Leith turns tap off on area's last hot public bath

A historic Victorian swimming pool about to close for refurbishment will say goodbye to the once impoverished district’s last hot public bath as part of the renovation works.

Friday, 5th July 2019, 7:50 pm
Leith Victoria Swim Centres bath could still be used by members of the public for a small fee of 1.70 but will be removed as part of the upgrade to the reception area.
Leith Victoria Swim Centres bath could still be used by members of the public for a small fee of 1.70 but will be removed as part of the upgrade to the reception area.

Leith Victoria Swim Centre’s bath, located just off reception, could still be used by members of the public for a small fee of £1.70 but will be removed as part of the upgrade to the reception area.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, having a household bathroom was unaffordable and overcrowding and poor sanitation caused Edinburgh’s public health to suffer.

After local authorities were encouraged to build public baths and wash houses, Edinburgh dived in by the end of the century.

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When it first opened, the building housed individual baths, a recreational swimming pool and public laundry facilities, known as a ‘steamie’.

The Leith Victoria baths were originally opened in 1899 after architect, George Simpson was commissioned to design the red sandstone Renaissance style building.

The public baths were commonly used until the late 1970s, due to the high number of Leith dwellings lacking bathrooms up to that time.

Prior to that they were very common in the Victorian era following a public health crisis from cholera and typhoid outbreaks.

Hannah Robinson, author of Secret Edinburgh, an Unusual Guide said: “It’s a real shame that Leith are going to remove their bath.

“I remember going to use the bath at Portobello Swim Centre in the 1980s, if the heating broke down in the house you could always go for a nice deep hot bath - I don’t think it had been that common in other cities

“It’s amazing that they still exist in Edinburgh.

The iconic Victorian pool affectionately known as ‘Leith Viccies, will be refurbished from Monday, 12 August 2019.

Due to the unique layout of the centre, it will be a phased refurbishment, starting with the closure of the pool and studio 2, with these areas reopening in February 2020.

When the pool and studio 2 reopen phase two of the works will take place.

This will involve the cycle studio and studio 1 closing for two weeks for improvement works.

The gym will remain open throughout and the centre will be fully operational by March 2020.

Nicola Duffy, Leisure Manager at Leith Victoria Swim Centre said: ‘We’re unique in having five B-listed Victorian pools in our portfolio but from time to time, these historic venues need some ‘tlc’.

“The investment will future-proof the building so that customers can continue to enjoy its facilities for many years to come, as they have done for previous generations.

“We will, however, still maintain certain characteristics of ‘Viccie Baths’ to ensure they keep their charm, which is so loved by the people of Leith and, indeed Edinburgh.”

The refurbishment will also include a mechanical and electrical works, structural improvements to the pool hall and maintenance work to the sandstone structure and roof.