Photographs from Newcastle City Pool & Turkish Baths’ fascinating history

A TREASURE trove of historic photographs and stories about Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths has been brought to light by leisure charity Fusion Lifestyle.

The Grade II listed building is due to reopen in early 2018 after a £5 million redevelopment by the company, but many new bathers will be unaware of the 180-year history of the site.

One incredible photograph from local archives seems to show construction of the Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths before it opened for public use in 1928.

A horse-drawn cart can be seen on what is now Northumberland Road, as men unload building materials in front of the temporary hording. The iconic entrance pillars are already taking shape in the building’s distinctive neo-Georgian style. But there is still some work to do, as the cavernous pool hall has only three walls.

1-building-under-construction-northumberland-and-newcastle-society

But the history of baths on this site goes back even further, to when famous Newcastle son John Dobson initially built private baths in 1838 at a cost of £9,500. Back then the baths faced east onto College Street, and had a strip of gardens at the entrance, as in this rare photograph from 1890.

During the 1940s–60s, the pools were covered over in winter and played host to a range of events including dances, exhibitions and even boxing matches.

The baths were closed in April 2013 but a community campaign by Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths Group drew attention to the building and Fusion Lifestyle saw the opportunity to add the building to is impressive UK portfolio.

Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths & City Pool Group said:

“We have always been aware how important the Turkish Baths and City Pool building is architecturally, being grade 11 and grade 11* listed, and historically, as well-preserved Victorian Turkish Baths, with just 12 still operational in the UK, but also culturally and socially to the people of Newcastle. We look forward to discovering more people’s memories and history of the building over the next year. And are sure that when the building when it re-opens it will retain its importance in the architectural, historical, social and cultural fabric of Newcastle.”

Fusion Lifestyle ploughs all profits from its operations back into the business to provide affordable health and fitness facilities for all.

The redevelopment will bring the pool and Turkish Baths back into operation, as well as seeing the introduction of a new spa, treatment rooms, fitness suite, exercise studios and café.

Peter Kay, Chief Executive of Fusion Lifestyle, said: “We’re so lucky to have rediscovered the amazing past of the baths and we’re proud to give this historic building a proper future for people in the North East.

“We are going to ensure that we honour this building’s history through a sensitive redevelopment, as well as making it fit for modern life.”

Since Victorian times there have been more than 600 Turkish Baths operating in the UK, but the new Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths will be one of only 18 left in operation.

Future for Newcastle Turkish Baths, City Pool & City Hall secured

Future for Newcastle Turkish Baths, City Pool & City Hall secured

Future for Newcastle Turkish Baths, City Pool & City Hall secured

We are delighted to announce that the future for Newcastle Turkish Baths, City Pool & City Hall has been secured. Newcastle City Council confirmedFusion Leisure Limited as their preferred partner for site. Working with us, and Newcastle Theatre Royal who will manage the City Hall, Fusion will restore the Turkish Baths and re-invigorate the City Pool, investing £5 million into the site.

Fusion have a track record in managing leisure facilities that are affordable and accessible to the public such as Brockwell Park Lido in London.

We are delighted that our voluntary work and campaigning over the last two and half years has been successful in ensuring that the Turkish Baths and City Pool are re-opened as affordable and accessible leisure facilities. We are pleased that Fusion share our vision and have the experience and resources to manage the historic restoration of the Turkish Baths and renewal of facilities within City Pool, and a continued future for City Hall. We are excited to continue to be involved in the future of the building, to ensure that it re-opens as a valuable resource for the people of Newcastle and an attraction to people visiting the city.

Read Newcastle City Council’s official press release.

We are a small group of dedicated volunteers and want to acknowledge their hard work in campaigning as well as support from Locality, Social Investment Business and Jesmond Community Leisure in our journey of the past couple of years.

Follow us on Facebook Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths & City Pool and on twitter @NclTurkishBaths and our website www.newcastleturkishbaths.org.uk for more information.

Council put City Pool, Turkish Baths & City Hall on the Market

Monday 2 February 2015

As of this week, on Monday 2 February Newcastle City Council have make public that they are are marketing and open for offers for lease or to buy the Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths and Vine Street School and offers to lease and maintain City Hall. Newcastle City Council hope this marketing process through Sanderson Weatherall will elicit a wide range of offers which they will assess, including ours, but with no guarantee to accept ours.

