A Brief History of the Baths Department of the City of Salford

The Baths Service The Journal of the Association of Bath Superintendents August 1952 Volume 11. No. 116 p.16-19

A Brief History of the Baths Department of the City of Salford

By Geo. H. Hutchinson, M.N.A.B.S., M.R.I.P.H.H., M.Inst.F., A.R.San.I.

Baths

The history of public bathing in Salford can be traced back to the year 1835, when an attempt was made to establish a public baths in Peru Street. This does not appear to have been very successful, and it was not until 1854 that any further step was taken. In this year, following a public meeting at the Manchester Town Hall, a Company known as the Manchester and Salford Baths and Laundries Com­pany was formed, which sponsored the erection in Greengate, Salford, of a building housing first and second class swimming baths, with slipper and vapour baths. This was opened in 1860, and remained until 1880 the only public baths in the borough.

Almost on the same day that the Baths and Laundries Company was formed, the General Pur­poses Committee of the Salford Corporation made a recommendation that the Council should undertake the provision of baths establishments in the borough, but this recommendation was not adopted owing to the Company coming into being.

During the period between 1870 and 1876, how­ever, bathing came to be nationally recognised as an integral part of public health, and the Council there­fore appointed a Baths Committee to consider the advisability of erecting public baths. In 1877 this Committee recommended the purchase of the Baths and Laundries Company’s premises in Greengate, for the sum of £6,000, but the Council rejected this recommendation in favour of a project to build four new establishments, two in the township of Salford proper, and one each in the districts of Pendleton and Broughton, authorising for this purpose an expendi­ture of £20,000 exclusive of the purchase of land.

This project was pursued so vigorously that, although difficulties prevented the final acceptance of a tender until November, 1878, the first establish­ment, the Blackfriars Road Baths, was opened to the public on 9th June, 1880, and the remaining buildings were all in service by 1892.

The facilities then provided were:­

Blackfriars Road Baths (opened 1880; cost of site £2,310, construction £9,600): Two swimming pools; 33 slipper baths; one vapour bath.

Pendleton Baths (opened 1885; cost of site £962, construction £8,408): Two swimming pools; 23 slipper baths; two vapour baths.

Broughton Baths (opened 1891; site conveyed free, subject to chief rent of £50 per annum; construction £12,277): Two swimming pools; 29 slipper baths; two vapour baths.

Regent Road Baths (opened 1892; cost of site £6,500, construction £13,179): Two swimming pools; 39 slipper baths; two vapour baths.

As the borough continued to grow in size and importance, a further establishment was erected. This was the Seedley Baths, opened in 1910 and built at a cost of £1,308 for the site and £22,346 for the construction, which housed: Three swimming pools; 30 slipper baths; two vapour baths; and remains to date the best of the Salford baths, at which all the large galas are held.

In the early 1930’s it was found that under-water movement and penetration were cracking the foun­dations and fabric of the Broughton Baths and, on the decision of the Ministry of Health inspector, the building was eventually closed down and dismantled in 1936. A scheme was launched soon afterwards for the purchase of a new site and the erection, at a cost of £84,000, of an ultra-modern establishment to be known as the Salford Central Baths. This, when com­pleted, was to be large enough to serve both the Broughton and Blackfriars districts, and permit the closing down of the old Blackfriars Road Baths. Plans were prepared and details worked out, but the outbreak of war brought progress to a halt, and the steep rise in costs, coupled with the material supply position, has precluded the completion of the scheme as yet.

Improvements to the mechanical equipment at the establishments have been made at various times, the latest being the introduction of the dual Alkali­-Chloride of Lime “Breakpoint” chlorination system, and the stopping of the filtration plant centrifugal pumps by electric time-clocks, whilst improvements in other directions which are now being considered include the provision of modem diving stages and springboards, and the conversion of pools for enter­tainment purposes during the winter.

Organised swimming classes for school children have been a feature of education in Salford almost since the inception of the, baths service, and the Baths and Water Committee have encouraged school children to learn to swim both by reducing the ad­mission charges and by holding four schools’ galas annually, at which prizes are provided from the Committee’s funds.

The Committee have  also assisted swimming clubs, both public and private, by permitting them the exclusive use of the baths at concessionary rates out of normal hours. These facilities have been used to such advantage that the Salford City Amateur Swim­ming Club, formed only two years ago, is already making itself felt in junior swimming and water polo circles in the Lancashire area.

Wash-House and Laundry Service

Whilst the need for bathing facilities had been recognised during the 19th century, it was not until 1926, the year in which Salford was raised to the status of a City, that steps were taken to provide a public wash-house. Two years later there was opened in Hodge Lane one of the largest wash-houses in the country, having;

  • 80 washing stalls;
  • 88 clothes drying horses;
  • 4 rotary washing machines; 10 hydro-extractors; and
  • mangling and ironing facilities.

