It was declared a “water palace” of which “every citizen of Manchester is proud” by the Lord Mayor when he opened Victoria Baths in 1906, but the historic swimming pool complex was closed by the council in 1993 and fell into years of dereliction and decay. In 2003, however, a campaign to restore the baths to their former glory secured £3.4 million after winning season one of the BBC’s restoration programme. Project manager Gill Wright told the BBC: “The restoration has been on a huge scale and there is still a long way to go but the work done so far has been amazing.” Now Friends of Victoria Baths are launching a month of events to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their initial funding victory (learn more about their efforts here). This article delves into the Edwardian splendour of Manchester’s Victoria Baths.
Fine mosaics adorn the floors while the walls boast rich emerald green tiles fired in Salford. Victoria Baths have featured in numerous television shows and movies, including the gritty 1998 film Resurrection Man. The building’s unmistakable green tiles are evident as it stands in for the ‘Tomb Street bath house’.
Beyond the Pools
Originally built for the poor of inner Manchester, Victoria Baths featured three swimming pools, along with 64 wash baths, and Turkish and Russian baths. Behind the scenes can be seen all manner of heating and filtration machinery, accessed via dusty corridors in the bowels of the building. (Explore other disused and abandoned UK swimming pools.)