Since we got the Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths listed as an Asset of Community Value in December 2013, we have been in ongoing dialogue with Newcastle City Council, and they are aware of our interest and plans for that part of the building. We have 6 weeks to register our interest (which we plan to do!) and 6 months to produce a business plan to present to them. Newcastle City Council are under no obligation to accept our plan, and of course it depends on what offers they receive for all or part of the building.

We are sad that a building that is so architecturally and historically significant, and which has played a part in the lives of so many people from Newcastle is up for sale. However we hope the Council’s marketing process will bring together offers that can sensitively combine to re-open this historic Grade 11 and Grade 11* listed building along with our plans to bring the Turkish Baths back into use as an affordable and accessible community leisure facility.

We have been using the £10,000 grant we received from the Social Investment Business for pre-feasibility planning and are currently writing a business plan with help from Jesmond Community Leisure (who successfully run Jesmond Swimming Pool as a community venture), to re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths along with the Sauna Suite. We will submit our proposal and plan to Newcastle City Council within the 6 month period.

To help us reflect prices, services and opening hours that the public want we have created short online survey. We had over 350 responses in the first three days, and an overwhgelming positive set of responses so we are confident that the demand and support is still there. Thank you to those who have completed it. There is still time to let us know your views here, it should only take 4 minutes.
What you can do to help

Please help circulate the questionnaire to anyone you know who may be interested and encourage people to follow us on our facebook and twitter pages (@NclTurkishBaths) or to sign up to this newsletter. We need to keep the huge interest that there is for re-opening the Turkish Baths and not loosing this important local facility and asset in the public eye and especially to the council, councillors and politicians.

We also encourage any organisation who is interested in making a proposal for part of the building and collaborating with us to get in touch with us via email.

We will continue to keep you informed about news and progress and if we need any further additional help.

Community group investigating possibilities for re-opening Newcastle Turkish Baths with £10k Grant award

Monday 8 December

Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths Group are undergoing pre-feasibility research and business planning to look into options for re-opening Newcastle’s historic Grade 11 listed Turkish Baths thanks to £10,000 grant from the Social Investment Business.

The Baths and Pools were closed to the public on 28 March 2013 as part of Newcastle City Council’s budget cuts.

The Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths Group have been meeting regularly to look at ways to re-open the baths and pools: the grant will allow them to take this work further. As well as enabling them to assess the current state of the building and decide what work needs to be done, the money from the Social Investment Business will help create new business models to effectively drive the project forward. The business plan will be presented to Newcastle City Council with the hope that a strong case can be made for The Turkish Baths being re-opened, benefitting Newcastle’s residents and visitors.

Teresa Marshall from Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths Group said:

“This is great news for the group, and a vote of confidence for our campaign to re-open the Turkish Baths. Over the past few months we have been investigating the viability of re-opening The Turkish Baths and we delighted to be working with experts from Jesmond Community Pool to draw on their knowledge and experience to help drawn up are with new business models and options. We hope that we can make a strong case to present to Newcastle City Council and be part of their future plans for the building.

We are calling for any organisations who may have an interest in helping to re-open the Turkish Baths or in putting forward a proposal for another part of the building to come forward so we can look at possible collaborations. We also welcome individuals to show their support through our facebook group or joining our mailing list.”

Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths Group got the historic Grade 11 listed Turkish Baths and City Pool listed as an asset of community interest in December 2013, and have had regular meetings with Newcastle City Council about the future of the site. Members of the Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths Group are working with Managers from Jesmond Pool to draw on their expertise on managing a community run leisure venue and to help then draw up a business plan for the Turkish Baths to present to Newcastle City Council

Two conservation plans and reports done for Newcastle City Council in Februrary 2010 by North East Civic Trust detailing the architectural and heritage significance of the Pools and Baths and lay down guidelines of how the features of the buildings should be maintained. City Pool was one of only 19 public baths in the UK opened in the 1920s that is still in use today. The Grade 11 listed Turkish Baths are particularly important from a heritage point of view, being one of only 13 remaining Turkish Baths in the country. In fact, only 10 of these are open to the public with only 7 (including the baths in Newcastle)* being listed buildings.

When open, the Turkish Baths were not marketed effectively to the public.

In response to its proposed closure, a survey completed by users showed that current customers would support a small increase in cost per visit which would have generated an extra £100,000 a year.

