Making waves for 180 years: Newcastle City Pool’s 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 hoarding. 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.

Once the building was complete, it opened as a public swimming pool and Turkish Baths, as well as housing the City Hall music venue which still operates today. This photograph from around 1930 shows a ‘musical tournament’ being advertised at the City Hall and, outside the baths, two parked motor cars and one solitary streetlamp.

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.

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 its impressive UK portfolio.

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 12 left in operation.

Cait Read, from Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths & City Pool Group, said: “We have always been aware how important the City Pool and Turkish Baths building is to the people of Newcastle.

“We look forward to discovering more of people’s memories and the history of the building over the next year, and are sure that when the building re-opens it will retain its importance in the architectural, historical, social and cultural fabric of Newcastle.”

*Register for updates at www.citypool.co.uk/#register and follow the progress of the work on Twitter @CityPoolNCL, on Facebook Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths.


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