The Memorial Baths, Bridge Street

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As a memorial for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, it was decided to erect a building containing a public swimming pool and baths, for the many people who then did not have baths in their own homes.

The site was a shabby area of ramshackle workshops in Bridge Street, next to the Town Bridge- so it would be an exercise in both tidying up an eyesore and providing a new facility. John Moulton had proposed that a Technical school be built there, but in 1895 this was rejected in favour of the baths. The school, later to become Fitzmaurice Grammar School, was built in Junction Road instead.

The site was acquired and donated by John Moulton, who also gave £650; Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice gave £450 towards the building. The Baths were made over to the Bradford Urban District Council in 1898.

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Click on the thumbnail pictures for a bigger view

drawing of projected baths buildingIn a booklet about the town’s celebrations of the jubilee, the printer William Dotesio published in 1897 an artist’s impression of how the building would look. The architect was Sydney Howard. The glazed roof behind the entrance building lit the swimming bath.

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Group photo of builders on siteA group photograph of the men involved in the demolition and building work. Each man holds one of the tools of their trade: scappling axes for trimming stone, hods for carrying blocks and rubble, pickaxes, hammers and shovels; the man on the left has a plumb line. Behind them, part of the old buildings still stand.

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bathsitePart of the work was to build a stone wall as an embankment on the river side. The river was low and it was possible to drive a horse and cart into it. The old buildings have been partly demolished.

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The Bridge Street site under clearance

In this photograph the site has been cleared of buildings, leaving piles of materials which seem to have been sorted, perhaps for recycling.

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81boa050The foundation stone of the new building was laid by Alice Blanche, John Moulton’s wife, on 30th October 1897. The stone was retrieved when the building was demolished and is now in the grounds of The Hall.

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bathsThe baths as they were on completion in 1898. The major change from the preliminary sketch is that the chimney and presumably the boiler room had moved from the back of the building. Standing outside are Mrs Heavyside, the Superintendant and her family. The small park or ornamental garden in front had been laid out during the previous year.

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img_8353A card containing the opening times and a list of regulations for using the baths in about 1920. The “pure spring water” advertised vertically in the middle was piped from Ladywell in Newtown, via a pipe that was laid on the river bed; it is still there and water wells up from it on occasion.

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liberals001The swimming pool could be floored over so that functions could be held there. In this picture are members of the local Liberal Party at a dinner in March 1910. The wooden battens on the walls were where the changing booths fitted.

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fieldgunA photograph from the 1920s showing the gardens, with more mature trees and shrubs and the captured German field gun that was a feature from after the First World War until it was taken away as scrap for the Second World War.

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img_4100The small size of the swimming pool can be seen from this photograph of a Fitzmaurice Grammar School swimming competition in about 1965. The width only allowed for four lanes and there was no walkway around one of the long sides. Despite the “no diving” sign on the balcony, it did happen. The water only changed infrequently and dropping charges reflected the increasingly dirty water.

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img_3717The baths were demolished soon after the previous photograph and a new library would occupy the site. The gardens became a car park. Some years later the present swimming pool was built, but the library failed to appear until 1990. Bradford on Avon Museum occupies some space on the upper floor.

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