Bath Time

A couple of week ago I visited Victoria Baths in Manchester. As you might be aware I love nosing around old buildings, but whilst most people like medieval castles I like my architecture rather more 19th/20th century. Concrete, clay bricks, rusty pipes – anything Victorian through to post-WWII.

Victoria Baths run a guided tour every Wednesday afternoon as well as open days on the first Sunday each month. It’s also worth noting that they run all sorts of events from choir recitals to tea dances to art exhibitions to murder mysteries. If you want to keep in touch with what’s going on I’d recommend you keep an eye on their blog.

I’m not sure if you remember a BBC TV series called Restoration back in 2003? They asked for viewers to phone in to vote to save a listed building that was under threat. The winner received some cash to help with their restoration effort. I remember voting for Victoria Baths and being chuffed that they won. Well, eight years later and it’s interesting to see where the money has been spent. And how much more is needed!

So I dragged my wife and kids along to a Wednesday afternoon tour. We arrived about 30 minutes early and I was surprised to find that we were allowed to wander around the building before the tour. Most of my photos were taken before the tour even took place.

There are three entrances in the front of the building for 1st Class Males, 2nd Class Males and Females. Inside, there were three separate pools for each of the classes with 1st and 2nd Class Females visiting at different times in the week. Our guide explained that Victoria Baths was one of the first public baths to recycle water – rumour has it that the water from the 1st Class Males pool would be piped through to the 2nd Class Males and then through to the Females pool. After a week the whole system would be flushed out with new water. So 2nd Class Females visiting towards the end of the week were actually using nearly week-old water that had already been used in two other pools. Nice.


Inside the waiting room for the tour there was a very strange contraption half-buried in the floor. This is an ‘Aeratone’ which you can see working here on this fantastic Pathe news article! Basically a turbo-charged jacuzzi…

Inside the building you can see many of the original fittings such as this turnstile and the glorious stairs lead up to the gallery above the 1st Class Males pool.


In the following photos you can see, in order, the Females pool, the 2nd Class Males pool and the 1st Class Males pool. The 2nd Class Males pool was converted into a sports hall in the 1980s with the addition of a sprung floor (the pool is apparently perfectly intact underneath). The 1st Class Males pool remained open until  1993 when the building was finally closed to the public.


Some of the original features are in surprisingly good nick like this end wall in the 1st Class Males pool…

And the steam rooms…


The Roman baths in the cellar were a little worse for wear (they were being used for an art exhibition)…


Outside, around the back of the building, you can see the chimney for the boilers and the huge  tanks used for storing the water.


Great afternoon. I’d recommend you give it a whirl! More information on their website and blog.