Modern swimmers might be slightly grossed-out to learn that Victorian bath houses weren’t constructed only for popular enjoyment or communal exercise. They were built to literally keep people clean. Most of the factory workers that flooded into cities during the turn of the century didn’t have bathing facilities at home. Fear of spreading diseases coupled with an enthusiasm for public projects lead to the construction of magnificent bathing facilities. Most of the Victorian baths on this list were built to be segregated by gender and class. And although they do clearly show the inequalities of the time, they also display an incredible pride in design and ornamentation that has been unmatched in public buildings since.
Even though these bath houses were the pride of their city when built, chronic under funding led to their current disrepair. Deemed too expensive to fix, the bath houses were left derelict. Some succumbed to the elements, while others are still hanging on with fervent community support. Urban explorers have long been fascinated by the distinct experience of exploring the grandeur of Victorian baths. If you decide to see them in person, best of luck! But as always, be careful.
1. Victoria Baths – Manchester, UK
When the Victoria Baths complex was built in 1906 no expense was spared on this Edwardian masterpiece. Red brick terracotta tiles cover the exterior, and the interior was nicknamed the “Cathedral of Swimming”. Made up of an incredible first class men’s swimming pool, a second class men’s pool, Turkish Baths, and a smaller women’s pool, Victoria Baths was the height of technological style when it was built. Both the Turkish Baths and the pools were controlled by a state-of-the-art subterranean machine room, and the interior was decorated with gorgeous tile mosaics and water-themed stained glass.
Unfortunately improper upkeep lead to Victoria Bath’s closure in 1993. Since then, many groups have been working to reopen the facilities with proper repairs. Although it was listed as a Grade II historical building and won first place in an “American Idol”-style show for restoring buildings in danger, it is yet to be restored. But unlike many derelict places, this one is still open for visitors even after being abandoned. Once a month guided tours are led through the “Cathedral of Swimming” and cultural events are scheduled regularly in the space.