The building also housed 18 slipper baths, and was erected at a cost of £1,855 for the site and £36,220 for the construction and machinery.

Prior to the opening of the wash-house, and for some years afterwards, the public baths had all con­tained machinery for the laundering of baths’ towels, but in 1938 this work was taken over by the Central Laundry. This laundry was created by the removal from the Hodge Lane building of 16 washing stalls, the erection of a partition, and the installation in the space thus provided of four rotary machines, two 30-inch hydro-extractors, and a multi-roll ironing calender. A proposal is now under consideration to expand this Central Laundry so as to undertake process washing for all Corporation departments, and certain laundering for the welfare services adminis­tered by the Health and Civic Welfare Departments.

In January, 1950, a further 16 washing stalls were taken from the wash-house and replaced by six rotary washing machines and three 21-inch hydro-extractors, thus bringing the type of equipment more into line with present-day usage.

The most recent innovation at the wash-house has been the installation, in March of this year, of two “penny -in-the-slot” operated, steam-heated ironing machines for public use, and it is hoped to install similar machines in two new wash-houses which the Council propose to construct as soon as circum­stances permit. Plans for the first of these have been prepared and submitted for approval to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, and the facilities to be provided will be:­

  • 20 open-end, individual-drive electric washing machines;
  • 10 21-inch individual-drive electric hydro-extractors 2 coin-operated, gas-heated ironing machines; 36 drying horses with inverted T rails;
  • Storage space for perambulators;
  • Snack Bar.

The heating of the building and provision of steam will be by two gas-fired, automatically-controlled, low steam pressure boilers.

The second proposed wash-house will be on a site adjoining the Regent Road Baths, and consideration is being given at the moment to the replacement of the present baths building boilers, which are approxi­mately 60 years old, by new boilers of sufficient calibre to cope with the needs of both buildings.

General

Salford, situated as it is in the heart of the industrial section of Lancashire, has a great need for adequate bathing and laundering facilities, and the fact that most of the residential property in the city is old, and possesses neither baths nor hot water systems, merely emphasises this need.

The present establishments are insufficient to serve a population of some 178,000, and, with a view to remedying this defect, the Baths and Water Committee have during the last two years approved several schemes for capital works, including the part recondi­tioning of the Blackfriars Road and Pendleton Baths, the re-tiling of two pools at the Regent Road Baths, and the installation of a “Particular” combustion furnace to the boiler at the Hodge Lane Wash-house, as well as the new wash-houses, laundry service, etc., previously mentioned. The question of how soon these schemes can be carried out, however, remains entirely dependent upon the material supply position and the capital expenditure permitted during the next few years.

Last updated 1st January 2012

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15 Responses to “A Brief History of the Baths Department of the City of Salford”

  1. After reading comments on seedley baths. my father was the manager of seedley baths from early 1960 up to the close around 1978 my parents were Eric and Agnes Johnson son’s names Diarmuid,I’m Michael, Eric and Martin we also lived in the house above the baths it was the best year’s we all swam every day for 18 year’s ha ha we were very popular as we use to sneak all are friends in on Saturday and Sunday after bath’s closed. Great fun every weekend for 18 year’s .when baths closed was avery sad time my father went on to jointly manage broughton baths sadly passed away October 1980 and mother Agnes passed away June 1981 . All 4 brothers are still going strong I hope local people remember us I will comment again . Take care Mike Johnson.

  2. Leslie cook says:

    Went to St. John’s c of e kings street Salford and used Blackfriars baths which was ice cold, many a kid who wouldn’t jump in would get a slap on the back commonly known as a red hand. Thankfully a modern broughton baths opened where I gained the 25 yard certificate.

  3. Ann jones says:

    Completed my swimming certificates at Blackfriars baths in 1951.Remember we swam in the boys pool which was much bigger than the girls pool.

  4. neil darlington says:

    Peter

    Notwithstanding the entry in Pevsner/Hartwell Lancashire: Manchester and the South East, page 626

    The former (private) swimming bath at 31 Blackfriars Road, immediately adjoining the Tennis and Racquets Club, was built for the Manchester Swimming Club and opened in 1885. It comprised one pool 60 feet by 30 feet, and was apparently one of the first to permit mixed bathing in Manchester. Early maps indicate the building to be part of the Tennis and Racquets club, which may account for the stories of an inter-connecting door.

