Walking up to the building, which is situated on on a little known street by the Trinity Way, it’s immediately obvious that this historic site is in a sorry state. A rare surviving example of a handsome early public baths, today it is covered in scaffolding and swamped by undergrowth.
So, what is Greengate’s story? The building was constructed by the Manchester and Salford Wash Baths & Laundry Company in 1855 as a response to the local authority’s realisation that cleanliness was a problem. It was designed by respected architect Thomas Worthington who was born close by in Salford Crescent. He went on to design the courts on Minshull Street and the building that now houses the Albert Square Chop House.
Aside from its architectural pedigree, the building’s main claim to fame is that local Victorian hero Mark Addy learnt to swim here. Addy, a publican who is remembered in the much-loved Manchester riverside pub bearing his name today, was the recipient of the Albert Medal for rescuing more than 50 people from the River Irwell. Aside from the fact he saved the lives of dozens of men and women, Addy’s accomplishment was all the more impressive given the highly-polluted nature of the river at the time.
Northern Soul caught up with Mark Watson from the local branch of The Victorian Society to discuss the plight of this building and what is being done to save it.
“It was built in 1855 and was a great success,” explains Watson. “It was a prototype, serving up to 50,000 people in the first year.”
Sadly, Greengate didn’t act as public baths for long. Around the 1880s its use changed to warehousing and offices. That lasted until the 1950s and, since then, it has been left to rot.
Watson explains: “The façade and pool halls are still there but the chimney, engine room and laundry are all gone. It is not terribly big, they floored over the pools. It is unrealistic to find a new use without flooring the lot over.”
Northern Soul spoke to Salford Council about the current position.
A spokesperson for the council said: “They are highly significant buildings that deserve to be secured, brought back into repair and used for the benefit of the surrounding Greengate area as it is regenerated. To do this they need a new viable use that will preserve important aspects of the buildings.”
Watson is keen to find alternative uses for the site. “They could be used as offices or student accommodation.”
Salford Council agrees with this sentiment.
“Obviously the building needs to be repaired and then adapted to a new use. It may also be necessary to extend the building to create a viable new use. The baths are in private ownership and the owners are keen to find a solution but it is unlikely that commercial development alone will achieve their restoration to a new use. Therefore a partnership may be needed with organisations that can lever in conservation funding. The council and the owners are actively investigating how to achieve this. It is very early days at the moment and these projects rarely proceed quickly. It is hoped that some works will take place to stabilise the building in the next few months.”
** In other news for endangered buildings, Ancoats Dispensary, which Northern Soul wrote about last year, is facing a funding crisis. The Ancoats Dispensary Trust has a deadline of February 28 to raise £370,000 in order for the building to benefit from a match-funding scheme from the Heritage Lottery fund. The trust has launched a crowd-funding appeal: https://spacehive.com/thebeatingheartofancoats
To learn more about this fantastic group of people who are passionate about their local heritage, watch this video:
By Chris Park
To read Chris Park’s article about Ancoats Dispensary, click here.