Local bathers invited for final tour of Newcastle City Pool

HISTORY lovers and former users of the Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths will get a last chance to bid farewell before the venue undergoes a major refurbishment.

The last chance tours are free and will take place on April 20 and 21 before workmen move in to start construction this spring.

The tours of the building, which dates back to 1928, will be hosted by representatives of owners Fusion Lifestyle and campaign group Reopen Newcastle Turkish Baths.

This is the first opportunity members of the public have had to enter the City Pool since its closure in March 2013. It is also the last time the building will be accessible until it reopens in spring 2018.

Anthony Cawley, director of operations at Fusion Lifestyle, said: “People from across the North East have a real connection with this place and there are lots of memories tied up in the venue.

“We couldn’t begin work on site without giving the public an opportunity to have one last look.”

There’s no need for swimming costumes and caps on this tour, instead attendees will be greeted with an unusual glimpse into this currently disused Newcastle cultural icon.

While the pools may be empty of water and the Turkish Baths frozen in time the tours will take an optimistic look forward to the reopening.

Anthony said: “After a campaign to save it by the Reopen Newcastle Turkish Baths Group, Fusion Lifestyle took the building on with a vison to restore it.

“Fusion Lifestyle’s mission is to make sport, fitness and wellbeing facilities affordable and accessible to all.

“It is in an independent, registered charity that aims to deliver choice and value, helping people to live healthier, more active lives.

“The charity has more than 90 swimming pools, sport and fitness facilities across the UK.”

The £5million programme of work will see the building undergo a transformation to become a stunning, top quality fitness and wellbeing venue for the 21st century – while sensitively restoring and retaining the building’s original art deco listed heritage features.

The venue will include a public pool, Turkish Baths, a spa with treatment rooms, fitness suites, exercise studios and café bistro.

Anthony added: “While the tours will give people a chance to revisit old memories we’re looking forward to giving people across the North East a place to make memories for many years to come.

“I expect there will be lots of demand for this tour, but we can only accommodate up to ten people per tour, so I’d encourage people to book early.”

Cait Read from the Reopen Newcastle Turkish Baths group that campaigned to save the venue, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to see Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths as they were and to get a glimpse of some of the behind the scenes areas not normally shown to the public.

“It’s a great chance to hear first-hand from Fusion the plans for restoration and redevelopment of this important and much loved historical building ahead of the work starting, and to ask questions about the project.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Fusion over the coming year to bring Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths back into use as an affordable and accessible leisure resource for the people of Newcastle.”

Tours of Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths take place on Thursday 20 and Friday 21 April between 10am-3pm and will last around 45 minutes per tour.

To book your tickets go to www.newcastlecitypooltour.eventbrite.co.uk

Manchester group pools resources with Newcastle

TRUSTEES of a disused Turkish Baths in Manchester have travelled to Newcastle to meet the team behind the resurrection of the City Pool and Turkish Baths.

Fusion Lifestyle will begin work on a £5m redevelopment in early 2017 after drawing up impressive plans to breathe new life into the building and gaining planning permission earlier this year.

The group from Manchester’s Victoria Baths also met Michelle Hirschhorn-Smith of the Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths & City Pool group, which was instrumental in pushing for the City Pool to be reopened.

Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths were closed in 2013 due to budget pressures, a situation mirrored at historic pools across the country in towns such as Manchester, Reading, Bath and Birmingham.

But a community campaign by Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths & City Pool drew attention to the building and Fusion Lifestyle saw the opportunity to add the building to its impressive UK portfolio.

The Victoria Baths in Manchester have been closed for swimming since 1993, but trustees have been given new hope by the £5m refurbishment in Newcastle. Now they too have turned to Fusion Lifestyle for help with the restoration.

Michelle Hirschhorn-Smith, of Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths & City Pool, said: “We’re thrilled to be working with the Victoria Baths group from Manchester and Fusion Lifestyle.

“It’s been inspiring to meet with other people who share our passion for public pools and historic buildings, and we’re especially glad the Victoria Baths team have come to visit Newcastle as these are two very rare buildings which still house Turkish Baths.”

Gill Wright, project development manager at Victoria Baths Trust, also heads up the Historic Pools of Britain group, which was set up in 2015 to protect and preserve England’s public baths.

Gill said: “We heard the all-too-common story of Newcastle’s baths closing, so we were delighted to hear that Fusion is working with the community campaign to save the building for public use.

“Newcastle really is a flagship for us of how historic pools can be made fit for today and Fusion is to be congratulated on taking a leading role in this field.

