Our latest Curiosity of the Week was once a rather grand bathing house. Victoria Baths is also known as ‘Manchester’s Water Palace’, and for good reason.
When it first opened in 1906, the building provided spacious and extensive facilities for swimming, bathing and leisure. The baths were known as Manchester’s Water Palace because it was built of the highest quality materials, with elaborate decorative features including stained glass windows, terracotta tiles and mosaic floors.
Victoria Baths closed in 1993, despite protests from local residents. However, the building was listed (Grade II) as a result of its historic and architectural significance. A campaign to save the building has continued ever since.
In September 2003, Victoria Baths won the first series of the BBC’s Restoration programme, securing £3.4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The front of the building has been now been fully restored, including many of the building’s unique stained glass windows. Further funding has also enabled the renewal of the Gala Pool roof. The vision for the future is to reopen the Turkish baths and one of the three pools.
Victoria Baths is one of Manchester’s more unusual and interesting heritage attractions, and also currently acts as an arts venue. Regular opens days, guided tours and special events are held at the baths each year. One upcoming special event at Victoria Baths is an original promenade performance of the greatest love story ever told, Romeo and Juliet.
The baths also offer weekly Wednesday tours at 2pm until 29th October 2014. The tours cost £5 for adults and under 16s go free. The tours enable visitors to get to know more about this fascinating and historic building. Visitors can hear tales of champion swimmers, see England’s first ever Jacuzzi, and take in the opulence of the 1st Class Males’ pool with its newly restored stained glass window. Visitors can also discover the lesser known areas such as the laundry house and boiler room. They can also see the spaces that have been used as TV locations for series including Life on Mars and Mrs Biggs, on a special Behind the Scenes tour.
Manchester’s Victoria Baths is celebrating this year’s Heritage Open Days with a Glass Fair, taking place on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th September. As well as spectacular displays and stalls from leading glass artists, visitors will have the opportunity to tour the building, with highlights including the Edwardian stained glass for which the water palace is famed. Other open days take place on Sunday 5th October with a Vintage Fair and Sunday 2nd November with an Art & Craft Fair.
If you have an idea for Curiosity of the Week then do get in touch, we welcome suggestions from everyone. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, we are always on the lookout for unique and interesting places to discover.