Wednesday, 13 April 2016

A last chance to go visiting Leaf Street Baths in Hulme

Yesterday I suggested that anyone interested in the old Leaf Street Baths in Hulme should get down there because after half a century of being buried they are briefly open again to the sunlight.

It has all been prompted by a couple of pictures Ian Wilson posted on facebook, and having read the story my old friend Andy Robertson was down there in a trice.

Andy has been steadily recording our disappearing past from old textile mills and warehouses to shops houses and the odd garage.

So Leaf Street was a project not to be missed.

With breakfast out of the way, and the blog read, he was down there taking pictures which will become a record not only of what is going on now but what will be to come.

And yesterday in a series of pictures he captured the work being done, but more importantly the geography of the site, including one of the almost intact pools but also the base for what I think is one have been a stone column archways and cellars and my own personal favourites, a set of floor tiles.

Now for the practised visitor to Roman ruins it may not mean much but for me and countless others who remember the baths with fondness these bits of the past will be fascinating.

I never used them but there will be lots who did and they will be able reel off memories of swimming lessons, visits with mum and dad and of course magic moments with their mates.

What I always find interesting is the way so many of these remains are just below the surface which I suppose makes sense when the land above was just being landscaped.

But what a find for the archaeologists and reminds me of the work done in the mid 1970s down at Castlefield when a complex of early 19th century working class cottages revealed that they sat on top of the old Roman town outside the fort.

And for once the lack of foundations and poor construction of those houses was a positive in that the builders had not disturbed the Roman remains.

Of course there will be someone who mutters Leaf Street was no Roman villa but the provision of public baths in working class area in the 19th century is an important bit of history, as is the whole development of municipal baths and wash houses.*

Some are being restored and saved like Victoria Baths just across the city and the impressive one in Ashton-under-Lyne.  Others like the one on Ashton Old Road are empty and neglected.

And so I am pleased Leaf Street is out in the air again and something of its past and the part it played in the lives of Hulme people is briefly remembered again.

Location; Leaf Street, Hulme

Pictures; down at Leaf Street Baths, 2016 from the collection of Andy Robertson

*Manchester and Salford's Public Baths, 

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