Manchester's Victoria Baths opened in 1906, described at the time as 'the most splendid municipal bathing institution in the country'. After the baths closed in 1993 the building quickly fell into dereliction. Through the efforts of English Heritage, Victoria Baths Trust and the BBC Restoration programme enough money was raised to begin work in 2007.
I'd been looking forward to this trip like a kid waiting for Christmas - faded grandeur, exposed brickwork, peeling wallpaper and social history all wrapped into one big beautiful building. Fascinating listening to the caretaker reminisce about swimming here in his youth and learning water flowed from Male 1st Class, to Male 2nd Class before (you guessed it...) finally ending up in the Female pool.
My Dad always referred to a Swimming Pool trip as 'going to the baths'; it only dawned on me during this visit that was literally the case, with this institution providing hot baths to the local community as well as somewhere to swim.