Small and rare example of a village swimming baths, 1891-3, by Horton & Bridgford of Manchester, Baroque Revival style.
Reason for Listing
Woolton Baths is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: It displays a good level of architectural detailing externally, most notably in the striking Baroque Revival entrance facade, which is constructed of high quality, locally-sourced sandstone, and the subtle ornamentation of the pool hall and former slipper baths ranges
* Rarity: It is a rare example of a small, late C19, village swimming baths
* Intactness: The exterior is little altered and the interior retains many original features, including the main pool hall's original wrought-iron and timber roof structure, pool tilework, ladder entrances, scum troughs, cast-iron grab rails, and gallery
* Historic interest: It is relatively early in date and is a good example of a philanthropist-funded, public swimming baths that reflects the wider philanthropic nature of the late C19/early C20
In 1891 Holbrook Gaskell JP, a wealthy local resident, philanthropist and Widnes chemical manufacturer, offered to provide a Baths for the Woolton district on condition that the Local Board maintained the building. Mr Gaskell also dictated that the Baths should be available to both sexes and all classes, his primary object being to bring a sanitary institution 'within the reach and the means of the labouring classes of the village and neighbourhood'. Much Woolton Local Board accepted the offer and subsequently adopted the Baths and Washhouses Act of 1846, which provided them with the power to expend money on the Baths' maintenance. Horton & Bridgford of Manchester, who had already designed Widnes Baths (now demolished) for Holbrook Gaskell and his co-Director (Henry Deacon in 1879) were appointed as the architects. Horton & Bridgford had also designed an earlier swimming baths, the Victoria Salt Water Baths, Southport (Grade II listed), in 1871. The contractor for Woolton Baths was Isaac Dilworth of Wavertree and the engineering work was carried out by Messrs. Bradford & Co of Manchester & Salford.
The Baths cost approximately £3,300 and were constructed on a piece of land owned by the Local Board, opening in June 1893. The Baths were constructed abutting a slightly earlier building on Allerton Road that is believed to have possibly been originally used as stables. This building was later in use as a fire station c.1907-1913, housing a hand-cart appliance and subsequently became part of the Baths, being used as a plant room, workshop and for storage. When originally constructed the Baths building included six private baths, a footbath, and a plunge pool, as well as the swimming pool and a laundry to the rear. Its water was supplied from Woolton Reservoir. Like other swimming baths at the time, the pool water at Woolton was only changed once a week, and therefore admissions were charged accordingly, with the cheapest rate being at the end of the week when the water was the dirtiest.
Until 1899 the Baths were closed during the winter months, after which time they were opened on a Saturday. In 1910 it was decided to floor over the pool during the winter, enabling the building to be used for social and community events. In 1913 Woolton was absorbed into Liverpool and responsibility for the Baths' administration changed. Woolton Baths was closed for the duration of World War I and World War II, and in 1935 the original rounded ends of the swimming pool were squared-off to better accommodate the needs of the swimmers.
Woolton Baths closed to the public in October 2010. Until the pool's closure, Woolton Swimming Club, which was founded soon after the Baths opened in 1893, was one of the oldest swimming clubs still in its original building and was where the 2004 Olympic bronze medallist, Steve Parry learnt to swim. Other pool users have included John Lennon, who learnt to swim there, and Sir Paul McCartney.
Swimming baths, 1891-3, by Horton & Bridgford of Manchester. Pressed red brick with red sandstone and terracotta dressings, red sandstone entrance block, slate roof. Baroque Revival style, single-storey
PLAN: Woolton Baths are located on a sloping site at the corner of Allerton Road and Quarry Street South (the land sloping upwards from Allerton Road to Quarry Street South) with a north corner entrance facing the junction. The swimming pool hall is aligned alongside Quarry Street South, whilst the former private baths range lies alongside Allerton Road, forming a V-shaped building. Attached to the Allerton Road range is a slightly earlier range that is believed to have originally been stables and subsequently a fire station, and now forms part of the Baths complex.
EXTERIOR: Front (north) elevation: The Baths' main entrance is constructed of red sandstone taken from the nearby Woolton Quarry and is of 3-bays with a tall central doorcase incorporating two blocked, engaged Tuscan columns flanking a raised doorway accessed by three steps. Above replaced double doors is a large segmental-headed overlight with a console-shaped keystone above. Flanking the doorway are two segmental-headed windows with one-over-one sashes and console-shaped keystones. Banded pilasters exist to the outer edges of the elevation. The engaged columns and pilasters support an entablature that sits below a pediment, the centre of which projects forward slightly in line with the doorcase below. This central projection incorporates a large square plinth rising above the pediment with scrolled feet and a carved, eared panel with prominent guttae at its feet and large carved lettering reading 'BATHS'. Surmounting the plinth is a large segmental pediment containing a shell design with a ball finial above. The north-east, angled side return of the entrance is one-bay deep and shares the same styling as the front elevation with a single sash window flanked by banded pilasters and an entablature above. Both this window and the window to the left of the entrance light the Baths' office.
North-east elevation: This elevation, which consists of the north-east side of the swimming pool hall facing Quarry Street South, is constructed of pressed brick with a brick and sandstone plinth and is of six-bays. The swimming pool hall is taller than the entrance block and has a hipped roof incorporating a roof lantern that runs the length of the range. Banded pilaster strips divide the bays and incorporate small, terracotta lion's mask panels to the top part. To the centre top of each bay is an oculus (covered by a green panel) set within a stone surround with an apron that incorporates a stone stringcourse running the full length of the range. To the far right of the elevation is the north-east return of the entrance block as described above. The south-east return of the swimming pool hall is in mellow red brick and is blank apart from a tall, infilled, segmental-arched opening to the centre with a later inserted doorway.
