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Latitude: 55.9715 / 55°58'17"N
Longitude: -3.1754 / 3°10'31"W
OS Eastings: 326737
OS Northings: 676014
OS Grid: NT267760
Mapcode National: GBR 8S6.9W
Mapcode Global: WH6SM.655H
Entry Name: Edinburgh, Leith, Junction Place, Victoria Public Baths
Listing Date: 21 February 1992
Source: Historic Scotland
Source ID: 364797
Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB27560
Building Class: Cultural
Electoral Ward: Leith
Traditional County: Midlothian
George Simpson, 1896-9. 2-storey principal pool block with single storey entrance block to right, Free Renaissance details. Red sandstone front elevation, squared and snecked rubble with polished dressings, red and mottled brick to rear and sides. Base course; chamfered reveals; sloping cills; corniced windows and tall parapet to pool block.
SE (FRONT) ELEVATION: tripartite pool block to left with plain bands of quadripartite windows at ground floor to each pair. Centre bay slightly advanced, bracketed and pedimented at cornice level, tall round-arched window at 1st floor breaking parapet in pedimented gable, flanked by fluted pilasters. Quadripartite windows to outer bays. Original foliate cast-iron lamp bracket fixed to left. 4-bay single storey entrance block to right with recessed porch of paired arches in bay to left of centre, semi-circular open scrolled pediment above breaking eaves with large shield and motto of Leith. Bipartite windows to right of centre and outer left. Window to outer right. Windows all boarded-up. Green slate roof with crested red ridge tiles to entrance block, brick stack; pool block with grey slate lean-to roofs on either side and raised ridge with narrow strip window, ridge glazing of corrugated acrylic sheeting. Moulded eaves gutter.
INTERIOR: (1992) vestibule with oval lantern and commemorative panel naming architect; some original cornices. Largely original pool fittings with curved Baroque wrought- and cast-iron balcony rails, Art Nouveau wrought-iron tendrils, alternating between cast-iron supports and foliate bosses; balcony cantilevered over cast-iron columns between stalls on 3 sides, timber boarded partitions and later half doors. Light steel truss roof with arcaded catwalks. Pool re-tiled and re-faced.
Leith Victoria Public Baths is a good important example of a late 19th century public baths, designed in a fine Renaissance style. The principal elevation features fine stonework detailing and includes and prominent and pedimented classical arcaded entrance. The building is a significant part of the streetscape.
Swimming clubs and bath houses were established in Scotland from the 1850s following the enactment of the 1846 Act to Encourage the Establishment of Public Baths and Wash-houses, which was established to improve general public health with access for all classes of citizen. With the rapid expansion of urban population, often living and working in unsanitary conditions, bath and wash houses were seen as essential public services. The Act, which affected the entirety of Britain, encouraged local authorities to open up these facilities in areas of dense population. While men and women did not mix at these facilities, women would have had their own separate entrance, however they would have to attend at certain times when the male pools were not in use. It would not be until the 1870s when separate ladies pools were being considered in bath and wash house design. These bath and wash houses soon started to cater for recreational swimming rather than washing and became a hugely popular social past time during the 20th century.
William Harley was the first to offer indoor baths in Glasgow, at Willowbank in 1804. Swimming became widely popular as a sport during the late 19th century as more residences in the UK gained access to mains water supply and could therefore wash and bath at home.
George Simpson (1861-1944) was succeeded his father (James Simpson as burgh architect and architect to Leith School Board. The Leith appointments came to an end when that burgh was incorporated into the City of Edinburgh in 1920 but Simpson continued in private practice thereafter.
List description updated as part of the sporting buildings thematic study (2012-13).
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