From The French Dispatch to Fantastic Mr Fox, The Grand Budapest Hotel to The Darjeeling Limited, Wes Anderson has an iconic and recognisable directing style. However, for Mancs we needn’t have to head to the big screen to step right into the director’s world as there’s Victoria Baths a unique spot in Manchester that offers exactly that.
Located south of Manchester city centre, the Grade II listed Edwardian swimming pool and Turkish bath complex, Victoria Baths gives plenty of Wes Anderson vibes. Known for his 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.
Described as “the most splendid municipal bathing institution in the country” and “a water palace of which every citizen of Manchester can be proud” when it first opened in 1906, the building has been partially restored and is open to the public. Not only did the building serve the community for 86 years with three swimming pools, Turkish Baths, a Laundry, Slipper Baths and an Aerotone, Victoria Baths was built with many period decorative features such as stained glass, terracotta, tiles and mosaic floors.
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).
The main swimming pool at Victoria Baths was floored over to hold dances in the winter months particularly in the post-war years, and we bet the acoustics would have been quite impressive. With retro features and symmetry pretty much everywhere, a visit to Victoria Baths will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time as well as into a Wes Anderson film.
The Baths were closed by Manchester City Council in 1993 however funding was eventually raised in the early 2000s to restore the building. Now, the people of Manchester are free to explore Victoria Baths as well as join a guided tour, enjoy a cream tea in the tearoom or even dance the night away at one of many music events.
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.
Find Victoria Baths at Hathersage Rd, Manchester, M13 0FE.