North-west elevation: This elevation consists of the former private baths range facing Allerton Road, which is similarly styled to the swimming pool hall, but is lower in height. The range is constructed of pressed brick with a brick and sandstone plinth and stone dressings, including two stringcourses. It is of five-bays with the bays being divided by banded pilaster strips each incorporating a small, foliated terracotta panel. Set to the centre of bay-one between the stringcourses is a small stained glass window. Other identical sized openings in the remaining bays, which probably originally lit the individual private baths behind, have been infilled. The roof is mainly hidden from view by a brick parapet with stone copings, but a series of skylights and a tiny dormer window can be observed. Rising above and behind the baths range is the north-west end wall of the swimming pool hall, which incorporates a raised gable and a large oculus (covered by a green panel) set within a decorative stone surround. Below right is a further lion's mask terracotta panel. Attached to the south-west end of the former private baths range is an earlier range in brown brick (believed to have possibly originally been stables and later a fire station, but now forming part of the Baths complex) that is blank apart from a blocked-up square opening with a red sandstone lintel. The main part of the range is of two-storeys (door and window openings exist on the rear elevation) with a pitched slate roof, whilst the south-west end of the range has a pent roof, which is visible on the rear elevation. The south-west end return of the range is blank.
Rear elevation: The rear of the Baths complex faces into a large rear yard. The north-east side of the yard is formed by a boiler house block incorporating a former laundry, which is attached to the south-west elevation of the swimming pool hall. The block is in mellow red brick and consists of a two-storey section (due to the sloping nature of the site the first-floor level is the ground floor internally) to the left with two segmental-headed windows and a hipped roof with raised brick banding below the eaves, skylights and a square, raised vent to the roof apex. The single-storey section to the right forms a catslide roof with the swimming pool hall behind, and has three vents to the south-west wall and two large skylights to the roof. Attached in front of the two-storey section is a tall, octagonal, pressed-brick chimney with stone dressings, set upon a mellow red brick base. To the left of the chimney is a plank and batten door leading to basement plant rooms. The rear of the former stable and fire station range forms the north-west side of the yard. The single-storey section to the south-west end has two large, blocked-up square openings with an off-centre substantial dividing timber, which would suggest that it was possibly originally a cart shed with an open side. The opening to the right has an inserted doorway with a triple-band of glazed bricks above. To the right of this is the rear of the two-storey section, which has a large doorway to the centre flanked by window openings (boarded over externally); that to the left is taller and all have substantial red sandstone lintels. To the far right of the ground floor is a further, narrower doorway with a ledged and braced door and a three-light overlight. To the first floor in line with the windows below are a timber taking-in door and a window to the left and right respectively.
INTERIOR: Internally the Baths have a small entrance hall with a geometric-patterned tiled floor and an office off to the left (east) side with a partly-glazed timber screen. Off to the right of the entrance hall is a small room that was possibly originally one of the private baths. The remaining private baths, which were also located off to the right of the entrance hall, have now been converted into a men's changing rooms and an access route. Set to the rear of the entrance hall is a painted stone stair flight accessing the swimming pool, which is on a raised level due to the sloping nature of the site. The swimming pool is 60 ft x 25 ft with the deep end located at the south-east end, and it is lined with white glazed tiles with a decorative blue Anthemion and Palmette motif border that is believed to be possibly by Minton. The pool is edged with sandstone and also has scum troughs and cast-iron grab rails with moulded end caps. Access into the pool is via four timber and cast-iron ladders located at each corner. The 18 changing cubicles that originally lined the north-east wall have been removed, but an original angled recess with chamfered jambs set towards the north-west end of the south-west wall survives. This now contains poolside showers but originally contained a footbath. An adjacent ledged and braced door accesses a narrow corridor that leads to a timber stair flight, which leads down into what is now the men's changing rooms and showers (originally the private baths). A gallery with a painted, decorative wrought-iron balustrade and later timber changing cubicles is set to the north-west end of the swimming pool hall above the entrance and is accessed by a timber stair with a replaced balustrade. The pool hall's roof is of timber and is partly boarded with wrought-iron rods and supports incorporating pierced quatrefoil decoration attached to the principals. It is lit by a large roof lantern that runs the full length of the pool. To the south-east end wall of the swimming pool hall is a square-headed doorway with a replaced door. The former boiler house complex, including laundry is located off to the south-west side of the pool via an arched doorway containing an original panelled door and another square-headed doorway with chamfered jambs. These areas have been converted into a ladies changing rooms, storage area and a plant room that has been opened-up down to basement level. The ground-floor rooms of the former stable and fire station range have a mixture of stone flag, sett and concrete floors. The probable former cart shed is now a plant room and has an exposed timber truss. The central ground-floor room is believed to have been stables and has a hayloft above. An original 2-light window with a casement to the upper part and ventilation screen below can be observed internally, and a timber ladder stair exists to the south corner. The hayloft contains a king-post roof truss. A six-over-six sash window can be observed internally in the range's north-easternmost ground floor room, but the original ladder stair has been removed.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.