Victoria Baths - History and Facts | History Hit

Victoria Baths

Lily Johnson

21 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Victoria Baths

Victoria Baths in Manchester is an early 20th century bathhouse that was once a thriving hub for local residents to swim, bathe, and even dance! They now operates tours around the atmospheric building where visitors can learn about Manchester’s aquatic past. 

Victoria Baths history 

The Victoria Baths were built in 1906 to much local fanfare. Costing double the usual price of bathhouses in the United Kingdom, the Victoria Baths were intended to be ‘water palace of which every citizen of Manchester can be proud’, as the Lord Mayor of the city described them. 

Private baths and a laundry were housed there, alongside 3 public swimming pools, a Turkish bath, a sauna and Britain’s first jacuzzi. In winter months the Gala Pool was floored over to create a ballroom, becoming an important cultural venue for young people in the area.

Though initially segregating pools by gender, in 1914 the Baths hesitantly began allowing mixed bathing. By the 1920s whole families could swim together for the first time!

Many accomplished swimmers passed through the Victoria Baths’ doors, from Rob Derbyshire who competed in 4 Olympic Games between 1900 and 1912, to Sunny Lowry, the fifth British woman to swim the Channel in 1933.

The Baths were open from 1906 to 1993, when Manchester County Council were at last forced to close them despite protest from locals. The Friends of the Victoria Baths then took over their operation, raising funds to prevent their deterioration. As of 2021, they are still awaiting full renovation, however they have hosted a number of events in recent years, from swimwear exhibitions to dance raves.

Victoria Baths today

Today the Baths are a Grade II* listed building, and can be accessed through pre-booked tours around the site. The building’s exterior displays the beautiful redbrick architecture of the early 20th century, and three entrance doorways still have their class divisions carved in the stone above – Males 1st Class, Males 2nd Class, Females.

Inside, the eerily empty pools and their history can be explored as well as the rest of the building’s ornate interior. A reminder of what was once a thriving hub of activity, the tour provides a fascinating look into bathing cultures of the past. The Baths are also home to a collection of historical items, photographs and documents relating to their history, which can be viewed upon request.

The Victoria Baths Tea Room is also open after Wednesday tours and Sunday Open Days for hot and cold snacks and a range of beverages. 

Getting to Victoria Baths 

The Victoria Baths are on Hathersage Road, about 1.5 miles south of Manchester City Centre. There is parking onsite, and the nearest bus route is the 50, which stops at the Hathersage Road stop, a 5-minute walk away. 

It is a 35-minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly Station, or the 192 bus can be taken to Plymouth Grove West followed by a 10-minute walk.

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