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St James' Pool and Health Club

A Grade II Listed Building in Town, Doncaster

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Latitude: 53.5193 / 53°31'9"N

Longitude: -1.133 / 1°7'58"W

OS Eastings: 457584

OS Northings: 402867

OS Grid: SE575028

Mapcode National: GBR NWJR.H4

Mapcode Global: WHDD2.KSPW

Entry Name: St James' Pool and Health Club

Listing Date: 24 January 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1403445

Location: Doncaster, DN1

County: Doncaster

Electoral Ward/Division: Town

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Doncaster

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): South Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Doncaster St George

Church of England Diocese: Sheffield

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Public Baths, Turkish and Russian baths suite, and winter concert hall, 1932. Built to designs by the Borough Estates Surveyor, Mr R E Ford. Red brick with sandstone dressings and slate roofs.


PLAN: pool hall runs parallel to Waterdale (formerly St James Street) to the rear of a range housing baths' entrance and crush hall with former manager's flat over. The entrance is flanked by changing rooms and former slipper baths (now gym rooms). Turkish and Russian baths suite in basement, reached by steps down from crush hall with steps at far end leading up to pool hall (no separate plunge pool). There is a second entrance at the south-west end of the pool hall, facing onto College Street (formerly Catherine Street) for use when the pool was boarded over in winter. There is a crush hall on both ground floor and first floor, opening onto pool balcony, with first-floor projector room, and a stage at north-east end of pool hall with dressing rooms to rear. Ancillary rooms to rear of pool hall formerly held laundry (now aerobics studio), filtration system and boiler house, kitchen and pool-side kiosk.

EXTERIOR: the baths' entrance is in a two-storey block on Waterdale. It is of seven bays with a wide pediment over the slightly projecting central three bays, wide stone entrance portico with Ionic and Tuscan columns, and a hipped roof. The central first-floor window has a stone tympanum panel with a relief carving of the Doncaster coat of arms; the other windows have stone surrounds. To either side of the entrance block are single-storey flat-roofed ranges, which originally contained the slipper baths and changing rooms. The left range (originally for women) is of five bays with small rectangular windows with stone surrounds. The right range (originally for men) has five bays with similar windows to the left half and the right-hand section, which steps forward slightly, is blind. To the rear is the large swimming pool hall with Diocletian windows to the upper walls, and a double-pitched slate roof with glazed ridge louvre. All windows to this elevation have modern uPVC frames. On College Street is a second entrance block, built as the concert and entertainment entrance. It is also of two storeys with slightly projecting central pedimented section, and a hipped roof. The central segmental-arched doorway is flanked by two-light mullion windows, with a wide recessed balcony at first-floor level with a stone balustrade of bulbous balusters flanked by Ionic columns. The symmetrical outer bays each have a tall stair light and two-light mullion windows on the ground and first floors. All windows in this elevation retain the original multi-pane frames. The entrance block is flanked by recessed single-storey, flat-roofed ranges set behind original low walls; the curved wall to the left is surmounted by cast-iron railings. At the opposite end of the complex, built against the north-east gable wall of the pool hall, is a flat-roofed block, which contains the stage. A lower flat-roofed block containing the dressing rooms abuts it. To the rear of the building is a pitched roof range, with ventilated and glazed ridge louvre, which formerly contained the boiler house, filters and laundry.

INTERIOR: the baths' crush hall rises full height lit by a roof lantern and two Venetian windows. On the left wall is a brass plaque commemorating the opening of the baths. A flight of tiled stairs rises to a landing from which double doors open onto the pool balcony. Beneath the balcony are glazed double doors through to the pool, with a flight of steps to the right down to the Turkish baths suite; these are separated from the crush hall by a wall with a rectangular opening containing a metal-work screen depicting a sailing ship. Double doors to each side of the crush hall lead to the changing rooms, which have been refurbished and up-dated. The eight-bay pool hall has a barrel-vaulted roof with curved steel roof trusses. The first-floor balcony has an original curved iron balustrade to three sides with a stage proscenium arch to the fourth (NE) side, flanked by two balcony doorways. Above the stage is a three-light segmental-headed window containing a stained glass depiction of a sailing ship. The south-west end wall has two small square projection apertures to the centre (relating to the projector room to the rear) flanked by half-glazed double doors opening onto the balcony. The pool side is double stepped to accommodate the sprung floor originally laid in winter. The pool itself has square port holes along each long side for under-water lighting. The front of the stage is presently boarded over, but the deep wooden stage remains to the rear, as do the dressing rooms, and two stair halls. The concert entrance has two flights of stairs rising to a crush hall with round-headed arcading. The hall is divided in two by the central projection room and external balcony. A feature of note is the original mosaic floor tiling by the Carrara Marble Company Liverpool Ltd in the two entrances, many of the rooms, and the pool hall. In most areas the tiles are cream laid in a herring-bone pattern, with coursed borders incorporating black tiles in lines, Greek key, and checks, while the basement Turkish and Russian baths suite has Greek key borders in two-tone blue tiles. The baths' entrance crush hall has a floor mosaic of the Doncaster coat of arms held by two sedant lions with the town motto 'Confort et Liesse' (Comfort and Joy), whilst this is uncovered, most of the mosaic floor here is covered by modern carpeting.

