The Angel of Purity….not me you will be surprised to hear but a piece of beautiful stained glass in the Turkish Baths area of the Victoria Baths. Here she is…

As I said in my last post I’ve been having fun helping out at a beer festival at the Victoria Baths. It’s been tiring but great fun even though I went through the entire event and didn’t drink a drop! I was way too busy. The Victoria Baths were built in the Victorian era as a public amenity. You could learn to swim in them. Or, because a lot of houses in those days lacked bathrooms, you could actually go and have a bath. There was a sumptuous Turkish Baths suite and rooms where you could ‘enjoy’ water treatments. There was one room with something that looked like a huge Bain Marie. No one could work out what they did in that. But you could melt a lot of chocolate in it without it turning grainy. It opened at the beginning of the last century but closed in the 1980s when the city went into serious decline. People preferred the modern pools and the Victoria Baths was abandoned and was gradually falling down. But it’s a stunning building and is listed.

The BBC did a competition on TV so the nation could choose a building to save. Victoria Baths won and got £6,000,000 which, to be honest has barely touched the sides of what this building needs to have done to it. But it’s now safe, the façade is looking good and some of the interior is looking as good as it did 100 years ago. Work needs to be done still though. And I wonder what happened to the buildings that lost the competition. 

They still occasionally fill one of the pools. There are three. One for First Class Males, one for Second Class Males and one for Females. It was built in different times of course. The pool for the women is the least elaborate which is insulting by our standards but, as a male, I would have really resented going through a door marked ‘Second Class Males.’ So some swimming still happens but, if they want to refurbish the rest of the building they need to raise more money. Having events like the beer festival with thousands of people paying to attend raises a lot more than a bunch of seniors doing aqua aerobics on an afternoon. 

The part of the building frequented by the First Class Males is full of beautiful stained glass, with representations of guys doing manly things like cricket and boxing. The stained glass is less spectacular for the Second Class Males and almost disappears by the time you reach the part where the Females swam. 

There’s a lot of these dark green tiles everywhere. Not to our taste in a modern bathroom, but appropriate for a Victorian public baths.

And the fishes on the mosaic floors may not be as accomplished as the Roman mosaics I saw in Cirencester a few weeks ago but I thought they were charming. I’d have them in my bathroom. 


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