SJ8595 : Manchester Victoria Baths, Females Pool

taken 5 years ago, near to Manchester, Great Britain

Manchester Victoria Baths, Females Pool
Manchester Victoria Baths, Females Pool
Segregation in swimming and bathing both by gender and by class was normal procedure at the beginning of the twentieth century. Where an establishment had only one or two pools, segregation would take place by giving each class of user a different day of the week. At Victoria Baths, there were three separate entrances, separate swimming pools and separate wash baths for Males 1st Class, Males 2nd Class and Females.

Each of the three pools at Victoria Baths was Olympic length (25 yards) but they differed in width; the Females pool, at 30 feet, being the narrowest.

The water for Victoria Baths came from a well which was specially sunk for the establishment. It has been said that the water was first used to fill the Males 1st Class pool, then it was returned to the water tanks, filtered, aerated, re-heated and used again in the Males 2nd Class pool before being recycled again and used in the Females pool! Certainly there was equipment which enabled water to be pumped between the three pools and the water tanks situated on top of the boiler house and filter room

Whether or not this story is true, having the smallest pool, and 3rd-hand water did not prevent swimming from becoming a popular activity for women and girls in the early part of the 20th century.

Mixed bathing was introduced with great caution in 1914 and by the 1920s mixed bathing sessions were held every Sunday morning enabling families to swim together for the first time.

(Adapted from an information board at the Baths)
Victoria Baths, Manchester
Opened in 1906 by the Lord Mayor of Manchester who described it as a 'water palace of which every citizen of Manchester is proud', The Victoria Baths on Hathersage Road in Chorlton-on-Medlock were designed as a prestigious baths complex by Manchester's first City Architect, Henry Price back in 1902. No expense was spared in the design and construction of the Baths, Manchester having at that time one of the world's wealthiest municipal coffers. The façade has multi-coloured brickwork and terracotta decoration, the main interior public spaces are clad in glazed tiles from floor to ceiling and most of the many windows have decorative stained glass including the famous Angel of Purity.

For 86 years, until its closure in 1993, the Victoria Baths provided both essential and leisure facilities. At the time of opening, few of the houses in the area had bathrooms so its 64 slipper baths or 'wash baths' were an important amenity and, between 1906 and 1993, Victoria Baths were used by thousands of people for swimming, bathing, washing, dancing and relaxing. The pool was the breeding ground for numerous swimming champions.

However changing social conditions and patterns of leisure activities meant the Baths were less well-used and, as the Baths were expensive to run Manchester City Council could no longer justify (or afford) the costs to keep the building open and functioning and they were closed on 13 March 1993 despite local protests.

Ten years later, Manchester’s Victoria Baths won £3m of Heritage Lottery funding through the first BBC TV “Restoration” programme. Thousands of viewers voted for the beautiful building, now widely recognised as the most intact and lavish example of municipal swimming pool architecture in the country, to receive the funding and an additional £2million has been raised by the Victoria Baths Trust.

The building, now in the process of being restored to its former glory, is a Grade II* listed building (English Heritage Building ID: 388171 LinkExternal link British Listed Buildings)

Further information:
LinkExternal link Victoria Baths website
LinkExternal link BBC Manchester
LinkExternal link Daily Mail online
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SJ8595, 123 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Wednesday, 30 April, 2014   (more nearby)
Friday, 2 May, 2014
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Public buildings and spaces  City, Town centre 
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Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SJ 8574 9596 [10m precision]
WGS84: 53:27.6115N 2:12.9743W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SJ 8575 9594
View Direction
North-northwest (about 337 degrees)
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