These London Buildings All Used To Be Swimming Pools

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 18 months ago
These London Buildings All Used To Be Swimming Pools

We've previously introduced you to London's lost lidos. Now we're putting a roof on, and looking at the capital's former indoor pools. We're only covering former swimming pool buildings that are still standing but no longer used as pools.

Haggerston Baths

The building boarded up in March 2017. Note the separate doors for men and women. Photo: Londonist

We'll be honest, we walked past this impressive building in 2016, but didn't know what it was — the golden ship weather vane on the roof caught our eye. The pool closed in 2000, having been open since 1904. The Save Haggerston Pool group of locals has campaigned for the Grade II listed building to be reopened as a pool, but at time of writing, neither of the shortlisted tenders for the future of the building involve reopening it as a swimming pool. Watch this space...

Great Smith Street Baths, Westminster

Photo: Ruth Geach

At the junction of Great Smith Street and Little Smith Street is The Abbey Centre, a conference centre and charity. If you've ever looked above the door of this redbrick building, you'll have noticed the above detail, a clue to its history as St Margaret and St John the Evangelist's Baths, the first public baths in Westminster (not to be confused with Westminster Public Baths on Marshall Street in Soho, now Marshall Street Leisure Centre). Here's a closer look at that plaque to the right of the door.

The original building was opened  in 1891 and was replaced by Westminster Archives in the 1990s. There was a second class entrance to the building on St Ann's Street. Henry Poole's sculptured swimmers at the entrance are mini masterpieces.

You don't have to book a conference to enter the building today — The Wash House Cafe is open to the public.

Hornsey Road Baths, Holloway

Photo: cakehole

If you ever travel down the Hornsey Road, you've probably noticed the neon sign of someone diving, although it's been partially obscured in recent years by a new building next door.

The baths building itself is still standing, although it has been converted into apartments. It was originally built in the 1890s, and housed four swimming pools plus baths, a washhouses and a public laundry, making it the largest complex of its kind in the UK. It was damaged in the Blitz in 1941 and only repaired in the 1960s. It closed in either 1988 or 1991 due to a lack of funds. The remaining part of the building is Grade II listed.

Here's a photo of what the pool looked like when derelict.

Brentford Baths

Photo: Matt Brown

On residential Clifden Road in Brentford, opposite the Methodist church, you'll find the above building. As the engravings show, it used to the be the Brentford Public Baths, which opened in 1896. During winter, the pool was apparently boarded over to host dance events. The Baths closed to the public in 1990 and today it's a residential building. It's Grade II listed.

Ladywell Baths, aka the Playtower

Image: Google Street View

This odd-looking redbrick tower in Ladywell was once the local swimming pool complex which opened in 1884. Initially it only housed laundry and slipper bath facilities, before expanding to incorporate indoor swimming pools too. A cone on the top of the tower was destroyed by bombing in the second world war. The building was last used by Ladywell Gymnastics Club, which practiced there until 2004, leaving the building derelict ever since.

One of the pools was badly fire-damaged in 2005. In 2015 it made it onto the list of the ten most endangered Victorian and Edwardian buildings in England and Wales. At time of writing, the process for developing the building is still very much in progress, to be reopened in late 2019. See photos of it in its current derelict state here.

Stanley Halls and Baths, Tufnell Park

The red brick building is the pub. The yellow brick building to the right of the shot, now the Boston Music Room, was once the Stanley Hall and Baths. Photo: Geoff Holland

The Boston Music Room live gig venue (aka The Dome), attached to The Boston Arms pub in Tufnell Park, used to be a swimming pool. Little is known of its time as a pool, except that it was built in 1884, but after the first world war it became the Tufnell Park Palais, a venue for wrestling among other activities. Look out for the plaque on the Junction Road side of the building, reminding passers by of its pool days.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of former swimming pools in London. Tell us about the one you miss most in the comments below.

Last Updated 04 April 2017