed by a series of semi-glazed pitched roofs running back away from the street. Of the three pools it houses, the largest is the Gala Pool, once reserved for "Males 1st Class". The pools are constructed of concrete, with a waterproof asphalt lining and faced with glazed tiles. The Gala Pool has a water chute and diving board. In winter, this pool used to be covered with a temporary floor and used for dances and concerts.
Mixed-gender swimming sessions were introduced in 1914. In 1952, the Aeratone — the first public hot tub — was installed. In the 1980s, the "Males 2nd Class" pool hall was converted into an indoor sports hall.
As mentioned, the baths closed in 1993 and the building was in very poor repair, although its features were largely in tact. Emergency repair work was carried out in 2002, funded by £244,000 from English Heritage and the A6 Partnership.
In September 2003, Victoria baths won £500,000 in the BBC programme. The Victoria Baths Trust, who manage the site on behalf of Manchester City Council, received further grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund (£3m) and English Heritage (£450,000).
Phase 1 of the restoration project began on 19th March 2007 and work in the main building was completed in July 2008. The next phase of work began in summer 2009. The cost of completing the restoration so that the pools and Turkish baths can be used again is estimated to be £20m.
Resident engineer: L Holme Lewis
Structural engineer (2006-8): Trevor Mottershaw of Wright Mottershaw Lydon
Architect: Henry Price
Conservation architect (2006-8): John Prichard of Lloyd Evans Prichard
Main contractor: Normanton & Sons
Main contractor (2006-8): William Anelay Ltd
Steelwork: Dorman Long & Co
Ironwork: Manchester Iron & Steel Co
Stonework: John Marshall
Research: PD
bibliography
"Victoria Baths Open Days 2008", Victoria Baths Trust information leaflet
"The Buildings of England: South Lancashire" by Nikolaus Pevsner
Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1969
www.nce.co.uk
www.victoriabaths.org.uk
Location

Victoria Baths