The stairs to the Turkish Baths descend to a lobby, with the small former Sun Ray room to the right. To the left is the lounge, or cooling room, which has been refurbished. Beyond is the Turkish baths suite. A lobby contains a circular drinking fountain with stylised female art deco heads to the bowl; it is made of earthenware glazed to appear like green marble. The walls are fully tiled in cream mosaic tiles, with a blue dado band, above which are small stylised blue and red flower motifs set out in a grid pattern surrounded by red and cream check borders. On the right side of the lobby are the three hot rooms forming the Turkish baths. The doorway opens into the largest room, the tepidarium, which leads through an arched doorway to the second room, the calidarium. This in turn leads through an arched doorway to the smallest and hottest room, the laconicum, which has a heating element on one wall. All the rooms have mosaic tiled floors and walls, similar to those in the lobby. The original concrete ceiling is visible in the smallest room; the other two rooms have suspended ceilings. On the left side of the lobby are the former Russian bath room, masseur's room, and shower and lavatory. The masseur's table and needle shower have been removed. The Russian bath retains the original mosaic tiled floor, but the walls have been retiled. The masseur's room has been converted into a shower room with modern tiled floor and walls. There is a wide basement walkway around the base of the swimming pool. The concrete pool walls contain the square portholes with fixtures for the electric bulbs.


The St James' Street Baths was officially opened on 9 June 1932. It was built on a site formerly occupied by the Christ Church Schools, and was designed by the Borough Estates Surveyor, Mr R E Ford, assisted by Mr F D Whiteley and Mr H J Ward. It cost £10,000 to build and equip and the general contractors were Messrs Walter Firth Ltd of Doncaster.

The building contained swimming, slipper, Turkish and Russian baths. The pool was the first public swimming bath in England to be fitted with underwater lighting through the provision of twenty-four powerful electric lights along the sides of the pool. The intention was to prevent unperceived accidents, and coloured screens could be placed in front of the lights to give coloured effects. The pool water was filtered by plant supplied by Paterson Engineering Co Ltd of London, and the whole of the water in the pool could be withdrawn, warmed, aerated, chemically treated, and returned to the pool once every four hours, ensuring that the water would be bacteriologically and chemically pure during the whole of the bathing season. The opening ceremony booklet noted that 'unlike most other swimming baths, there are no dressing rooms round the swimming pool itself, but these are provided in two large rooms adjoining the bath hall'. The slipper baths were divided into first-class and second-class baths separated for men and women. There was also a laundry fully equipped with the latest machinery, and a kitchen to provide food for the bathers.

The Turkish baths were situated in the basement, and consisted of a lounge or cooling room, three hot rooms, a masseur's room, and a Russian steam bath. Adjoining the Turkish baths suite was a Sun Ray room, where 'the Public can enjoy the health giving properties of Sun Ray lamps, even during the dullest weather..'.

During winter months the pool was floored over with a sprung maple floor and the swimming hall was available for concerts, dances, and other entertainment, with accommodation for approximately 1,500 people. There was a stage at one end, and a cinematographic projection box for films. The building was subsequently used as a venue by many performers, including the Beatles in the early 1960s, when they are said to have honoured a fee of £40, although by the time they actually performed they were being paid £200 per performance elsewhere.

In 1951 the Borough Surveyor drew up plans for a proposed extension attached to the south-east wall of the original building and would have included a second pool, Turkish baths, and café. It was not, however, built and the original baths remain largely as built in 1932. Alterations which have taken place include the up-dating of the pool filtration system and boiler along with their relocation to the basement, alteration of the kitchen to a store, the laundry to an aerobics studio, the slipper baths to gym rooms, and the refurbishment of the changing rooms. The pool is no longer floored over in winter.

The building is now known as St James' Pool and Health Club.

Reasons for Listing

* Design: designed as a multi-purpose recreational building to be used year-round, with an entrance for the pool, Turkish and Russian baths and associated areas, and a separate concert entrance for winter events, when the pool hall was floored over, with the provision of a stage and projector room for films, both of which survive;
* Intactness: the original mosaic tiling survives throughout, and the primary areas of the Turkish baths suite and pool hall both remain intact, including a pool with square port holes associated with underwater lighting, which was a first in English swimming pool design;
* Rarity: The Turkish baths (dry heat), and partially retiled Russian bath (steam) are an increasingly rare example of a common building form, of which only around 20 remain in England. As a suite, it is a good representative example of an inter-war Turkish baths, which though less ornate than Victorian or Edwardian examples, survives largely intact, retaining mosaic floor and wall tiling and original drinking fountain.

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