Stunning 120-year-old public baths are set to re-open for the first time in a quarter of a century this week – and eager swimmers are bidding more than £500 to be the first in the pool.
Manchester’s Victoria Baths was built in 1906, but has remained shut to swimmers since 1993. Now, wannabe bathers are being welcomed back after a £3.5m refurbishment.
The eBay bidding war – which ends at 7.30pm on Friday 12 May – was launched by the Victoria Baths Trust, which has campaigned for many years to see the site brought back to life.
So far, dozens of bidders have battled it out to take the first plunge into the water when the Gala Pool re-opens on Sunday 14 May. The current winning bid stands at £509 after 27 previous offers, including the first of £30.
The winning bidder will enjoy exclusive access for two people to the Gala Pool from 10.30 am, until the first ticketed swim event starts at 11am.
Past and present: Kitted-out in modest bathing suits, a collection of swimmers bathe in the pool and even brave a rickety-looking water slide, while today’s restoration boasts spotlighting among many of the original features
Faithful restoration: Many of the building’s architectural qualities have been preserved by those who implemented the ��3.5million investment, which transformed the baths from a derelict shell to a fully-functioning facility��
Making a splash: A group of swimmers from the 1940s dive into the water as they partake in a swimming race, while today’s as-yet-unopened pool remains completely still – as it awaits Ebay’s highest bidder to break the surface of the baths��
Then and now: Dubbed the grand ‘Water Palace’, Manchester’s Victoria Baths is a Grade II-listed Edwardian building which attracted hundreds of keen swimmers in its heyday – and even hosted Britain’s first-ever jacuzzi back in 1952
Jill Earnshaw, chair of the Victoria Baths Trust, said: ‘Our public swim is a special moment in our fundraising plans.
‘Even though it is only for one day, we cannot wait to see this building once again bustling with members of the public enjoying a swim in the spectacular setting of our Gala Pool.
‘The support of the public continues to inspire everyone involved in Victoria Baths, and we hope that this auction will be a further way for people to show their support for our vision to secure the future of Manchester’s Water Palace.’
Competitive: So far, dozens of bidders have battled it out to take the first plunge into the water when the Gala Pool re-opens on Sunday 14 May. The current winning bid stands at £509 after 27 previous offers, including the first of £30
Money well spent: The substantial funding given to Victoria Baths has seen the once-dilapidated building brought back from closure after standing vacant for more than 25 years, despite being a central structure in Manchester
Beloved: In recent years the baths, which won the BBC’s landmark series Restoration in 2003, have been re-imagined to host events such as vintage home and wedding shows, a gin festival, film screenings, a beer convention, and a rave
It’s making a splash! Initial tickets for the re-opening sold out quicker than Glastonbury – in just 20 minutes – and visitors can expect to get up close to the intricate and widely-admired tiling in the venue’s Turkish Baths
Gill Wright, project development manager for Victoria Baths, added: ‘Lots of people enjoy visiting Victoria Baths, but it is a very rare opportunity for members of the public to be able to swim here.
‘We are hoping to create an experience that enables people to relive the Baths in its heyday, and to demonstrate what a wonderful and unique swimming experience it offers.
‘Theatrical performances, artistic installations and the occasion of our 110th birthday have seen the pool filled in recent years, but this is the first time since March 1993 that we’ve had a public swimming event. Looking to the future, our vision is for a time when the pool is fully in use, and we want to give people a taste of how special that will be.’
Old school: A dated image of a changing room highlights how standards have changed since the facility first opened in the early 1900s, when modesty was key when it came to public bathing for men and women alike
In use: Countless children can be seen queuing up, lining the edges and then diving into the pool where they race and play among the chlorinated water. A group of teachers can also be seen recording their times and ensuring safety
Taking investment to new depths: Just filling up the swimming pool for this weekend’s grand opening cost the organisers a whopping £3,000, which was made possible by an anonymous donation from a former patron
Team players: A local men’s swimming group are professionally pictured wearing retro bathing suits – presumably, as part of a shoot to champion them in a competition for the North West or to promote the facilities
Sign of the times: Due to the heritage of the site, which has seen it become a destination point for history enthusiasts, a board outside the building appeals for volunteers to help with public open days and group tours