    This building should not be confused with the municipal Blackfriars Baths of the Salford Corporation, opened in 1880, which stood some 200 yards further west at the junction with Richmond Street – now a landscaped area. From memory these baths were closed and demolished shortly after the opening of the new Broughton Baths.

    Both baths are clearly indicated on the 1908 1:2500 map of the area (www.old maps)

  5. Peter Barnes says:

    I am researching the history of Manchester Clubs and Societies and am interested in anything anyone can tell me about the Blackfriars Road Baths which were situated next to the Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club. Both seem to have opened in 1880. The Racquets Club still thrives but although the baths building still exists it has been converted to offices.

    I should be grateful to know of any internal or external photographs (peterbarnesgt@hotmail.com) and in two particular points: i) the date the baths closed, and ii) whether there was a connecting door between the two buildings as is popularly supposed by members of the Racquets Club (but without evidence).

    I’m also interested in knowing how two pools (referred to in the article above) were fitted into a relatively small building which seems just about the right size to have accommodated the pool shown in the photograph accompanying the above article.

  6. John Dillon says:

    Having looked at the photo of Seedley baths I could smell the chlorine and feel the steamy atmosphere as the memory came flooding back. On my way home fromm Tootal Rd. Mod Sec. school I would go the baths daily, and took part in the School galas.
    Since 1974 I have settled in NSW Australia and have recently painted my childhood memories of the mid 1930s.

  7. Linda Parton says:

    I remember the George Hutchinson who wrote the article which is on your website. He was my father’s boss and he would turn up in his chauffeur driven car – I would always enjoy his visits because his driver (whose name I cannot remember) made a big fuss of me and would keep me entertained whilst my father and ‘the boss’ were working.

    • Hello I enjoyed reading your comments regarding seedley baths,we also lived there the house above was fantastic what a place to live, the best play ground ever 3 pools, the flat roof area,when you walked out of the kitchen, the rear yard, and the tunnels basement, my father Eric and mother Agnes Johnson, my father became the manager early 1960 upto the end around 1978 , my brother’s I’m Michael, Diarmuid, Eric and Martin,I would love to know more about the managers prior to my father, my father was very popular and was a good friend of George Hutchinson,I was only young when I met him ,we use to sneak in all are friends every weekend for 18 year’s ha ha I’ve got loads more to say,All brothers are still going strong,A big hello to all who remember us, sadly my father passed away in October 1980/my Mother passed away June 1981 , I will comment again later , Take care Mike Johnson

      • Martin Burns says:

        I stayed in the house above seedley baths in the summer of 76. Agnes Johnson was my aunt I remember Eric and Martin. I was visiting from my hometown,Ballycastle,Northern Ireland. I remember swimming every day I also remember the glass on the roof and the 76 Montreal Olympic games were on and rich man poor man was on tv . I really did enjoy my time there. It was a great summer. I now live in New York for the past 30 years.

  8. Carl Evans says:

    Hi Linda Thanks for your comment. we would be really pleased for you to add your memories to the site and look forward to reading them. Best wishes Carl Evans

  9. Linda Parton says:

    I enjoyed reading the report and seeing the pictures. My father worked at Hodge Lane laundry before taking over as manager of Seedley Baths. I spent the first 7 years of my life living at the baths. We then moved to Holland St. Wash -house where my father took over the management of the first all electric washhouse. Unfortunately I do not have pictures but I am willing to share memories if anyone interested.

    • Lynn Lloyd says:

      Linda,
      I lived with my family in the flat above Hodge Lane Wash House and Baths. I lived there from 1956 for about 12 years. My father Stan Lloyd worked in the laundry for many years prior to him becoming manager in 1956. I remember the women queuing with their prams full of dirty washing below the window of the flat. I used to listen to the gossip they shared. I also sat on the stairs of the office watching the men coming in for a bath, paying their money and getting a red ‘Salford Corporation’ rough small towel and a piece of red carbolic soap.
      It was a fascinating place to live. When I was young I used to go round with my dad at weekend “helping” him and it was great – except in the room where the workers kept their clogs – that smelled terrible. I could go on for hours with stories – it made me realize the inequalities in society when I think that a lot of the people only had a cold water tap in their house. Mostly it was such an interesting place and next door but one to Hodge Lane Mission!
      Regards
      Lynn Lloyd

      • Linda Parton says:

        Lynn
        Well my father would certainly have known your father. My father was a laundryman at Hodge Lane until we moved to Seedley Baths in 1949/50. Do you remember anything about Holland St Laundry? I can’t find reference anywhere.

  10. Mark says:

    Hi, does anyone have any images of the exterior of Broughton Baths?

  11. Information reqested re the temporary closure of Blackfriars Baths in the 1940s

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