Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Going swimming on Ashton Old Road in 1905 in the Whitworth Public Baths

Outside the Baths in 1960
Whitworth Baths on Ashton Old Road is a place I have passed countless times and never even knew existed.

It was just one of those buildings which you passed on the bus but never gave any though to.

I wished I had made the effort to visit them when we were leaving off Grey Mare Lane, but I am not quite certain when they closed.

I guess the whole sale clearance of the area of houses made them less used and by the time we were there along with a few other old public and industrial properties they stood isolated and alone surrounded by grassed open areas.

The Turkish Bath Cubicles, 1906
They were designed by the Manchester architect J W Beaumont and was built in 1890 by the executors of the engineering magnate Joseph Whitworth and were then donated to the Openshaw Local Board and when Openshaw was incorporated into the city in 1890 were run by Manchester Corporation.

Like Leaf Street Baths* which were built a little earlier they also had a Turkish Bath and may have had facilities for washing.

I would really like to know more and a trawl of the net turned up a number of sites including one with pictures of the interior** with some very evocative images of it’s now abandoned inside.

And one that I fear will not long survive in its present state.

Of  course there will still be many who remember them and so I hope there will be people wanting to share their memories and a little of the history of the place.

There is even a petition calling for the baths to be saved, and I rather think it is one of those places worthy of protection which can be accessed via the link below.

Now not all old buildings can be protected but here is a one which with a little tender care and attention could live again.

Not I grant you as a swimming baths but there are plenty of imaginative and exciting uses this place could be put to, particularly since the area is being redeveloped.

First class pool, 1905
Sadly the place looks to be fading fast.

Trees and bushes are growing at the roof level and more have taken root in front of the building and are slowly obscuring the place from the road.

Soon the fabric will have deteriorated too far for a rescue to be mounted.

Which of course raises the question of why should it be saved?

Part of the answer lies in the wonderful interior, with the glazed tiles, and iron work  and the sheer beauty of the some of the big rooms.

And then there is the part the building has played in the history of the area and  its contribution to the health and hygene of  the people who lived here.

For many this was one of the only grand buldings they could ever hope to enter, more impressive in its way than many of the local churches, and far superior to the pubs.

Now not even many of the pubs have survived the changes of population and the big development plans.

The last time I was on the Old Road there were few of them left, and the old engineering works and factories.

So the romantic in me hopes it can be saved.

Pictures, Whitworth Baths, Ashton Old Road, 1960, H W Beaumont, m12602, interior showing Turkish Baths cubicles, 1906, m51842, and First Class Swimming Baths, 1905, m51839, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*Manchester and Salford’s Public Baths,
**Whitworth Baths Ashton Old Road,

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