Discover Govanhill Baths
Govanhill Baths, on Calder Street in Govanhill, Glasgow, Scotland, is a Category B listed Edwardian public bathhouse designed by architect A.B. McDonald. The historic, red sandstone coated facility was opened between 1912 and 1917 and holds special significance as Glasgow’s last surviving public bathhouse from that era.
Despite its closure in 2001, the Govanhill Baths Community Trust, has been steadfast in its efforts to revive this community landmark. The Trust's dedication has played a pivotal role in reclaiming the abandoned structure, which is currently undergoing refurbishment and hopes to reopen as a Wellbeing Centre, in the near future.
Inside the Govanhill Baths
The facility contained a large mixed pool, a women's and children’s pool, and a smaller private pool that could be rented for parties and was often used as a training pool. Surrounding one of the swimming pools was a seating gallery for spectators to watch events like swimming galas.
There was also a Turkish baths section on the upper storey, which featured hot pools and a steam room and sauna, primarily utilised by men.
Adjacent to the baths, "The Steamie" on Kingarth Street catered to all the laundry needs. Women brought bags of laundry to be washed in large tubs but this room was replaced in 1971 by a laundrette.
The History of Govanhill Baths
The foundation stone for the new baths and wash-house was laid on 3 July 1914 by the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Sir Daniel Macaulay Stevenson. The Calder Street Baths, later known as Govanhill Baths, were created to address the lack of clothes-washing and bathing facilities in flats. Locals could frequent the facility to perform such tasks, making it a crucial part of the community.
During World War II, there were rumours that the baths served as a temporary mortuary for bombing casualties. In the 1960s, the big mixed pool was a busy place where families gathered for a splash.
Over time, however, the baths saw a decline in use. By the turn of the 21st century, Glasgow City Council deemed Govanhill Baths non-viable, citing low usage and high operational costs. The announcement of their closure in January 2001 triggered a community backlash.
The Closure of Govanhill Baths
Protests by the Local Community
The closure of Govanhill Baths was publicly announced in the Glasgow Evening Times on January 6, 2001. Responding to the closure, local activists and community members occupied the building from 17 March to 7 August 2001. Despite initial peaceful demonstrations, things took a turn in August 2001 when over 250 police officials forcibly removed protesters, sealing the building with steel shutters.
Falling into Decay
Following the closure, the 'Save Our Pool' movement persisted, with a picket line forming outside the baths for a year. Despite efforts to pressure the council, the building, listed but abandoned, fell into decay, resembling an eerie film set rather than the vibrant community hub it once was. In 2004, Glasgow City Council transferred control of the baths to Development and Regeneration Services for "disposal."
Fighting for Govanhill Baths
Thirteen years later, the Govanhill Baths Charitable Trust, an extension of the original ‘Save Our Pool’ campaign, was created to convert the baths into a health and wellbeing centre.
Over the years, the trust used the space for various fundraising events, including art exhibitions, theatre productions, and festivals. These efforts, including an art auction in 2010, attracted support from Turner Prize-winning artists. All proceeds went towards the renovation projects that are currently underway at the Govanhill Baths.
In 2012, the smallest pool reopened, marking the beginning of a three-step plan for the building's transformation. When it is finally complete the facility will house two swimming pools, a gym, yoga studio, Turkish suite, community kitchen, archive, and learning space.
With several phases of the multi-million pound renovation project still not completed however, the 2023 full reopening of Govanhill Baths for its new purpose as a Wellness Centre, has been postponed. We hope it opens soon!
Discover More about Glasgow with CityDays
Ready to discover more of what Glasgow has to offer?
CityDays have a brand new treasure and scavenger hunt in Glasgow which combines the fun of an escape room with the historic facts and whimsical trivia of a walking tour!
Take the stress out of planning your visit to Glasgow and book your adventure today!
Not visiting Melbourne this time? Don’t worry, you’ll find us all over the world.