Bon Accord Baths

I visited the Bon Accord Baths today: a previously council-run indoor swimming pool in central Aberdeen, constructed in the 1930s in Art Deco style. The council closed the pool in 2008 and since then the building has become derelict. The council tried to sell it in 2015 and amid a public outcry at potentially losing this piece of heritage, a community group was formed with the aim to resurrect the baths and eventually open it to the public for swimming again.

The building has a category B listing which means it is important architecturally as a fine example of Art Deco Scottish public baths. I have always been quite fond of Art Deco with its slick straight lines, flat roofs, curved walls. It feels a bit 1930s Hollywood glamour to me.

The Bon Accord baths did not disappoint from the wood panelled entranceway to the enormous cathedral swimming pool room. The outside is very austere, even by Aberdeen’s standards.

As soon as you walk inside the steely cold of the facade is replaced with warm and glamorous blond sycamore timber panelling.

The main cathedral hall is stunning.

There’s a diving platform at the deep end.

Timber seating for spectators.

They don’t build places like this any more which is all the more reason to preserve it for future generations.

There are several large rooms in the building some of which were previously used as gyms for exercise.

There are also private baths. Evidently locals used to come and wash here before it became the norm for houses to have bathrooms. I find that amazing. We take having our own bathrooms for granted these days but once upon a time people had to wash in places like this. The bath was actually lovely and big.

There are also some showers and I was amused by the sign outside the door on one of them which says, “Total time allowed in spray cubicle 20 minutes”.

One of the volunteers told me the water temperature controls for the private bathing cubicles are just outside the cubicles which meant people had to call out from inside and ask someone to “turn the temperature down” for them or vice versa.

There’s still so much work to be done to bring the building back to a functioning public swimming pool but the volunteers have done a lot already. This is how it looked just over a year ago.

If you’re in Aberdeen or nearby, they’re open to the public again tomorrow from 10am to 4pm. It’s definitely worth checking out. You can also donate to the cause via the Go Fund Me page. They need £150,000. There’s also a website with more information at http://bonaccordbaths.org.uk.

6 Replies to “Bon Accord Baths”

  1. They look amazing, and so worth saving. How lucky to have a group willing to put the time and effort into doing this.

    1. Yes, totally agree. The council is very remiss in letting the building fall into disrepair in the first place but we are lucky to have members of the community take up the challenge and they’re doing a great job.

  2. What an amazing building. There are several movies from the 1960s set in bath houses starring actors that would later go on to become A listers. I saw one recently – I’m going to spend all night trying to remember the name of it now 🙂

    1. Ooo, let me know if you remember the name! I love old movies but I can’t think what that would be.

  3. Thanks for sharing this! I had heard about bath houses before but this is the first time I’ve ever heard about people actually bathing at a bath house with tubs and showers!!! Everything else I’ve ever heard only mentioned the swimming pools!!!

    It’s a shame we don’t have public bath houses available for the homeless today. Some people say there are plenty of jobs out there and the homeless are just lazy and don’t want to work. That’s not true, of course, but let’s say a homeless person hears about a great job that would be perfect for them. Where is that person supposed to go to get showered and dressed in clean clothes for an interview? Build some public bath houses, include a laundromat, and pay homeless people to run both!

    Also, art deco is my favorite so it was really lovely to see the interiors.

    1. I hadn’t thought of that before but it’s so true! It’s very tough when you’re homeless to get back on your feet, because as you point out, there’s no place to shower for job interviews. We do need more public bathing houses and not just for the swimming pools.

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