“There is huge interest in buildings like these that provide a very different leisure experience to modern pools. We are looking forward to following the regeneration and re-opening of City Pool and I’m sure we can learn a lot from each other.”

Fusion Lifestyle is a charity which 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 restaurant/café.

Anthony Cawley, director of operations for Fusion Lifestyle, said: “It’s great to be able to meet with and give advice to the team from the Victoria Baths Trust.

“It’s obviously been hard for councils to maintain historic leisure facilities, and we hope that this arrangement can be used as a blueprint for other pools across the UK.”

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Newcastle City Pool’s hidden history

What do boxing, be-bopping and a bank robbery have in common?

Believe it or not, they are all activities which have been linked to the historic Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths.

Fusion Lifestyle, the charity behind a £5m redevelopment of the popular venue, has been discovering the weird and wonderful stories – including a fiendish historic heist – in partnership with local researchers at North of England Civic Trust.

The charity hopes that the stories will inspire people from across the North East to come forward with their own memories of using the pool and baths.

Sport and dances

The archives reveal that, from the opening of the venue in 1928 until the early 1960s, the pools were unheated and couldn’t be used for swimming during winter months. Instead they were covered over with temporary flooring and used for dances, roller-skating, exhibitions and sport.

The first winter dance, running alongside the City Hall’s winter concerts, cost £358 to run and generated £643 of income at 1s 6d a head.

Local firms including Vickers-Armstrong and Fenwick regularly hired the buildings for their Christmas dances.

But putting on dances like these came with its risks.

In 1954, damage to the temporary sprung floor by ‘be-bopping’ was noted on so many occasions that the style of dancing was banned. There was even a committee debate about whether an official should be sent to enforce the ban.

On the same flooring, boxing matches took place from the late 1940s, and repeated requests for wrestling were finally granted in 1958.

After swimming resumed all year round in the 1960s, demand at pools remained high. In 1979 members of the public protested that swimmers training for the 1980 Moscow Olympics were “hogging” the pools, according to an article in the Evening Chronicle.

The City Pool’s sporting links go on.

Famous jockey Peter Greenall recalled in an interview with The Journal in the 1980s that he was taken to the Newcastle Turkish Baths as an amateur jockey by the inimitable North East racehorse trainer Arthur Stephenson.

Greenall said: “We used to go to the Turkish Baths in Newcastle together. After about an hour I’d be boiled like a lobster and try to slip out. But a watchful eye used to peer at me over the top of The Sporting Life and I’d sit down again. He wasn’t going to have his jockey putting up overweight.”

The Second World War

The pools could not be used during World War II due to fuel rationing, so instead the rooms were used for the fire guard, an emergency telephone exchange and for emergency council offices in case the Town Hall was bombed.

The baths also played regular host to a “do-nut dugout club” for American servicemen.

A wide range of exhibitions took place in the bath halls themselves, with topics on everything from ‘digging for victory’ and home-making, to furniture and corsets.

Local societies held regular activities and fairs including the Communist Party, the Newcastle Caged Bird Association, and groups interested in Labradors, botany and pigeons.

The 1897 Sunderland Bank Robbery

But surely the greatest revelation from local archives is that the original Turkish Baths – which date back to 1838 – played their part in a Victorian bank heist worthy of a Sherlock Holmes story.

The Sunderland Bank Robbery in 1897 saw more than £6,000 – more than £6 million today – stolen by two fraudsters who, according to the Pall Mall Gazette, had gained possession of the bank keys “by a clever scheme”.

It emerged that the fraudsters schmoozed the bank manager’s son and a junior clerk by treating them to a steam in the Newcastle Turkish Baths.

While the two officials were relaxing, the bank keys were taken from their unattended clothes, wax casts were made and the forged copies were used for a night-time break-in.

Fortunately for modern bathers the refurbished baths, which are due to open in 2018, will be fully equipped with secure modern lockers!

The Future of the Baths

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: “As a charity which specialises in redeveloping leisure facilities this must be one of our most extraordinary projects yet.

“We know that there are more stories out there in the local community, so I’d encourage everyone to share their fond memories on the ‘Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths’ Facebook page or via our website where you can also register for regular updates.

“We’re committed to a redevelopment which celebrates the history of this incredible building, making it available to the whole community – apart from bank robbers, of course.”

Jules Brown, conservation and planning manager at North of England Civic Trust, said: “It was fascinating researching the history of this grade-II listed building.

“You never quite know what you’re going to find, but we had a feeling that lots of weird and wonderful things would come to light once we started looking.”

Cait Read, from Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths & City Pool Group, said: “We look forward to discovering more of people’s memories and the history of the building over the next year.”

