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Bristol South Baths and Attached Railings and Gates

A Grade II Listed Building in Bristol, City of Bristol

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Latitude: 51.4421 / 51°26'31"N

Longitude: -2.6008 / 2°36'2"W

OS Eastings: 358337

OS Northings: 171631

OS Grid: ST583716

Mapcode National: GBR C6P.RW

Mapcode Global: VH88T.V0XS

Plus Code: 9C3VC9RX+VM

Entry Name: Bristol South Baths and Attached Railings and Gates

Listing Date: 30 December 1994

Last Amended: 9 July 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1202193

English Heritage Legacy ID: 379494

Location: Bristol, BS3

County: City of Bristol

Electoral Ward/Division: Southville

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Bristol

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bristol

Church of England Parish: Bedminster

Church of England Diocese: Bristol

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Public baths and attached railings and gates, opened in 1931. Designed by CFW Dening.


MATERIALS: brown brick with limestone dressings and a green glazed pantile hipped roof. Interior areas are covered in stone and ceramic tiling.

PLAN: a symmetrically-planned central swimming pool range stands over two storeys with single-storey ranges to both side and attached service blocks to the rear.

EXTERIOR: built in a neo-Roman style, the principal front is symmetrical and faces north-east, across the park. Central steps lead up to a single-storey parapeted lobby with a glazed lantern rooflight, and a wide doorway with four-panelled doors and an ashlar surround. BRISTOL SOUTH BATHS is inscribed in the lintel and a relief of spread wings. The window openings across the building have steel casements with margin panes and diagonal glazing bars. The entrance is flanked by two-storey stair blocks with two-tiered hipped roofs. The south-east (side) elevation is symmetrical with single storey pavilions that project forward of a 19-window (steel casements), single-storey flat-roof range which stands in between. The range contains a central projecting ashlar door case with double three-panel doors. A further smaller door way stands at the left–hand end of this range. Behind this range, the first floor of the pool contains five large semicircular-arched windows, with impost blocks, in rectangular recesses; the central window has an ashlar surround and a carved panel above. The north-elevation has a similar arrangement, however the single storey range is blind and there is only one pavilion which stands at the left side. This pavilion originally provided access to the slipper baths; a disables access ramp has been added to the front. The south-west elevation has a further Venetian window with ashlar surround. The roof of the pool is tiled with sprocketed eves and is toped with a ridge lantern. A boiler house, attached to the south-west side of main pool by a single-storey range, stands at an angle to the main road and is orientated north-to-south. The road (south) elevation has a single storey range with two square vehicle access points (of which the left is now blocked). Set behind this, the gabled boiler house has mullioned windows to the first floor. Above the windows are an oculus vent and ashlar coping to the gable roof (this arrangement is mirrored on the north elevation). A round chimney stands to the west of this and has a coped top and decorative rib bands intervals at top of the shaft.

INTERIOR: the entrance hall has bold geometric floor tiles. To each side of the foyer are ticket booths, as well as the entrances to the left and right ranges on either side of the main pool. A modern timber desk has been added to the left side and a light partition wall has enclosed the left ticket booth. On either side of the main entrance, dog leg stairs lead up to the pool gallery, and, opposite the entrance, two sets of double wooden doors leading through to the pool. The pool area is open with inset poolside changing booths to both sides (replacements for earlier timber saloon-door booths in the same location). Female and male poolside showers are open to the south end, with a footbath (now used as a storage area) and two tile drinking fountains in between. The men’s toilets (in their original location) are to the left of the showers. The pool side has a non-slip tile floor which was added later. A first-floor balcony and seating area surrounds the perimeter of the pool on all side. The ornamental cast-iron balcony railing includes sea-shell detailing and original gas light holders. Behind this are two tiers of plain pine bench seating, with a further rail above. A barrel vault roof sits above the pool; the central roof light has been blocked. Blue faïence tiles line most of the pool walls.

On either side of pool are a set of rooms which are served by separate corridors. The set of rooms on the north side are slipper baths and a towel room. Three of the four sections of slipper baths remain intact. Most retain their baths with Portland stone cubicles, the white corrugated non-slip tiles with black tile border flooring, service bells and some soap ledges and mirrors. Most of the doors have been removed, and the lantern roof lights may not survive below replacement roofing. The towel room has a later hook rack and the original herringbone pattern ceramic tile floor survives beneath the modern flooring. Little has changed from the original arrangement and they are set out with (from east to west) the women’s slipper baths, first class men’s clipped baths, men’s waiting room (with ceramic tile floor) and 2nd class men's slipper bath. Part of the 2nd class men’s slipper baths have been replaced by the current female toilets and the area which would have been the women’s waiting room (on the right side of the range) is now in use as a disabled access toilet. The range of rooms on the south side of the building contains the offices, again the room arrangement is as originally planned, and are laid out (running east to west) with an office, two competitors rooms, entrance way, kitchen and staff room, male and female artists dressing room, entrance way and artists’ common room. All of these rooms retain the original herringbone ceramic tile floors. Both side corridors contain ceramic floor tiles set out in a herringbone pattern, are lined with blue fiancé, white and black tiles and are lit be a series of circular dome light wells.

The first service room is dominated by three large sand filtration tanks. Beyond the sliding connecting door, three cast iron winch weights remain in the boiler service area, and two original boilers (unused) are in the room to the west, with lead water tank above. The current boilers lie to the south of the originals. The external chimney is attached to by a flue.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: attached ball finial cast-iron railings and gates stand to Dean Lane. The railings by the park are plainly detailed.


The City of Bristol was second only to Birmingham in terms of interwar construction of public swimming baths. Six were completed between 1922 and 1937, in the effort to meet Bristol's Baths Committee's target of every home in the city coming within one mile of a swimming facility. Health concerns and a general increase in the popularity of outdoor pursuits had led to a high demand for activities such as swimming after the First World War. Five of Bristol's six interwar baths were designed by Charles Dening (1876-1952), of which Bristol South Baths is one example.

Bristol South Baths opened in 1931, next to newly-created public gardens in Bedminster. Over the next decades the pool served the community with a number of activities including diving competitions and dolphin displays. In the later C20 the slipper baths fell into disuse and one section was converted to provide additional toilet facilities. Also, the poolside changing cubicles were refurbished. Other, minor alterations have been made to the foyer, and the pool is now heated by modern boilers.

Reasons for Listing

The Bristol South Baths and attached railings and gates is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: it displays a good level of architectural detailing externally, with a strong neo-classical design;
* Intactness: the exterior is little altered and the interior retains many original features, including the overall building plan, the main pool hall's original barrel vaulted roof structure, decorative tilework, the cast-iron swimming pool balcony and wooden seating, original boiler and chimney, and most of the original slipper baths;
*Historic interest: it is part of a series of swimming pools built in Bristol in the 1920s and 30s as part of a move to give everyone in the city access to swimming facilities, making it second only to Birmingham in terms of the number of public swimming baths built in the inter-war period;
* Architect: the architect Charles Dening played an important role designing various early-C20 swimming baths in Bristol, some of which are listed.

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