We like our hidden bits of London, the secret and forgotten and pleasantly rediscovered bits. Did you know that there was once a swimming pool in the very heart of Soho? The Marshall Street Baths were built in 1931 for "the health and well-being of local people," with one large pool and one smaller "second class" pool that incidentally has the nicer roof - an extremely fine example of barrel vaulted Art Deco design. There was also a child's welfare centre, a public laundry and public bathing facilities, among other things.
But then it closed. The Baths have stood empty and the site, sitting between Carnaby Street and Poland Street is running down. Eight years ago, Westminster City Council drained the baths, locked up the changing rooms and the public have not been allowed through as planning continues for the Baths' and the site's future. However, if your curiosity is roused and needs to be sated about this tucked away, forgotten slice of 1930s London, Corridor Theatre is performing a site-specific new work called Deep End there from 12th to 18th December. Audiences will be led through the buildings and are asked to:
Imagine… ghosts of silent swimmers pad along a corridor leaving wet footprints and discarded towels; glimpsed through a broken window- overgrown with branches- the empty pool echoes to the sound of children’s laughter whilst in the deserted changing rooms piles of carefully folded clothes await the bathers return. Experience… fragments of memories of past Soho and The Marshall Street Baths in the newly revealed mahogany walled clinic.
Don't forget your swimming trunks and no running, diving or heavy petting in the water, thank you.
Deep End runs at the Marshall Street Baths, 14-16 Marshall Street, London W1V. Tours are every 15 minutes from 2.30pm to 4.15pm then every 15 minutes from 630pm to 9.15pm. Tours last about 30 minutes and must be pre -booked by calling 0870 429 6883. The tour involves narrow corridors and steep stairs - for further access information call box office on 0870 429 6883. The newly revealed mahogany walled clinic is also open to the public from 2pm– 5pm. Entrance is free.