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Plans for City Pool and Turkish Baths approved

PLANS to reopen Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths have entered an exciting new phase with the granting of planning permission and listed building consent.

Newcastle City Council gave the go-ahead for work to begin on transforming the Grade II listed building into a leisure destination for the 21st century.

The £5 million redevelopment by charity Fusion Lifestyle will bring the City Pool and Turkish Baths back into use in 2018 – along with new health and wellbeing facilities, a new spa facility and bistro cafe.

Work is expected to begin early in 2017 on the sympathetic restoration and regeneration of the 1920s building which was designed in a distinctive neo-Georgian style.

Peter Kay, Chief Executive of Fusion Lifestyle, said: “It’s great news that planning permission has been granted for our scheme. That means we can get on with saving this magnificent building.

“We’ll now be finalising the details of the redevelopment to ensure it will fully meet the needs of a modern leisure facility. This is no small task as the huge building has been empty for several years – but a task we relish.

“As well as the pool and Turkish Baths there will be a range of health and wellbeing facilities including fitness facilities, exercise studios and treatment rooms.

“We are now working with our architects Napper on the interior design to ensure it is in keeping with the many original features such as the ornate plasterwork and tiled wall finishes that are being retained.

“The new facilities will beautifully complement the refurbishment of the existing features to allow the building to carry on its journey for the next 100 years.”

Leader of Newcastle City Council, councillor Nick Forbes, said: “We worked hard to ensure this city landmark building has a bright future, and I welcome this important milestone in delivering Fusion’s ambitious plans to bring the historic City Pools back to life.

“The designs for the new building are very exciting and I look forward to seeing them take shape.”

Alan Rees, of Napper Architects said: “We are pleased to have reached this key milestone in bringing an iconic landmark building back in to use. “We are looking forward to the next phase of the project.”

Cait Read of Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths and City Pool Group, said: “We are delighted that planning permission has been granted, and that work can begin on the restoration and redevelopment on the much loved and historical City Pool and Turkish Baths.

“We look forward to being involved in the next stages of the development, and to the re-opening in Spring 2018.”

Fusion Lifestyle is a registered charity with significant experience in revitalising heritage sites across the UK including swimming pools, sports halls and fitness centres.

*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.

 

£5 million plans for City Pool and Turkish Baths submitted for approval

THE transformation of Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths has taken another step closer with the submission of a planning application to Newcastle City Council.

The £5 million redevelopment of the historic site proposed by Fusion Lifestyle will bring the City Pool and Turkish Baths back into use as a modern facility while retaining the distinctive neo-Georgian features of the 1920s building.

The plans include the restoration of the City Pool and the Turkish Baths which will incorporate a spa.

There will also be a range of health and wellbeing facilities including fitness facilities, exercise studios and treatment rooms.

Plans for a cafe/bistro will see the front of the building open onto Northumberland Road for the first time – creating a new look and vibe – and turning the building into leisure-time destination for people of the city.

The submission of the planning application follows a six week public consultation process when hundreds of people visited a public exhibition at Newcastle Civic Centre and gave their feedback online.

Peter Kay, Chief Executive of Fusion Lifestyle, said: “Feedback on our vision for the future of Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths has been overwhelmingly positive and we’re proud to have created some innovative plans which will take this wonderful building into the future.

“The building has been empty since 2013 and we can’t wait to bring it back into use for new users and those who grew up visiting the City Pool and Baths.”

Graeme Dodd, Director of Napper Architects, said: “It is clear from the feedback how important the people of Newcastle think the building is – so that makes us even more pleased to be working on the project.

“It also makes us more aware of the need for a sensitive approach to the design and restoration as protecting the unique features of the building is key.

“Many 1920s period features, such as the ornate plasterwork and tiled wall finishes, will be retained and will sit alongside the modern facilities, restored areas and contemporary changing facilities.

“The new facilities will beautifully complement the refurbishment of the existing features to allow the building to carry on its journey for the next 100 years.”

Cait Read of Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths and City Pool Group, said: “It is great news that the plans by Fusion Lifestyle to restore and re-open Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths are progressing.

“We are delighted at the design plans and look forward to continue to be involved in the Baths redevelopment and re-opening.”

Fusion Lifestyle is a registered charity with significant experience in revitalising heritage sites across the UK including swimming pools, sports halls and fitness centres.

If plans are approved work is expected to begin later this year and the facility is set to open in spring 2018.

*The exhibition is now on display in alley three of The Grainger Market until August. It’s open from 9am until 5.30pm Monday – Saturday.