It is understood that Newcastle City Council had been in discussion with various organisations to take over all or part of the City Pool and City Hall building, with the priority of maintaining the City Hall, although they are no longer in active discussions with any of these organisations.

Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths groups would be interested in hearing from any organisations who would be interested in working in partnership to bring the Turkish Baths back into use or have an interest in any other part of the building to look at possible collaborations.

Individuals interested in being part of the campaign or lending their support can join the mailing list by emailing SaveNewcastleTurkishBaths@gmail.com or following Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths on facebook.

Community Group successful in bid to list Newcastle City Pool & Turkish Baths as Asset of Community Value

Friday 10 January 2014

Save Newcastle City Pool & Turkish Baths have been successful in their bid to register Newcastle City Pool & Turkish Baths as an Asset of Community Value. The Grade 11 listed Baths and Pools were build in 1927 but closed to the public on 28 March 2013 as part of Newcastle City Council’s budget cuts.

It was Newcastle City Council itself who still own the now closed City Pool & Turkish Baths who had to approve the asset nomination.

The letter received by the group from Newcastle City Council states:

“The building was assessed against the wellbeing evaluation criteria set out on the website and was judged to be an asset that furthered the social wellbeing of the community.  The council also assessed whether it is realistic to think that the building could be brought back into a use that furthers the social wellbeing of the local community in the next five years.  Although, in the council’s opinion, it is not likely to be viable to bring the building back into use as a pool, it is possible that there are other uses of the building that could further social wellbeing, and with substantial investment it is realistic to think that the building could be brought back into use within 5 years.”

The letter states that the council recognises the building as an asset that furthered the social wellbeing of the community and still has the potential for a well-being use for the community (although they say they believe the Pool is unviable).

The registration of the City Pool and Turkish Baths as an asset of community value means from the date that the council put it on the market, community groups have 6 months to develop a Community Bid to manage and run the Pool and Baths. However at the end of the 6 month period the council could still choose to sell it to whoever they choose.

At present Newcastle City Council have not confirmed a date when they plan to market the building. It is believed that the Council are still waiting for a consultants report that they commissioned looking at the proposal that the Theatre Royal manage the City Hall and the possibility of turning the small swimming pool into an additional bar for the City Pool.

Save Newcastle City Pool & Turkish Baths are still waiting on further details from the council on their plans to market the site. However they have had good conversations with funders about feasibility grants to take them to the next step to manage and re-open the Baths and Pool and potential Heritage grants for the restoration of the building, as well as with individuals who can bring their skills and experience to the project.

A spokesperson for Save Newcastle City Pool & Turkish Baths said:

“We are delighted that the nomination to register Newcastle City Pool & Turkish Baths as a community asset was successful. They are an unique leisure facility for the city and an important from a heritage and historical point of view being one of only 13 Turkish Baths remaining in use in the country. There are many people from across the region who miss using the facilities.”

“This is an important step in our campaign to re-open the Baths for the people of the city. We hope that any individual or organisation who would like to be involved can come along to the public meeting upstairs at The Trent House pub on Tuesday 4 February at 6.30pm.”

Save Newcastle City Pool & Turkish Baths are holding a public meeting on Tuesday 4 February at 6.30pm upstairs at the Trent House Pub, where they will share the information they have discuss the next steps needed to take the bid forward.

For further information about Save Newcastle City Pool & Turkish Baths or being involved in the future community plans please follow Save Newcastle Turkish Baths on facebook or email SaveNewcastleTurkishBaths@gmail.com.

Users say Goodbye to Newcastle City Pool & Turkish Baths, amongst first services closed due to City Council Budget Cuts

Monday 25 March 2013

Swimmers and bathers in Newcastle plan a day of goodbyes as Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths are the first services and public building to close due to Newcastle City Council Budget Cuts.

Regular users are upset that the city plan to close both the Pool and Baths for public use on Thursday 28 March 2013, just 22 days after the budget was ratified by the council, without exploring other options to keep it open such as improved marketing or a community trust.

Staff working at the pool face either redeployment to other city leisure services (many of which are also scheduled to close) or redundancy.

