Tale of two cities: Decaying Victorian gems in Greater Manchester may face different futures

Salford’s historic Greengate baths may have been named one of the top ten most endangered building in the UK but conservationists have faith that it will not become another forgotten Victorian treasure.

The baths, now hidden behind scaffolding and shrubs, has remained derelict on Collier Street since the late 19th century.

It was placed in the Victorian Society’s Top Ten Most Endangered Buildings 2014 list due to its ‘dramatic deterioration’ over the last decade.

In March, Salford Council announced its ‘Greengate Regeneration strategy’ which aimed to gentrify the 13 hectares of land around the River Irwell, Victoria Bridge Street, Chapel Street, Blackfriars Road and Trinity Way.

James Hughes, conservation adviser from the Victorian Society, told MM that there is no denying that the baths are in a poorer condition than their fellow aging counterpart, the London Road Fire Station in Manchester city centre.

He said: “In some ways it is a lot worse than the fire station structurally. It’s a little more than a shell even though the pool inside does survive still intact.”

The council’s regeneration attempt is hoped to see around £400million worth of investment spill into the area over 15 years.

It is hoped it will create 5,000 new jobs and deliver a minimum of 1,800 new residential units.

Despite their ambitious approach in redeveloping the Greengate area, sustaining the district’s historical architecture would remain a top priority for council chiefs and developers.

Identifying the existence of the baths, which was built by Salford architect Thomas Worthington in 1855, is something that the Victorian Society say they applaud the council for doing.

“We know that there are wider development plans for the area, which in our view would certainly provide an opportunity and also revitalise the building itself,” said Mr Hughes.

A spokesperson for Salford City Council said: “Collier Street Baths are historically important as they were the prototype for many municipal baths built across the country in the nineteenth century. 

“They are in private ownership but as significant redevelopment of the Greengate area is already underway, we are working closely with the owners to try and find a commercially viable new use that will preserve the building for the future.”

After warning Manchester City Council of the alleged ‘dragging tactics’ that were being used in Britannia Hotels compliance to a ‘development agreement’  for the London Road Fire Station, James Hughes reinforced why the society’s conservation message was so important.

“That’s why we exist. There are always threats to the historic environment and I suppose we might say we see a particular disregard for the Victorian Edwardian period,” he said.

“We fight for on a daily basis to save buildings from insensitive alternation or demolition so in that sense, yes there is a constant threat.

“We do our best to advise people to ensure the best of the period is persevered.

“Hopefully it won’t get to the point where the London Road Fire Station or the Greengate Baths, even though it’s in a much worse condition and is also grade II*-listed, will actually be lost. It’s not something we’d like to contemplate.” 

Related Articles