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Victoria Baths, Manchester's Water Palace.
BBC2's Restoration Winners
Official web site www.victoriabaths.org.uk
Fifty years before the plans for the Victoria
Baths, the seaside became a popular attraction, capturing
the publics imagination. By the end of the Victorian
age, due to the introduction of a well-established railway
network, those with enough money to travel were familiar
However, the poor of inner city Manchester
were not, so in 1898 the plans for Victoria Baths were
announced. Indeed when the baths opened very few of the
houses in the area had bathrooms, so the slipper baths
or wash-baths were a vital amenity, providing the opportunity
for a real bath. The corporation realised that prevention
was better than cure, and offering the working people
of Manchester a real bath went some way towards
promoting good health and helping to fight disease, although
some who used the baths as children recall being scrubbed
raw by attendants before they were allowed in the swimming
When the Lord Mayor opened the building
in September 1906 he described it as a water palace
of which every citizen of Manchester was proud.
In June 1902, Mr Henry Price was appointed as the first
City Architect and took on the responsibility for managing
the construction of one of the most splendid municipal
bathing institutions in the country. No expense was spared,
with lavish use of stained glass and ornate tiling around
the three pools, 64 wash baths, and Turkish and Russian
baths. It even boasts an Aerotone, fitted in 1952, which
was the precursor of the Jacuzzi, and despite having segregated
areas for 1st class males, 2nd class males and females
until 1914, the baths were where Sunny Lowry, the first
English woman to swim the Channel, learnt to swim. However,
in 1993 the baths were closed amidst much local protest.
The centre proposes to restore and reopen
the Turkish baths suite so that this site could once again
become a useful public service to the local community.