Sole surviving Victorian public baths in Ireland set to reopen after £17million restoration
Updated: Jul 15
A new visitor centre and state-of-the-art leisure and spa facilities will open later this month at Templemore Baths following a £17 million project to restore and expand the historic Victorian building.
Templemore Baths is the sole surviving Victorian public baths in Ireland and was opened in 1893. They provided washing and sanitary facilities for the families who came to live in east Belfast, attracted by the development of the Harland and Wolff shipyard and other manufacturing industries. Countless thousands of people also learned to swim in the two pools in Templemore.
In recent years, many of the building’s original features such as the twin entrances, which reflect first and second class admissions, the major and minor pools and the slipper baths had fallen into disrepair.
This ambitious project aimed to sympathetically restore these features and ensure that they are maintained for future generations to enjoy.
The interior has been repurposed into an interactive visitor centre focusing on the heritage of the much-loved local landmark, telling the story of its former function as public baths and swimming pool. Many of its original features have been sympathetically restored including the ‘major pool’ which will be fully operational again, and the old slipper baths.
The former courtyard area has been transformed into a café within an attractive new atrium, featuring the original Victorian fountain which has been restored as its centrepiece.
A newly built 28,000 square foot extension has more than doubled the building’s footprint. It includes modern leisure facilities including:
• 25m six-lane swimming pool with spectator seating.
• An 80-station gym
• Spa facilities, and
• Changing facilities, including a Changing Places facility for people with complex needs or mobility issues.
Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Ryan Murphy and Angela Lavin from The National Lottery Heritage Fund pictured poolside in the newly built extension at Templemore Baths.
Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Ryan Murphy said:
“Templemore Baths is one of the city’s most historically significant buildings, so to see it transformed from a crumbling, derelict shell into a beautifully restored space for the local community and visitors is just fantastic.
“The new visitor centre celebrates the heritage of the building and the importance of public baths in the early twentieth century. It also describes the popularity of the two swimming pools in Templemore and reflects on the social history and industrial heritage of east Belfast and the wider city.
“The opening of the new extension also means that east Belfast will be blessed with three state-of-the-art leisure facilities following the opening of Lisnasharragh in 2019 and Avoniel last year. This is the sixth of seven new centres to be completed as part of Council’s £105 million Leisure Transformation Programme.”
The £17 million redevelopment of Templemore Baths was funded by Belfast City Council and The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project was also made possible thanks to the transfer of the former Templemore Avenue Hospital site from the Department for Communities to Belfast City Council.
Angela Lavin, Senior Investment Manager at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:
“Thanks to National Lottery players we have invested £5 million to see the restoration and redevelopment of the original Templemore Baths.
“The impressive 130-year-old Victorian building lives long in people’s memories and its social history from Friday night baths straight from the shipyard to learning to swim in the minor pool has been captured in the bath house’s heritage centre.
Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Ryan Murphy and Angela Lavin from The National Lottery Heritage Fund pictured inside the new visitor centre at Templemore Baths.
“Its restoration and sustainable construction has sympathetically blended old with new as materials were reused rather than replaced and the workforce shared and developed new heritage skills during the restoration of heritage features.”
The leisure facilities at Templemore will be managed by social enterprise GLL and the new visitor attraction will be run by EastSide Partnership on behalf of Belfast City Council.
Gareth Kirk from GLL, Angela Lavin from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Ryan Murphy and Michele Bryans from EastSide Partnership.
Gareth Kirk, Senior Regional Director from GLL said:
“The opening of the newly restored Templemore Baths means GLL now operates 16 leisure centres across the city helping to create a more active, sustainable and healthier Belfast. We are extremely proud of our commitment to providing accessible, affordable leisure services alongside employment and training for local people. The Leisure Transformation Programme’s impact on health and fitness is now unrivalled across major UK cities."
The new Templemore Baths opens to the public on 19 June 2023. For more information, visit:
The modern extension building beside the former Templemore Baths will floor to ceiling windows.
The new gym facilities.
Signage and shelves at the restored Templemore Baths. One sign reads Spitting and Smoking not permitted withing Templemore Baths. Another says You will be given one pair of swimming trunks and one towel.
Slipper bath in a bath house, the bath has a ring where the dirty water was before. The room is tiled with a small wooden seat in the corner. On the wall is text from a song that reads When Friday comes and my bones are sore, I join the queue down at Templemore - we get the chance to be as clean as the day we were born.