In an afternoon and evening of celebration and mourning, regular users are plan to present staff with cakes and flowers in thanks for their hard work, friendliness and cheerfulness, which have made these facilities the healthy, welcoming heart of the city. All are welcome to join in with thanks and tributes to the staff between 4 and 5.30pm on Thursday 28 March, followed by music and poetry. The public are invited to join in last public swimming session between 5.30 and 6.20pm in fancy dress costumes if they wish to create a carnival atmosphere.

Charles Gordon is one the Over-60s Higgs Boson Swimmers Group, who will be going for their final swim at City Pool on Thursday morning. The group of retired men who first met at the Swimming Pool enjoy each others’ company, support each other through good and bad, visit each other at home and in hospital when needed, and keep fit with regular swimming.

Charles explained:

“I swim five times a week. The chaps I see at the baths are nearly all retired people… from a mix of backgrounds, location and education. We laugh with each other and support each other, wind each other up and commiserate when the need arises… We are just ‘ordinary people’ trying to make ends meet, trying to get along on our pensions and trying to keep fit and mentally alert…. The loss of our pool is for us, a sign of the total hopelessness of the state of our country…. We swimmers will find another pool in which to swim, but our country may never recover from yet another example of a valued service being ripped savagely and mercilessly from our desperate grasp.”

Charles and the group collected £100 which they presented to the pool staff for their final night out last Saturday.

Users have been campaigning for Newcastle City Council to keep the City Pool & Turkish Baths open until other options to manage them effectively have been explored.

Turkish Bath campaigner Joan Hewitt said:

The Baths have been scandalously under- promoted for years and that is why they are underused. Millions are being spent on improving Central station as the gateway to the City; yet a facility that should be promoted as a top visitor attraction, as Harrogate and Carlisle have done, is neglected. The danger is that once closed, they will stay closed and fall into disuse. Any private company who buys them will have no loyalty to the people of Newcastle and no incentive to maintain public sector prices for residents, alongside the price rises for spa treatments which our campaign survey has shown that students, business people, and out- of-town users and visitors would happily support. The council say they are investigating a Leisure Trust option. Let those MPS and councillors who say they deeply regret this loss ensure the Baths are reopened; and soon. Use them or lose them.”

Actress Charlie Hardwick, a regular user of the Turkish Baths, added:

“I can’t believe that this great city will lose its municipal swimming pool and the magnificent and unique Turkish Baths and sauna that nestle beneath.  Surely the health and well-being of its citizens is paramount? The Labour Council should be utterly ashamed of itself and fighting tooth and nail to find ways to save it.  Just like we are.”

Support for the City Pool & Turkish Baths has come from users across the city, the region and the globe.

Photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen who has lived in Newcastle since arriving in the 1970s added:

“For someone coming from the Finnish sauna culture, The Turkish Baths in Newcastle have offered me the warmest welcome in this city where the bitter winds bite into your bones like no frost dares. I have been coming to the baths for some forty years, and in its many-chambered sanctuary met up with friends, their friends, daughters, daughters’ friends and friendly strangers for talk and quiet, my space and their space blending happily in the blur of the steam.  When travelling abroad, we search for the ancient souls of the cities and are disappointed to come across a yet another Starbucks and the chain shop shopping malls. If that is all Newcastle in the end has to offer, why bother coming here?”

Sarah Campbell, Councillor for City of North Bay, Ontario, Canada wrote to Newcastle City Council:

“You have a building that would be cost prohibitive to replace with all its historical features alone, and to loose this, for this shortfall is beyond ridiculous. I can only dream of having such an asset on which to market quality of life and economic development, and business with pleasure with advertising that really catches the eye. You have a gem, and a marketing asset. It’s beyond comprehension to close its doors.”

Ironically, the past few weeks have seen the Turkish Baths have extra-ordinary high numbers of visitors as regular users make the most of them before they close and new visitors discover them, due to the publicity that their closure is attracting.

Campaigners filled the Swimming Pool to capacity for a public Swim-in event on 26 January 2013 and regular users are also campaigning to keep the pool and facilities open.

The Labour-led Newcastle City Council will close City Pool & Turkish Baths on Thursday 28 March 2013 as part of their three year budget measures to save £100 million pounds, which have been passed onto them by National Government. Newcastle City Council spend £360,000 per year to subsidise the City Pool and Turkish Baths but admit that better marketing and cost saving measures could decrease that figure.

Five play centres in Newcastle will also close on the same day. Further services including local libraries, leisure centres, youth and play services are also scheduled to close over the next three years.