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Justice Mill Lane, Bon Accord Baths

A Category B Listed Building in Aberdeen, Aberdeen

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.1418 / 57°8'30"N

Longitude: -2.1107 / 2°6'38"W

OS Eastings: 393400

OS Northings: 805661

OS Grid: NJ934056

Mapcode National: GBR S9N.V5

Mapcode Global: WH9QQ.KR4D

Entry Name: Justice Mill Lane, Bon Accord Baths

Listing Date: 27 June 1991

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 355830

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB20677

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Aberdeen

County: Aberdeen

Town: Aberdeen

Electoral Ward: Torry/Ferryhill

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

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Description

Alexander McRobbie of City Architects Department (with Thomas Henderson, Chief Engineer), 1936-40. Art Deco. Rectangular 14-bay swimming pool extending behind slightly projecting cross-arm of NW (entrance) block to form T-plan, with austere 19-bay granite NW (entrance) front onto Justice Mill Lane. Granite ashlar to N (entrance) block, brick to NE return, cement rendered to SE elevation and SE (swimming pool) block. Geometrical Art Deco glazing.

NW (ENTRANCE) BLOCK: symmetrical; wall-plane slightly advanced at 7-bay centre-piece which contains 3 entrance bays, articulated by 4 full height projecting vertical mullions (flagpoles missing). 3 windows contained within mullions at gallery level (4-pane hopper glazing, arranged vertically); doors below have etched glass with city of Aberdeen flag motifs. Outer cantre bays have 2 pairs of 4-pane windows (vertical windows with horizontal glazing) at intermediate basement and mezzanine levels. 6 tall windows at ground floor in shallow-recessed horizontal strip in each of outer flanking bays; pair of windows to SE return in similar recessed horizontal strip. Rear elevation ground and 1st floor windows predominantly 8-pane centre, divided by 2 wider metal transoms, opening as hoppers above and below, with 8-pane margins.

SE (SWIMMING POOL) BLOCK: stepped with semi-circular roof at centre, advanced at ground floor to form gallery level, flanked by flat roof sections with roof lights NE, SE and SW elevation with tall paired windows under single window, all with geometric glazing. Multi-paned horizontal windows to gallery level.

INTERIOR: (seen 1991). Curved walls of entrance hall lined with blond 'ripple' sycamore timber panelling, continued throughout; Art Deco geometrically divided glazing continued on interior.

POOL: raked seats; shallow segmental vaulted concrete roof supported on concrete piers, concrete galleries between; (original concrete diving boards to SE). Symmetrical stairs from entrance gallery stepping down to ground floor changing rooms and to pool; decorative paired concrete pylons and wallmounted clock at N screen wall of pool with viewing gallery. Chrome fittings.

Statement of Interest

A rare surviving example of an inter-war public baths in Scotland and a good example of Art Deco architecture. The building has significant streetscape presence with an austere frontage achieved by articulating the Art Deco style in granite. The interior of the building is richly detailed with the austerity of the façade giving way to an entrance lobby with curved walls lined with blond 'ripple' sycamore' timber panelling and chrome fittings. The vaulted roof of the swimming pool, elegantly supported by large concrete arches, allows for the walls to be punctured by large windows flooding the space with natural light. This space also retain many of its original fixtures and fittings including the raked timber seating and the sculptural concrete diving board platforms. The underwater lighting along the length of the pool is believed to be one of the early examples of such lighting. The pool is described as '1930s baths architecture at its very best' (Gordon and Inglis, p225).

Bon Accord baths was constructed to provide a centrally located public baths in Aberdeen, as previously the public bathed at baths overlooking Aberdeen beach. Although the foundation stone was laid in 1936 the building was not completed until August 1940 and cost £37,000. The swimming pool is 120 feet long x 42 feet wide with the water varying in depth from 3 to 15 feet. Flanking the pool is raked seating for 1000 spectators to view the many galas that were held at the pool. The baths closed in March 2008 and is currently unoccupied (2013).

Swimming clubs and bath houses were established in Scotland from the 1850s following the enactment of the 1846 Act to Encourage the Establishment of Public Baths and Wash-houses, which was established to improve general public health with access for all classes of citizen. With the rapid expansion of urban population, often living and working in unsanitary conditions, bath and washhouses were seen as essential public services. The Act, which affected the entirety of Britain, encouraged local authorities to open up these facilities in areas of dense population. These bath and washhouses soon started to cater for recreational swimming, rather than washing, and became a hugely popular social past time during the 20th century.

Alexander McRobie worked for the Aberdeen City Architects' Department from 1936 leaving before 1944 when he moved to Edinburgh to work as an assistant with the Department of Health for Scotland. He was described by the architect, Alexander Buchanan Gardner, as 'a competent and skilful architect'.

List description updated as part of the sporting buildings thematic study (2012-13).

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