Ashton-under-Lyne Town Centre – Progress 4

Victorian swimming baths to undergo £3m restoration

A listed building that once housed Ashton-under-Lyne’s swimming baths is to have a multi-million pound makeover.

£3m, or so will be used to restore the Grade-II* listed site which was built in Victorian times as a place for people to swim and bathe. Once complete it will be used as a hub for hi-tech businesses with a room reserved for community use in the roof, its crowning glory.

Deputy council leader John Taylor is in charge of the project which is being jointly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Tameside MBC who are also waiting on a bid to the Heritage Lottery.

Property specialists from PlaceFirst, which acquired the building from Ask Developments, are inside now and hope to have completed the work by next July.

Coun Taylor said: “PlaceFirst specialise in restoring old buildings and bringing them back into use. They are looking at building a building inside it, like a pod, and that will be used by businesses. At the very top of the pod will be a community room and we are planning to form a trust so any rent that’s made will be put back into the trust for the maintenance of the building.”

The former baths on Henry Square, which has stood empty since closing in the 1970s, is one of the last buildings to be overhauled as part of the St Peterfield development. Despite the architectural treasures within, it currently looks poor on the outside.  which Coun. Taylor plans to change.

He added: “I have always been of the view that it’s an absolute eyesore on the entrance to our main town until I went inside. The roof is just stunning. The inside is about restoring the brickwork, the ironwork and the wooden beams, but to me the outside of the building needs just as much work doing on it to look as good.”

A spokesman for PlaceFirst said the company would be revealing more about their plans in the very near future.

Ashton-under-Lyne created one of the first and largest municiapal swimming baths They were opened in 1870 at a cost of just £16,000.

The idea of a public baths was first mooted in the 1840s. With bathrooms and even running water unheard of in many Ashton homes at the time, the author recommended that the terms of admission be “so low as to promote among all classes… the general practice of bathing”.

The local ‘Health of Towns’ committee applied to the Lord of the Manor for a grant but the scheme did not materialise until the late 1860s when the public baths was built.

Built in a Byzantine style, the baths had a 120ft tower which housed the flues from the steam boilers and heaters. The largest pool was 100ft x 40ft and was used mainly by male bathers. In the eastern section of the building was a smaller pool, 27ft x 15ft, for female bathers who could also use the bigger pool for a three-hour period on Thursdays.

During the winter months, when the main bath was closed, the smaller pool was used by men and women at different times. There were also private bathrooms and Turkish baths.

Part of the building was also used as a police station and a station for one fire engine.

Between November and March each year, the main pool was covered with a wooden floor, built on wooden supports placed on the bottom of the pool. The room was then used as a skating rink, concert hall and meeting room. The skating rink measured 116ft x 50ft with a raised stage area at one end and when chairs were set out, the ground floor and the spacious gallery could seat more than 4,000 people.

The building was closed when the newer baths were opened in the 1970s.


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