It may not be as impressive as Manchester’s best known empty pool complex but Harpurhey Baths is still a fine example of Edwardian swimming pool architecture – and one of the last. Abandoned since its closure in 2001, the baths have fallen into serious decay despite reasonably intact internal features. The bad news is that they’ll never be used by swimmers again. But the good news is the historic building is set for a makeover that will return it to the local community.
The renovations, kicked-off earlier this year, will see the Grade II listed building (meaning the exterior cannot be altered) turned into a learning facility for Manchester College of Arts and Technology, currently located next door. The female pool and laundry room have already been converted into a library, while the first-class male pool is set to become a meeting hall and exhibition space.
(Image via Google Earth)
Sadly the second-class male pool will be sacrificed to save the other two, but when the alternative includes longterm dereliction followed by inevitable demolition, even the most hardened local conservationist would welcome this option, as English Heritage has done. John Walker, from Walker Simpson Architects, said: “It would be great to give the building a new lease of life and open it up so it can be used by the community again.”
Harpurhey Baths was built in 1909-10 by revered City Architect Henry Price, who also designed Victoria Baths. Structural fears led to its closure in 2001. The grand exterior sporting Baroque motifs will be restored to its former glory, while some historic internal features will also be retained. This was done effectively at Hillsborough Baths in Sheffield (above), now the Rawson Spring pub. Have a look inside here (noting the tables where the pool used to be and bar beneath the restored balconies).
We hope to bring you a series of images chronicling Harpurhey’s journey from abandoned Edwardian swimming baths to dynamic modern learning centre, so watch this space! In the meantime, explore more historic pools in the articles below.