Urban decay is often at its most poignant in former recreational buildings, such as old cinemas and other public structures. Abandoned swimming baths also have a unique character to them, often with ornate tiling and elaborate iron work decorating their balconies and staircases. Designed to offer a touch of elegance, stepping inside is like travelling through time. Here are seven examples from Victorian and Edwardian to the good old outdoor lido.
Deserted Swimming Baths, Wapping, London
This derelict swimming pool in Wapping, London looks as though it has fallen victim to arsonists as well as vandals, with a layer of filthy black residue covering the already gloomy interior. A sorry state to be sure, although it’s still possible to make out the distinctive styling of the traditional Victorian/Edwardian baths.
Nothing short of spectacular, Victoria Baths opened in 1906 with no expense spared. The decorative brick and terracotta exterior, floor to ceiling glazed tiling, and three swimming pools cemented the building’s reputation as “Manchester’s water palace”. Originally housing a Males First Class, Males Second Class and Females pools, the men’s pools were off limits to women and vice versa until the 1920s.
But times change and a floor was built over the Males Second Class pool to create an indoor sports hall during the 1980s. Similarly, a sprung dance floor over the first class pool created a ballroom during winter months. An ambitious project is currently underway to restore the Males First Class pool for public use. And if the project is successful, Victoria Baths may once again become “a Water Palace of which every citizen of Manchester is proud”. Don’t miss our full length feature: Manchester’s Spectacular(ly) Deserted Victoria Baths.
Derelict Baths at Dunkirk, France
This abandoned pool in Dunkirk demonstrates perfectly the elaborate architecture of many recreational buildings from the late nineteenth/early twentieth century. These buildings were designed to be enjoyed, and to give citizens of a town something to be collectively proud of.
Uxbridge Lido, London
Uxbridge Lido open-air swimming pool was mothballed in 2002 and has been abandoned ever since. But there is some good news in the pipeline for the 1935 Grade II listed Art Deco attraction. The London Borough of Hillingdon has announced ambitious refurbishment plans, set to kick off in the near future. It’s probably worth noting that “Grade II” listing presents a catch. Structures in this category can be altered internally but the exterior must remain the same – so even if they don’t renovate it, Uxbridge Lido is going nowhere fast!
Grade II listed buildings often include former industrial structures since converted for residential or recreational use, presenting a golden opportunity for innovative and visionary reuse. This old lido is a great taste of the 1930s and looks like a good clean, fresh re-fill and general tidy-up would work wonders. For more information on the project and its history, check out the Borough’s website.
Deer Leap Swimming Pool, Ringshall
Once the scene of much outdoor enjoyment for families and people of all ages, Deer Leap Swimming Pool is pictured here in a state of extreme dereliction. There is a rumour the site is to be redeveloped as a housing estate, more than 50 years after this old pool was first opened.
Abandoned Bath House, Beelitz
Slightly different but still very water-centric, this abandoned bath house can be found in Beelitz, a town in the Potsdam-Mittelmark district of Brandenburg, Germany. The main room is somewhat disconcerting, looking rather like a temple with a single small bath in its centre.
Bath houses were popular until around the first half of the twentieth century when bath tubs became standard fixtures in most houses. As a result public bathing declined, continuing in its recreational form – swimming. The bath house is part of Beelitz Sanatorium, used extensively by the German military throughout the twentieth century until its abandonment. A young soldier named Adolf Hitler convalesced here after being wounded during the Battle of the Somme.
Harpurhey Swimming Baths, Manchester
Harpurhey is another abandoned Victorian swimming baths in Manchester. It was closed due to health and safety fears following a routine inspection in 2001. Cracks in the walls that had apparently been repaired five years earlier had widened, causing the entire structure to bow. The steam boilers and drainage system were also is poor shape, and Harpurhey was condemned as a result. (Check out these great photos on 28 Days Later, and don’t miss phill.d’s photo set.) The good news is that Harpurhey is now being renovated – not for swimming, but definitely for the community. Find out more here.
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