A Manchester Landmark – The Victoria Baths

When it opened in 1906, Victoria Baths on Hathersage Road, Manchester, was called “one of the most remarkable metropolitan bathing organization in the country” and “a water palace of which every person of Manchester could be happy.” Not only did the building  supply large and badly needed  leisure centres for swimming, and vital facilities in those days for bathing for working class people without bathrooms, it was a beautiful building and  incorporated artistic  features of the finest quality  with many  long lasting and  attractive attributes:- magnificent stained  glass, terracotta, floor tiles and also mosaic floors and in Victorian times these were very expensive.

Victoria Baths offered the individuals of central  Manchester the opportunity for leisure and fun as well as a magnificent city building that the residents were rightly proud of  for 87 years and established itself as a  place that the people of Manchester loved.

In 1902 Mr Henry Cost was selected as the first City Architect of Manchester and was put in charge of designing the new  Victoria Baths . Structure began in 1903 and a commemorative ceramic  Manchester coat of arms was designed for the  Mens First Class/ Gala pool.

Constructed at an cost  of ₤ 59,000, no expense was spared. Its facade was constructed of  red brick  and stone  and the  indoor rooms outfitted in glazed ceramic tiles from floor to ceiling. The majority of the windows incorporated magnificent stained glass art many of them  consisting of the famous Angel of Purity.

– For over 80 years the Manchester Victoria Baths offered both necessary and recreation facilities. At the time it was built , very  few homes in the area had bathrooms,  so its 64 sandal baths or ‘clean bathrooms’ were an important service, that the ordinary working people could use at very little cost.

When Manchester City board finally decided that they had to  close Victoria Baths in 1993, there was a massive response in the neighborhood community. Manchester locals particularly  valued the Turkish baths, the Aeratone, the swimming baths , and also the building itself.

The  Manchester community’s campaign to prevent closure of the Baths  became the Friends of Victoria Baths and established a  charitable trust fund – the Victoria Baths Trust –  which was set up with the purpose of completely restoring the building and also to bring back the  Turkish Baths as well as at least one of the swimming pools back into public usage.

The Manchester residents tried very hard to prevent the closure of Victoria Baths but  the structure shut on 13th March 1993. The Friends and the Trust were formally established later that year

Nothing  was done with  Victoria Baths for six years after its  closure and  the structure deteriorated swiftly. The Friends of Victoria Baths was formed  to save the structure and restore it as an example of magnificent Victorian architecture. In 2003, Manchester’s Victoria Baths won the very first BBC Restoration award  programme and with it, ₤ 3m of Heritage Lotto financing. As a result restoration can take place and we look forward to the reopening  of a much-loved building, referred to as Manchester’s Water Palace .

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