The Grade II listed Edwardian swimming pool and Turkish bath complex, Victoria Baths, gives plenty of Wes Anderson vibes. Victoria Baths, known as Manchester’s “water palace”, opened in 1906, playing host to swimmers and leisure seekers alike, who wished to spend a relaxing afternoon soaking their cares away. These days, while the purpose of the building may have changed, the glorious pool and bathhouse still welcomes guests for other events.
Visitors can find Victoria Baths about 1½ miles south of Manchester City Centre. The nearest Bus Stop is the 50 which runs from Manchester City Centre, and there is on-street parking on Hathersage Road, or alternatively, you can park in the enclosed car park at the rear of the building.
Facts, Curiosities and Interesting Things about Victoria Baths
Described as “the most splendid municipal bathing institution in the country” that “every citizen of Manchester can be proud” when it first opened, the building served the community for 86 years with three swimming pools, Turkish Baths, a Laundry, Slipper Baths and an Aerotone.
1. Who owns the storied pool and bathhouse?
After Manchester City Council decided to close Victoria Baths in 1993, the Victoria Baths Trust was formed based on a mission to fully restore the building and reopen the Turkish Baths and one of the swimming pools.
In 1998, the Victoria Baths Trust partnered with Community Health & Resource Centres and the City Council to develop a plan for restoring Victoria Baths. Over time, the charitable trust expanded its membership, and by 2001, the City Council gave the Trust formal management responsibility.
2. Victoria Baths has seen plenty of activity
From the time that mixed bathing was introduced at the baths in 1922, Victoria Baths has hosted dances, provided a setting for courtships to blossom, and welcomed bowls players during the winter months, it saw its pool covered for five-aside-football, badminton, netball and basketball.
3. Can you still swim at Victoria Baths?
Victoria Baths is a historic site and while it did serve as a leisure facility for locals for over 86 years, the complex’s baths closed in 1993. However, visitors can enjoy self-guided and guided tours of the storied venue.
4. Step right into Wes Anderson’s world
Known for his love of symmetry, immaculate laid flat lays and countless other visual quirks, Victoria Baths has a number of distinctive features that would make many think they’ve entered the Wes Anderson world.
On the façade there is a wealthy display of multi-coloured brickwork and terracotta decoration, while the main interior public spaces are clad in glazed tiles from floor to ceiling and most of the many windows have decorative stained glass.
All of these features comply with the directive style Wes Anderson adopts in his films known as planimetric composition (the orientation of elements of a scene, especially the background, as flat planes relative to the camera).
5. Lights, camera, action!
Victoria Baths in Manchester may look like a prime spot for a Wes Anderson film however screenings of The Grand Budapest Hotel, complete with deckchairs in the empty swimming pool have previously taken place. It has also been used as a filming location for TV programmes such as Peaky Blinders, Sherlock and Life on Mars, as well as films such as Prime Suspect.
What can you do at Victoria Baths?
Swimming may not be an option, but Victoria Baths hosts an array of special events, such as a gin and spirit festival, throughout the year. It is open from March to November for public visits and events, and since it became a licensed venue in 2011, Victoria Baths has welcomed countless arts events, weddings, and more.
Join a guided tour, enjoy a cream tea in the tearoom or even dance the night away at one of many music events. Make sure you keep an eye on their calendar though as the complex is unheated and doesn’t open on colder days!
Once you’ve spent enough time admiring the original architectural details and decor of Victoria Baths, you can visit Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, the Whitworth Gallery, the Manchester Museum, and the Chuck Gallery as they are all in close proximity to Victoria Baths.
The heritage venue, with its stained glass windows and glass ceilings was at a time plunged into darkness and lit only by the glow of hundreds of flickering candles for a series of Candlelight concerts. Candlelight invites guests to listen to renditions of their favourite music by the likes of Vivaldi or Taylor Swift at breathtaking venues.
While these intimate performances are no longer shining a light on Victoria Baths in Manchester, they continue to illuminate other striking venues in the city.