Dundee Corporation Public Baths and Wash-Houses

The following material was originally available on the internet but has now been removed.

The idea of having public baths and wash-houses for the use of the working classes was first suggested at a public meeting held in the School Wynd Church on the 1st of April, 1844, under the presidency of Provost Lawson.

It was then arranged that subscriptions should be obtained from leading citizens to cover the initial cost and carry on the work until the baths and wash-houses were self-supporting.

The committee appointed to oversee the scheme consisted of Provost Lawson, Dr. Arrot, Mr. Monroe, Mr. James Chalmers ( inventor of the adhesive postage stamp ), and Mr. John Stirling.

In January, 1845, Mr. David Smith, Architect of Reform Street, Dundee, submitted plans and estimates for the erection of one building near Gilroy’s Mill, in the Pleasance, and another at Blackscroft so as to accommodate both the west-end and east-end workers. The cost of each building, measuring 80 feet by 61 feet, would be £750.

This scheme was delayed for some time, and ultimately abandoned when the Harbour Trustees agreed to give a site free of charge at the West Protection Wall beside Earl Grey Dock where the baths were then built.

Dundee’s Olympic Pool Full of History

The following article appeared on the Dundee Evening Telegraph web site 25th January 2014

After nearly half a century of service, a centrepiece of Dundee’s waterfront is finally set to come down.

With the demolition of the city’s iconic old Olympia swimming pool well under way, the once ground-breaking leisure centre has been reduced to a rubble-strewn skeleton with the site scheduled to be cleared by mid-April.

While the Olympia’s £33m replacement has proven a hit with Taysiders of all ages, long-time residents can’t help but express a tinge of sorrow for the fall of Olympia, which was once among the nation’s most ambitious, state-of-the-art aquatic centres.

According to veteran city councillor Ian Borthwick, the site’s initial development represented a progressive spirit in Dundee that has only recently been rekindled.

He said: “The Olympia was hugely important to this city, because it made so many leisure activities accessible to everyone in the city, rather than a privileged few. That was always the idea and, in the end, it was extraordinarily popular.”

Plans for the mighty leisure centre were originally approved in January 1970, with an estimated cost of £1,275,000. However, the waterfront site had already been a family favourite since the turn of the century.

Built in 1896, Dundee’s Victorian-era Central Bath House occupied the ground that would later become the city’s waterfront Hilton and was a central aspect of recreational life in Tayside up until its demolition in 1974.

Beside it, the city’s new leisure centre rose in earnest, opening its doors for the first time on July 15 1974. With its new-age wave machine, rapids and age-specific pools, locals took to the Olympia like fish to water.

More than 175,000 swimmers hit the pool in its first three months alone. Better yet, constant redevelopments at the multi-million-pound site meant the crowds would only continue to swell.

In 1987, the city council signed off on the £500,000 addition of new waterslides and, within four hours of completion, 1,000 revellers had already rocketed through the new plumes. Later developments, such as a £30,000 climbing wall were a huge hit, too. Meanwhile, the old Olympia held a number of international swimming competitions that helped put Dundee on the map. Within its walls, hometown heroes were made, and Olympic champions showcased their immense skill.

But all good things come to an end and, in 2010, it was finally agreed that the aging facilities were due a replacement.

In keeping with the original building’s design, Dundee City Council approved an equally ambitious project that would give birth to yet another facility to be proud of.

Last June, the New Olympia opened up its doors to rave reviews.

Boasting a 50m pool, wave pool, rapid river, four flumes, dive pool, activity pool and cafe, the centre has proven a successful replacement for its colossal predecessor.

As demolition crews finally bring the walls down at Dundee’s first Olympia, Mr Borthwick is confident its legacy will live on in the new Olympia.

He added: “A flagship leisure facility has been an essential part of Dundee for half a century. If we can continue to support activities that are widely accessible to everyone in Dundee, it has the power to be just as great as the old Olympia.”

Retro Dundee – The Central Baths 60’s/70’s

The following is from the Retro Dundee web site Friday 22 October 2010


The original Dundee Corporation Public Baths had 3 main salt water pools and a load of other bathing areas such as Turkish baths, plunge baths, foam baths, aeratone baths, as well as the other essential, a cafe.

The top photo was taken in March 1962 and features pupils from Harris Academy have a good splash about at their Gala day. It also shows the spectators balcony.

The picture under it is a couple of lads sharing a cubicle just before the baths closed its doors for good around 1974/75 because of the opening of the new Leisure Centre.

The baths were also known locally as the “Shorers” and I have a couple of hazy memories of being there in the 60’s.

I’m sure this was the place where on one visit, our allotted time in the pool was up and the attendant blew his whistle to let everyone know it was time to get out. However, there were a small group who tried to stay in just that little bit longer, so the attendant went over to one of the cubicles, grabbed a handful of clothes, held them above the water and shouted “If you’re not out of there in under a minute, the clothes get chucked in!”. The mad dash to get out cleared the pool in no time!


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