Manchester Heritage Day Helps Discover the Jewels in its Crown

Manchester’s Victoria Baths and the Manchester Transport Museum were open today for free due to Heritage Day.

Heritage Day is great as it allows entry to a large number of historic places completely free of charge.  And you can bet we too advantage of it to visit two places we knew about and had passed a lot over the years.

Manchester Victoria Baths

I couldn’t believe how brilliant this place is. It’s massive and it’s still undergoing a lot of restoration. That said if you’ve not been yet may I strongly suggest you visit tomorrow during Heritage Day (yes, apparently it’s actually two days).

I’ve taken a pile of photos, which I will upload in anothe post when I get 5 minutes on my desktop PC.

I’ve passed the Victoria Baths so many times over the last 30 odd years and I’d always thought it looked interesting and had meant to visit. And never had, even when it won £3 million from the BBC save our heritage program.

They’ve lovingly restored the facade of the building and it looks fabulous, all the stained glass windows in the front have also been restored. It looks fantastic. The downside is that they’ve got notice boards and other stuff that spoils the look a little if you’re taking a photo at the front of the whole building.

Walking in the volunteers were welcoming and were happy to tell you about the place. We started off in the first class male swimming pool, which I think featured in the programme Ashes to Ashes. The pool (now dry) is 25 yards long and is lined on either side by little blue changing rooms where people could change before changing and jumping into the pool.

The original steps into the pool had been removed and replaced with ladders. A very similar pool to this (although much smaller) is Moston baths which when I last visited (6 years ago) still had steps in.

Some of the little changing rooms contain art. Not to my taste really but full marks to the Victoria Baths friends for thinking of things to increase visitors interest in the baths.

There is a second class male pool which was turned into a sports hall many years ago and it contained a lot of historic societies all representing different areas of Manchester. We wandered through the Turkish Bath rooms, down into the basement area – which had a little toilet with the old fashioned pan and pull chain. And the pull handle had the name “Crapper” on it. However, I wasn’t sure if the handle was a reproduction or an original.

Ladies had their own entrance and their own pool. The water to their pool apparently having come from a spring via the first class male pool, followed by being in the second class male pool. Obviously the water was filtered, but I think I’d rather be  a first class male!

And because Victoria Baths was such an important part of the Victorian bathing scene there was a flat which housed a very important man – the superintendent. It has 4 bedrooms and two sitting rooms,which we got to see. However, there is an upstairs part which isn’t open to the public yet.

Can you tell I loved it yet?

Anyway, I will return and I really would urge you to take a visit yourself.


Manchester Transport Museum

On the way back from the Victoria Baths we decided to go the Manchester Transport Museum on Queens Road, just round the corner from the Manchester Fort. It’s actually right behind the enormous Queens Road depot of the current Manchester bus services.

We didn’t get very much time in the Transport Museum but it’s fantastic. If you’re older than about 35 you’re going to see buses that you’ve used that are no longer on the road. You’ll also see buses and trams that you’ve heard of or seen in old films. The actually museum is simply enormous. I would say that it probably needs to be bigger as the buses can’t all be set off to their advantage.

The other downside is that you’re not allowed to get into any, other than the Manchester Metrolink prototype tram, which was interesting and you can see how Metrolink changed the design of the carriages.

All around the walls there are toy buses and cars and also bus depot offices containing ticket machines and discarded cups of tea. The offices are also still in use because there were one or two that contained more modern items like a computer monitor, but at least it was an old fashioned CRT screen!

And again we all enjoyed it. Unfortunately we didn’t really have as much time to look around as we’d like as the museum closed at 4:30pm.

So again, we’ll be back!

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About Jim Symcox

Manchester is great. At Manchester University I take part in Gilbert & Sullivan productions each year. I'm a Manchester-based business growth coach and marketing evangelist and like to help companies grow more profitable, more quickly.
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