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Ironmonger Row Baths

A Grade II Listed Building in Islington, Islington

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Latitude: 51.5266 / 51°31'35"N

Longitude: -0.0947 / 0°5'41"W

OS Eastings: 532267

OS Northings: 182570

OS Grid: TQ322825

Mapcode National: GBR Q6.WY

Mapcode Global: VHGQT.9WSM

Entry Name: Ironmonger Row Baths

Listing Date: 2 November 2006

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1391805

English Heritage Legacy ID: 494875

Location: Islington, London, EC1V

County: Islington

Electoral Ward/Division: Bunhill

Built-Up Area: Islington

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St Clement Finsbuy

Church of England Diocese: London

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Listing Text

635-1/0/10174 IRONMONGER ROW
02-NOV-06 Ironmonger Row Baths

Public baths, wash-houses and swimming pools. Built in two phases by Finsbury Borough Council. First phase, built 1931, comprised a public baths and washhouse. Architects AWS Cross and KMB Cross. Extended in 1938 to provide a swimming pool, children's pool and Turkish baths, to the design of KMB Cross.

MATERIALS: Steel frame, clad in dark red brick laid in English bond, Portland stone dressings, pantile to perimeter roof of frontage block; slate roof to rear pool.

PLAN: Long rectangular frontage building of two storeys and attic, originally comprising central entrance hall with stair to left, with wash house facilities to right and cloak rooms and a staff laundry to left (plan now altered). Slipper baths on first floor. Link block to rear has Turkish baths in basement, changing rooms on ground floor and pool spectators gallery on first floor. Link block and main swimming pool hall aligned N-S with frontage block. Smaller children's pool projecting at right-angle to N. Above this was a café gallery overlooking the main pool, now a gym.

EXTERIOR: 1931 frontage block is designed in style of Roman Renaissance palazzo. Symmetrical front (E) elevation of 9 bays with central entrance; S elevation of 3 bays with entrance in W bay. Stepped stone plinth. Ground floor treated as blind arcade with rusticated brick piers and quoins, moulded stone arches and impost bands, paterae within tympana. Windows with flat, gauged-brick arches and keystones. Main entrance has hollow-chamfered reveals and tympanum with inset rubbed-brick arch and stone batswing decoration. Raised stone panel with original lettering: 'FINSBURY BOROUGH COUNCIL PUBLIC BATHS AND WASH HOUSES'. Raised and fielded panelled doors; rectangular fanlight with geometric glazing. Entrance on S side similar. 8-over-8 pane timber sash windows. First floor has small, rectangular windows with moulded stone architraves and palmette keystones. Steel casement windows with cross-pattern glazing. Dormers to attic with same glazing as first floor. Hipped roof.

1938 link block and swimming pool hall: S elevation of link blind apart from entrance with bolection-moulded architrave; panelled doors and patterned fanlight. Entrance also to N side with hollow-chamfer reveals, panelled doors and fanlight grille. Swimming pool hall has pitched steel-truss roof with long glazed lantern. Austere Classical façade. Gable end treated as broken-base pediment. Central window with stone architrave and bracketed cornice, set within large recessed pilastered arch. Tall vertical windows to W elevation; glazing replaced.

INTERIOR: Internal plan of 1931 building altered. Main entrance has small vestibule finished in travertine with domed ceiling, leading through glazed doors to barrel-vaulted entrance hall with moulded cornice. Hall ceiling has rectangular internal lightwell with fluted reveals, rising to top floor, lit by circular roof lantern; well is enclosed by wrought-iron cages on upper floors. Wall to N of entrance hall removed to form open-plan foyer with the S part of former wash house. The wash-house area contains no features of interest. Well stair to left of entrance hall lit by circular roof lantern. Stair has travertine marble panelled dado with brass handrail, solid timber balustrade for first flight, metal balustrade above; hardwood handrail. Timber panelled towel store set between stair flights on first-floor landing. First floor now offices. A few slipper baths cubicles survive with their baths and seats.

The 1938 link block has entrance lobbies stairs on N and S side; stairs with metal balustrades and wooden handrails. Basement Turkish baths now have mainly modern tiled finishes but retain their marble slabs, as well as timber cubicles in the adjacent cooling room. Main pool hall has elliptical plaster ceiling carried on square piers. Original tiered teak seating to long viewing gallery on E side. Front to former café gallery at N end (now a gym) is now glazed. Roof to children's pool pitched to accommodate rake of former café viewing gallery above. Glazed screen on S side facing main pool replaced in glass bricks. Floor, pool and wall finishes to pool halls are modern. The gym above contains no features of interest.

HISTORY: Ironmonger Row Baths was constructed in two phases by Finsbury Borough Council. The architects for the first phase built in 1931, comprising a public baths and wash-house, were AWS Cross and KMB Cross. In 1938 the building was extended to provide a swimming pool, children's pool and Turkish baths, to the design of KMB Cross. Alfred William Stephens Cross (1858-1932) worked in partnership with Henry Spalding from 1889-99, acquiring a reputation for public baths, libraries and educational buildings. Cross set up on his own in 1899, continuing to specialise in public buildings, and was selected for the final competition for London County Hall. He later worked in partnership with his son, Kenneth Mervyn Baskerville Cross (1889-1968), designing a number of baths and other public buildings.

SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: Of special interest as a handsome, well-detailed example of an inter-war public baths designed by the father and son architectural partnership AWS and KMB Cross, the leading specialists in the design of this building type in the early decades of the C20. It is virtually unaltered externally and retains a significant proportion of its original plan and a number of original internal 1930s fittings and finishes, notably the Turkish baths, now a relatively rare survival for this period.

The Builder, 26 June 1931, pp 1133-35
The Builder, 21 October 1938, pp 783-787
Supplement to The Architect and Building News, 4 November 1938
Architectural Design and Construction, September 1939, pp 330-331
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England, London 4: North, p 609

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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