Follow the development on Twitter @CityPoolNCL and on Facebook Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths

 

Fusion Lifestyle signs contract for Newcastle City Pool project

Two landmark buildings in Newcastle will be given a new lease of life after Fusion Lifestyle was granted a lease by the City Council.

The deal means the charity has been given the green light for a £5million renovation of the City Pool and Turkish Baths which closed three years ago and has been standing empty since.

The regeneration project will bring the historic Grade II listed building back into use and create a unique health and wellbeing destination for people visiting, living and working in the city.

In recent years Fusion – which specialises in the sympathetic restoration of much-loved heritage sites – has managed projects delivering more than £150million of investment into the redevelopment of leisure facilities across the UK, creating a portfolio of high quality contemporary venues.

Peter Kay, Chief Executive of Fusion Lifestyle, said: “We expect to be able to give further details of our plans shortly and will hold a public consultation beginning on May 9 – with an exhibition at Newcastle Civic Centre.

“We are proud to be working on the regeneration of the City Pool and Turkish Baths and the signing of the lease is another step towards seeing our ambitious plans come to fruition.

“We hope the people of Newcastle will be as excited by the scheme as we are.”

It is expected the regeneration work will begin later this year with the completed project opening to the public in spring 2018.

When Newcastle City Council announced the closure of the City Pool due to funding cuts a pressure group was formed to try to save the facility.

Cait Read of the ‘Re-open Newcastle Turkish Baths and City Pool Group’, said: “We are delighted that Fusion Lifestyle has been granted this lease and that our campaign has been successful.

“Fusion shares our vision to create affordable and accessible leisure facilities and has the experience and resources to manage the restoration and renewal of facilities within the City Pool.”

Fusion Lifestyle’s successful proposal was chosen as the best by Newcastle City Council from five bids received.

Also included in the lease is neighbouring Newcastle City Hall – one of the North East’s best-loved music and entertainment venues – which will be managed by Newcastle Theatre Royal Trust.

Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Bath’s new look revealed

Fusion Lifestyle, the charity behind the redevelopment of Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths has officially unveiled how the proposed £5 million development will look once the refurbishment is complete.

A series of new CGIs of the site were officially launched at an event to mark the start of a six week public consultation.

The visuals are part of a new public exhibition in the customer service area of Newcastle Civic Centre, which will run from the afternoon of 9th May until 17th June 2016. It will be open to the public from 9am – 4.30pm Monday to Friday.

The exhibition includes information on the plans and the CGIs of the proposed development. The public are encouraged to give their feedback via forms at the exhibition and online.

The new images show how the charity will restore the heritage site in a sympathetic way, bringing the historic Grade II building back into use by creating a unique health and well-being destination for the people of Newcastle.

The City Pool and Turkish Baths building closed in 2013 and has been standing empty ever since. The regeneration of the facility has been widely welcomed and it is expected to reopen to the public in spring 2018.

Peter Kay, Chief Executive of Fusion Lifestyle, said: “We’re delighted to launch the start of our public consultation process. We’re pleased with the plans for the development and these new CGIs show how we’ve worked with the structure of this iconic building to create something the public will be proud of.

“Interest in the site and public support for our involvement has been wonderful and we look forward to hearing feedback from the public on our exciting plans.”

Plans for the site include restoration of the Turkish Baths, the creation of a new health and fitness facility, improved access for disabled people and a new café/bistro. It is expected the regeneration work will begin later this year.

Leader of Newcastle City Council, Cllr Nick Forbes said: “When Newcastle City Council first faced up to austerity we said we would have to look again at how we provide culture and leisure services. The result was a question mark over the future of the City Hall and Turkish Baths. But we made a promise to the people of Newcastle then that we would not give up on these services, that closure did not spell the end and that our commitment to the city had not diminished.

“Today is that promise made reality as we welcome the start of a new era for of Newcastle’s City Pool and Turkish Baths.

“Since these buildings first faced closure in 2013 we have had to make further difficult decisions about the services this council can afford to provide, and will continue to have to do so, but we will never give up trying to find new ways to provide services the city is rightly proud of.”

In recent years Fusion has managed projects delivering more than £150million investment into the refurbishment and redevelopment of leisure facilities across the UK. This project marks their first in the North East of England.

Fusion Lifestyle was granted a lease by Newcastle City Council to redevelop the site. The deal means the company can use its expertise in restoring and updating heritage leisure facilities and making them fit for 21st century use.

Also included in the lease is neighbouring Newcastle City Hall – one of the North East’s best-loved music and entertainment venues – which will be managed by Newcastle Theatre Royal Trust.