Saturday, 26 August 2017

Victoria Baths (permission visit, April 2017)

Well, better late than never! I visited Victoria Baths in Manchester in April 2017, having wanted to visit for some time. 

First the history: (taken from the Victoria Baths website)
In 1897 the Baths and Wash-houses Committee of Manchester Corporation considered the possibility of providing a bath house to serve the population of Longsight, St. Luke's and Rusholme. The site, on Hathersage Road was duly bought in 1899. Building started in 1903 and the baths were opened in 1906 when it was described as "the most splendid municipal bathing institution in the country" and "a water palace of which every citizen of Manchester can be proud." This was due to the fact that only the highest quality materials had been used and skilled workers produced beautiful stained glass windows and mosaic floors as well as the fact that the building provided extensive facilities for swimming, bathing and leisure. The baths were in use for the public of Manchester for 87 years, finally closing in 1993. This was not a popular decision and the campaign to try to stop the closure became the Friends of Victoria Baths with the aim of fully restoring the building. The building became one of those featured in the BBC Restoration series in 2003. Now the building is partially restored with plans to complete the restoration and have at least one pool and the Turkish baths in use for the public in the near future. 

We visited on a Wednesday afternoon when there is a paid tour of the building by an informative guide. I only wish I could remember half of what he told us!

 These are the impressive gates and turnstiles at the main door (which is not used as the main door now)

 Examples of the best quality tiles and stained glass as described in the introduction above are on display all around the building.

The main Gala pool (there were three pools - the male 1st class Gala pool, the females pool and the males 2nd class pool - the latter was turned into a sports hall in the 1980s)

The changing cubicles at the side of the main pool, with red and white striped curtains.

                                                        The view from one of these cubicles.

                                           Each cubicle is numbered.

                                            The females pool from upstairs looking down. One of the most successful former swimmers of the Victoria Baths was Sunny Lowry, who was the first British woman to swim the English Channel in 1933. 

As well as the swimming pools there were private baths and a laundry along with a Turkish bath and later a Sauna was added. The main swimming pool was floored over in the winter months to hold dances. In 1952 the Victoria Baths installed the first public Aeratone (jacuzzi) in the country.

Weddings are sometimes held in the baths - hence the bunting and chairs. 

This Grade II listed building is on English Heritage's Heritage at Risk Register and the friends of Victoria Baths are doing a splendid job of trying to raise the rest of the money required to fully restore this beautiful, historic building. Visiting one of the tours or the other events put on during the year helps them towards fulfilling this ambition.Since I visited, the main pool was opened for a public swim (as a one-off) for the first time since its closure. There are plans to repeat this. 

Odds and Ends (Part 1)

As I was looking through my photos from earlier in the year I noticed that there were a few that hadn't been posted on the blog (I guess work and life got in the way) so I thought I'd upload a few in a general post.
First up, the ruins of Hollinshead Hall, near Tockholes, Lancashire. This was once a large manor house dating back to the 18th century, although there was a previous house there as early as the 14th century. In 1845 the hall was sold to Darwen mill owner Eccles Shorrock, but by the end of the century the buildings had fallen into a state of disrepair. 
Liverpool Corporation Works acquired the surrounding land and demolished the remains of the buildings. Much of the stonework from the hall was sued to build walls in the area as well as some cottages in Belmont Village. Today, the only complete structure is the Well House (pictured below)

 I visited on a very sunny day in late May and pretty much had the place to myself. It was rather like visiting Hadrian's Wall in terms of what remained. 

Next up is Shore Baptist Church in Cornholme. Again, I visited this alone and on another beautiful late May day. This church was founded in 1777. Extensions were built in 1833 and 1871. The boom of the cotton industry ensured an increasing congregation. On its centenary in 1877, there were 265 members and many children attending Sunday school. Sadly, by 1977 and the Bi-centennial, the building was deemed unsafe and services were conducted in the Sunday School building. It is a Grade II listed building but is now a shell of a church, with a collapsed roof , due to dry rot. These photos concentrate on the overgrown graveyard. 

Lastly,  this abandoned Grade II listed chapel, which I stumbled upon as I was driving past, on the outskirts of Blackburn one day in late June. Boarded up and for sale at £50,000. New Row Chapel, built in 1828.  Lancashire Parish online describes the building in detail.

"We are told that occupation took place within forty-two days from the cutting of the first sod. The site upon which the chapel was built together with land for burial purposes, were the gift of a Mr. G. W. Turner, who was a prosperous calico printer with a business in Stakes Hall, Mill Hill. He was also Member of Parliament for the Borough of Blackburn, and an inscription over the door of the chapel shows his initials. G. W. T. 1828. Outwardly the chapel had a barn like appearance as can be seen from the old photograph now on the wall of the chapel vestry. Every year prior to the Sunday School anniversary a coat of whitewash was applied to the outside walls. Inside the building was colour washed and the cheerlessness somewhat relieved by a big coal stove in the centre. Seating arrangements comprised backless forms arranged in winter as near to the stove as possible and the lighting was by means of tallow candles arranged round the room at convenient places by the congregation."
In the 1960s the outside walls were pebble-dashed, which is an usual feature for a church. It is difficult to find out when the church finally closed but it seems to still have been in use in 2009, when there was an article in the local press about the state of the overgrown graveyard. It is now securely locked and boarded up and for sale, with planning permission to turn it into a home. 

Not the best explores in terms of complete buildings which are accessible, but interesting nevertheless.