Withington history
Withington Baths

Painting of Withington Baths (1983) by R. J. Burgess. 
Copyright: Mark Watson (reproduction), R. J. Burgess (original)

Withington Baths Centenary Celebrations 1911-2011

Withington Civic Society would like to thank all those who made this celebration a success: all the staff of the Baths, including the managers Brian Greenwood, Harry Johnson and Tony Kirwan; Clare Goatman of Manchester Sport and Leisure Trust for her support, help in organising and providing equipment; Gillian Harwood, of Serco, who helped with organisation and the provision of cakes; Sue McCarthy, a Green Badge Guide with Tour Manchester, for her talk and her enthusiasm for local history. Cakes and refreshments were provided by the staff of the Baths, Martins Bakery and by Alma Davies. To mark the occasion, Amy Glendinning contributed a long article on the history of the Baths to the South Manchester Reporter.

Withington Baths has a foundation stone dated 11th November 1911. A centenary celebration was held on 12th November 2011. It was a gloriously sunny autumn afternoon, the Baths had been decorated by the staff with birthday banners and balloons, some staff were dressed in period costume and served refreshments to the Baths' users.

The afternoon celebrations started with the cutting of a birthday cake by Councillor Mike Amesbury. This was followed with a talk by Sue McCarthy (of Tour Manchester), introduced by Roger Smith of Withington Civic Society. Sue talked about the history of Withington, the history of swimming pools and the history of Withington Baths itself. The turnout was tremendous with over 80 in the audience. The talk was well received and generated considerable discussion. As a bonus, several members of the audience with particular knowledge of the Baths gave short presentations. Alan Maher, who used to live in a flat above the Baths when his father was a manager of the Baths in the 1930s and 1940s, shared some of his memories with us. Mark Watson talked about the engineering history of the Baths and brought along a painting of the Baths (reproduced above). The staff of the Baths donated a large birthday cake and Alan Maher was invited to cut the cake. Finally, Brian Greenwood, one of the managers, offered guided tours of the Baths. In all, this was a splendid occasion, a fitting birthday for the Baths and a fine exercise in living history - bringing the past to the present.

Click on the pictures below for larger versions.

Councillor Mike Amesbury, with family, cutting a birthday cake to start the afternoon proceedings.

Birthday crowds outside the baths.

A member of staff in period costume.


Sue McCarthy before her talk on the history of Withington and the Baths.


Some of the audience.

Alan Maher, whose father was a manager at the Baths, in what was once his childhood bedroom in a flat above the Baths.


A birthday cake kindly donated by the
staff of the Baths.

Alan Maher cutting the cake, with some of the staff at the back and their birthday decorations.

History of the Baths

The Baths have a datestone of 1911, and were built immediately to the north of a cricket ground on Burton Road. The building was designed by Henry Price (1867-1944), a City Council architect, who also designed Withington Public Library. The style of the Baths combines elements of Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movement. The Baths had separate entrances for men and women. Despite this, it was the first Baths in Manchester to allow mixed bathing (in 1914).

In the Second World War, on New Year's Eve 1940, an air-raid shelter in front of the baths took a direct hit. Seven ARP wardens were killed.

The original plans for the Baths, designed by the Manchester City Architect, Henry Price:

From a blog by Polly Harlow, written for Withington Civic Society:
A paper putting forward ideas for these [Withington] baths was first presented in 1909, with £20,000 proposed for the provision of three plunge baths (first and second class for men and one for women). There were some objections on the grounds of cost, with the council determining that £12,000 should suffice.

In 1911, a newspaper advertised the construction of the new baths, and discussed the memorial stone of the new building, which can still  be seen today. Originally there were plans for two swimming baths, and it is said that one was planned to be set apart for female use only, given the high concentration of women initially attracted to the new baths. Contrary to the previous estimate, the article also cites the final cost of the baths at £15,000.

A third article, written on May 2nd, 1913, describes the opening of the Withington baths the day before by the Lord Mayor of Manchester. The Lord Mayor was ‘presented with a key outside the building and formally unlocked the door,’ marking the opening of the baths which have survived until now. By 1914 mixed bathing was allowed in the baths:

Withington mixed baths