Wednesday, 5 October 2011

UAHS Hard Hat Tour: September 2011 - Part 1 of 2 (Templemore Baths)

On Friday 30th September 2011 the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS) held their first in a series of hard hat tours geared towards professionals. Using the Built Heritage at Risk register as a resource to explore listed buildings the UAHS hope to highlight the hundreds of buildings at risk across Northern Ireland. 

Click here to learn more
about the NI Built Heritage at Risk Register.

The register is compiled and managed by the UAHS in partnership with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA). Speaking at the introduction to the hard hat tour Jody Wylie, UAHS’s Heritage Projects Officer, explained that there are over 500 buildings at risk in Northern Ireland and 14% are government owned. He hoped that these tours would bring attention onto these buildings and highlight that we have many buildings in public ownership that we can take direct action to save and put back into active use. 

Templemore Baths. Photo by Gary Potter.

The first UAHS hard hat tour explored both the Templemore Baths and the McMaster Street terraced houses in East Belfast. Beginning at the Templemore Baths Rita Harkin (UAHS Research Officer), Jody Wylie, David Elliott (Chair of the Templemore Users Trust) and Gary Proctor (Chair of the Templemore Aquatic Sports Club) provided the background information for the tour.

Plaque at the entrance to Templemore Baths. Photo by Gary Potter.

Templemore Baths is a Victorian red brick building on Templemore Avenue in East Belfast. It was opened in January 1893 and now has the only functioning Victorian swimming pool in Northern Ireland. The Baths came about due to the flourishing industries of Victorian Belfast which included the ship yard, rope works and other engineering works. The workers terraced homes in East Belfast were small and often lacked washing facilities and many of the men would end their working day covered in oil or coal. The Baths were of huge importance to industrial East Belfast and the main purpose of the facility according to the Belfast Corporation was to improve the health, hygiene and cleanliness of the areas population by providing washing facilities that were not available in the, mainly rented, terraced housing. Templemore Baths was one of four facilities commissioned by the Belfast Corporation at the time - one for each corner of Belfast. Templemore was constructed between 1891 - 1893 to a design by Robert Watt and at a cost of £21,660.

Third Class Baths. Photo by Gary Potter

There was only one tap - Cold! The attendant
would provide six inches of hot water and after
that you were responsible for the cold water tap!

Throughout the 20th Century the Baths became more recreation focused. By the 1980’s the now Belfast City Council began to develop new modern recreational facilities and the decision was taken in 1983 to close the Templemore Baths. A group of campaigners began to lobby for the retention of the Baths and in 1989 the Templemore Users Trust accepted responsibility for the facility. In 1987 the building became a B1 listed building (HB26/08/003) but around 50% of the building still remains unused.

Photo by Gary Potter.

In 1994, with the help of EU funding, the old public slipper baths area was converted into a Fitness Suite which provides some income to the Trust. 

Fitness Suite. Photo by Gary Potter.

The Trust has also restored one of the buildings two swimming pools which is well used by the community and the local swimming club.

Swimming Pool. There would have been a balcony around this space.
Photo by Gary Potter.

In 2006, with financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Belfast City Council, the Trust commissioned a Conservation Management Plan. This document established the significance of the Baths, identified threats to its continuing survival and set out policies whereby its significance could be retained.

Inside Templemore Baths. Photo by Gary Potter.

Despite the hard work of the Trust in keeping the Baths functioning it is clear that there is a lot of work ahead and much of the building is in a poor state. The former third class baths area is yet to be restored but with the help of the UAHS the Trust is now seeking to establish a Building Preservation Trust which would provide charitable status to access funds and take the building forward.

Third Class Baths. Photo by Gary Potter.

The courtyard area is currently under-utilized but provides fantastic opportunities as part of any future restoration and development of the Baths...

Courtyard area. Photo by Gary Potter.

The former swimming pool - at one time one of the largest in Ireland - lies abandoned awaiting a new lease of life...

Dis-used swimming pool. Photo by Gary Potter.

The boiler area... In the 21st century with new energy solutions this area could be converted into a more active space...

Boiler area. Photo by Gary Potter.

The tour takes in the more recent extension to the Templemore Baths which is now in a particularly bad state - Hard hats only in this section of the building... 

Photo by Gary Potter.

The tour finished up at the rear of the Templemore Baths with the former manager's house on the right...

Rear of Templemore Baths. Photo by Gary Potter.

"Templemore Baths are iconic in East Belfast" claimed Cllr Robin Newton MLA and "represent an historic legacy for the community" explained Gary Proctor (Chair of the Templemore Aquatics Sports Club). Cllr Robin Newton MLA also commented that the building has "enjoyed a great past" and "hopefully by working together in partnership Templemore Bath's future can be secured and the building can enjoy a great future".

Templemore Baths. Photo by Gary Potter.

Templemore Baths. Photo by Gary Potter.

Part two of the UAHS Hard Hat Tour Report will explore the McMaster Street terraces being regenerated by Hearth Housing...

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