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Two historic baths clubs in Glasgow given A-list status

24 February 2014

TWO of the country’s most iconic Victorian baths clubs have been awarded “A” listed status by Historic Scotland.

The Arlington Baths Club in Arlington Street, near Charing Cross which was founded in 1870 and The Western Baths Club in Cranworth Street, Hillhead which dates from 1876 remain treasured examples of the city’s Victorian heritage.

The major announcement follows an assessment by Historic Scotland and upgrades both from their existing “B” listed status making them “buildings of national or international significance.”

This week both clubs, in a rare joint statement, said the decision by Historic Scotland was a “ringing endorsement” of their attempts to preserve the irreplaceable heritage of the Clubs while offering modern leisure facilities to meet the aspirations of their members.

Around 8 per cent of buildings of merit in Scotland enjoy this A listing while around 50 per cent are category B listed. A further 42 per cent are C listed.

Located around a mile apart the baths clubs enjoy cordial relations and operate as members–owned and not-for-profit clubs. There is no commercial connection between them although they offer each other’s members use of their facilities during their brief annual maintenance shutdowns.

The Western Baths Club was awarded its B listed status in December 1970 while the Arlington Baths Club was designated B listed in May 1986.

Fraser Makeham, General Manager of The Western Baths Club said: “We are very pleased to have been awarded this new status by Historic Scotland. Our members are understandably delighted that a building so admired by them and by others should receive such an accolade. We are very much aware of the need to preserve and cherish such an iconic venue as the Western Baths Club. It is held in great affection by many of us and the new status is a ringing endorsement of our efforts to look after it now and in the future.”

Bill Mann, long serving Secretary of The Western Baths Club, said he was “delighted” that the buildings of two clubs he described as “friendly rivals”  had been recognised and added: “Not only do they have two of the oldest swimming pools in the UK but they are also thought to be the two oldest members’ clubs in the world with an indoor swimming pool.”

Andrew McGilp, General Manager of The Arlington Baths Club said: “`We are thrilled at being awarded A listed status by Historic Scotland. The Arlington Baths Club is an iconic building which is a vital part of the community and which is much-loved by its members.

“The Club – along with Page\Park architects - has recently begun a major assessment of our magnificent buildings to establish how best they can be further restored and to focus our efforts to raise funds to ensure that improvements are in keeping with their original Victorian grandeur.”

Gordon McDougall, Chairman of the Arlington Baths Club, said: “Those of us who are involved with the Arlington now and in the past have always seen our role as custodians of something very special which has an important place in Glasgow’s wonderful heritage. The Victorians built things to last with admirable attention to quality and detail and that is why we will be launching a major fundraising campaign to ensure that the Club is fit for the 21st Century.

About the Western Baths Club: The Western Baths Club remains distinctive for its period trapeze and exercise rings over the swimming pool and was designed by architects Clarke and Bell.

It has been careful over the years to sympathetically improve facilities in keeping with the grand surroundings notably last year when it replaced a cast iron “diving dale” at significant expense after the original in place since 1878 required renewing.

First floor decorative balconies overlooking the swimming pool have also been replaced to recapture their original appearance.

About the Arlington Baths Club: It was originally designed by John Burnett – again as a fine example of Victorian architecture and opened the year after it was founded in August 1 1871. It is the oldest members-owned and run baths club in the world.

It was a trailblazer as the first of the Victorian swimming clubs in Glasgow and like The Western Baths Club features trapeze rings above the swimming pool. The building was refurbished in 2000 thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Fund.

Its skylit swimming pool is a particularly appealing feature and recent years have seen refurbishment tastefully carried out in keeping with the original and widely-admired grand Victorian style.

Elizabeth McCrone, Historic Scotland’s Head of Listing and Designed Landscapes, commented: “Both Arlington and Western Baths Clubs are outstanding examples of 19th century swimming pool architecture and they have retained their special character while continuing to delight their members today. In changing their category of listing from B to A we are recognising their significance as buildings of national importance and they tell us much about the development of private swimming baths during this period. ”

Notes for editors:

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

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John MacNeil
Media Relations Manager
Communications and Media
0131 668 8714 or 07854 366 827