The Arlington Baths is Britain’s oldest private swimming club, having been originally designed by architect John Burnet, the father of Sir John James Burnet, in 1871.
The Baths is a private members club, run on a not-for-profit basis, with facilities for health, exercise and relaxation. The traditional Victorian premises house a 21 metre skylit swimming pool, a unique Turkish suite, free standing hot tubs and a bright, modern gymnasium.
The building and interior has an interesting architectural history, detailed on the baths’ website.
The architecture can be enjoyed by the public this year, for the first time, as the Baths are part of Glasgow Doors Open Day on 18 and 19 September. Thanks to Gordon McDougall, who mentioned that the Baths are working to secure the future of the club with a recruitment drive, and are offering new members 12 months for the price of 10, as well as waiving the £260 joining fee.
The Western Baths, also in Glasgow, was founded in 1876. The building was designed by Clarke and Bell, and the plans can be seen in the Mitchell Library.
The History section of the Western‘s website suggests a fond rivalry between the establishments:
There were, of course, other baths in Glasgow, but when we said “the Baths” we meant “the Western Baths” and never supposed that anyone could think otherwise”. So said Alison F. Blood in her “Kelvinside Days”, written during the 1920s in Ceylon when her thoughts strayed back to her youth spent in Glasgow.
This building and its interior seems to have been impressed upon the memory of the members:
It is not unusual for elderly former members from overseas to call at the Baths to ask if they can look around the club where they learned to swim so many decades before. The first question is always, “Do you still have the Trapeze, travelling rings and other gymnastic equipment over the pool?”
The Western Baths is affiliated to Drumseugh Baths in Edinburgh- members at the Western can use the facilities over in Edinburgh. I learned to swim here (as well as at the Commonwealth Pool, currently undergoing a much-needed renovation). Drumseugh, like the others, features a trapeze and rings, which took me years to master, and like the members of the other pools, these hold a strong memory for me. Sometimes when I swim now, I recall the taste of pie and beans from the bar at Drumseugh in a sort of inverted Proustian moment.
The Drumsheugh Baths Company commissioned the architect Sir John James Burnet (1857-1938) to design the building on a very steeply sloping, North-facing site near Edinburgh’s Dean Village… The building is designed in the Moorish style and has a deeply shadowed entrance under a low-pitch stone bracketed roof. This style was favoured for public and private baths at that time .
The baths underwent major refurbishment in 2005 by David Narro Associates.
These structural elements had to be carefully removed whilst maintaining lateral support to slender masonry external walls and retaining walls. The floors were replaced adopting in-situ reinforced concrete construction and utilising a high specification concrete mix design.
Finally, the Turkish Baths at Portobello in Edinburgh are now open to the public, which is unusual amongst the historic Victorian Baths. These baths were designed by Robert Morham 1898 in a Moorish style similar to Drumseugh. The website for these baths is much more functional, and there is less fondness for the history or the architecture and interior.
I found a link to photos and an eTour for the Portobello Baths, which unfortunately is not working. But from the thumbnails you can see that this is another beautiful building and interior.
Tags: swimming pools