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Latitude: 56.1169 / 56°7'0"N
Longitude: -3.7919 / 3°47'30"W
OS Eastings: 288682
OS Northings: 693016
OS Grid: NS886930
Mapcode National: GBR 1K.LL2C
Mapcode Global: WH5QD.QJJ2
Entry Name: Spiers Centre (Former Public Baths and Gymnasium), Primrose Street and Primrose Place, Alloa
Listing Date: 12 June 1972
Source: Historic Scotland
Source ID: 356221
Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB21009
Building Class: Cultural
Electoral Ward: Clackmannanshire South
Traditional County: Clackmannanshire
Burnet Son and Campbell (Sir John James Burnet and John Archibald Campbell); dated 1895 and 1897; later 20th century alterations and additions. Predominantly 2-storey, free Franco-Scots Renaissance former public baths and gymnasium, on corner site, with elaborately carved stonework detailing and important surviving interior. Stugged, squared and snecked red sandstone; pink deep polished granite base course and architrave to W (principal) elevation; some brick sections, harled to rear and north elevation. Moulded eaves course, some corbels with carved heads; plain ashlar copes to gables terminating in obelisk finials. Predominantly moulded and keystoned ashlar surrounds to openings. Tall octagonal red brick stack with pair of cream bands to NW corner.
W (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: Off centre advanced gabled entrance bay with tall moulded architraved opening to recessed porch; 2-leaf timber and glazed entrance doors to vestibule with fanlight and chamfered sidelights, all behind cast iron gates; 2 carved sandstone roundels to lintel; carved panel above with inscription 'PUBLIC BATHS AND GYMNASIUM'; moulded string course below 1st floor. 1st floor with engaged Doric columns on carved corbels; bipartite window at 1st floor with semi-circular carved pediment on bracketed cornice; window flanked by figurative sculpture on carved corbels; gable surmounted by small Dutch-gabled and columns aedicule with plain shield. To right of entrance gable, single bay with carved square panel at 1st floor. To left of entrance gable 3 bay with advanced ground floor; bipartite windows flanking tripartite window, all with stone mullions; bays divided by engaged slender baluster columns; all under elaborately carved entablature with figurative putti sculpture to centre; balustraded parapet above with blind niched pedestals; engaged slender baluster columns dividing bays at 1st floor.
S (PRIMROSE PLACE) ELEVATION: elevation consisting of gable and lower 2-bay square-tower linked by lower 2-bay section, further lower 2-storey range to right fronting main swimming pool with truncated single storey terminating block. Gable with former coat of arms of Alloa set within bracketed, columed and pedimented aedicule to top of 1st floor, flanked by pair of angled round arched niches containing pair of narrow windows; niches flanked by engaged columns and topped by miniature paired and corbelled bartizans separated by single baluster. 2-bay section to right of gable with wide segmental Gibbsian arch at ground; paired windows above arch and set below bracketed balustrade. At right 2-bay tower with corbelled bartisans flanking blind bracketed, columed and pedimented aedicule; architraved and pedimented openings to baritsans, overhanging eaves with exposed rafters. To far right altered lower 2-storey range fronting main swimming pool; band course to top of ground floor, later 20th century 1st floor with corniced parapet; segmental Gibbsian arch to right, castellated tower above set behind
INTERIOR (seen 2011): Pool, gym and entrance hall largely intact and characterised by Moorish detailing. L-plan entrance hall with glazed and matt, maroon and cream tiles in banded pattern, moulded cornice with decorative timber brackets, some panelled timber with etched glass doors; half-turn stone staircase with cast iron balustrade and timber handrail, distinctive finals to newel posts and some carved dragons. 75'x 32' swimming pool to E of plan with raked timber gallery to three sides at 1st floor; broad span painted timber roof truss with arched braced and triangular geometric top section, projecting carved dragon heads to springers; large flat arched opening to E wall flanked by smaller window openings, all now blocked. Remodelled changing rooms flanking pool. Gym at 1st floor to W of plan with changing room at S end and raked timber gallery above; corniced timber panelling; original boarded timber floor, arched braced painted timber roof truss with turned queen-posts and projecting carved dragon head to springers. Corniced timber panelling and large marble fireplace in segmental arched recess to former committee room at ground floor.
Predominantly 6-over-9 glazing pattern in timber sash and case windows with horns; some later non-traditional windows. Pitched roof; grey slates; linear rooflights to roof over former gymnasium and pool; flat roof to tower of S elevation ; later 20th century tile-hung Mansard roof to right of S elevation low range. Straight ashlar skews. Corniced wallhead stacks with engaged columnettes, wider to upper stage.
One of the best surviving examples of a late nineteenth century public baths and gymnasium by a leading architect of the period and funded by an important local philanthropist. The Spiers Centre is very finely detailed and is one of Scotland's finest examples of a Victorian leisure building. The stonework detailing to the exterior, including elaborate carved stonework, sculpture, balustrades and bartisans, is of exceptional quality. The exterior survives relatively intact apart from the loss of the lantern to the W elevation and some alterations following a fire (see below). Many fine original details to the interior survive, particularly to the entrance vestibule and hall, swimming pool and first floor gym. Prominently located in the centre of the town the building is an important surviving example of the town's social history and in particular is representative of the late nineteenth century interest in wellbeing.
The building was presented to the town by mill owner and philanthropist, John Thomson Paton. In 1894 Paton wrote to the Town Clerk saying that as there was now an abundant water supply for Alloa he wished to finance the construction of public baths and a gymnasium. He endowed £40,000 for its construction and £3,000 for running costs, a significant sum of money that is reflected in the high quality design and detailing. Most public baths were not so elaborate in their design, with this quality normally associated with private baths, such as Burnet's Drumsheugh Baths, Edinburgh (see separate listing).
The facilities offered at the Alloa baths and gymnasium were extremely popular, recording 30,000 admissions in the first seven months, in a town with a population of 13,000. The Paton family founded their wealth in the spinning and drying of wool. Commencing as John Paton's cottage industry the company was to become the largest wool spinning company in Great Britain, with its principal mill, Kilncraigs, in Alloa (see separate listing). After amalgamation in 1920, the company was known as Patons and Baldwins. The Paton family supported The Temperance Movement and became generous benefactors to the town. Alexander Paton funded Old Paton's Mill School and David Paton of Tillicoulty funded the Greenside Mission Chapel (see separate listings). As well as the public baths John Thomson Paton funded the town hall and public library which opened in 1888 (see separate listing).
The building was designed by the architectural firm Burnet Son & Campbell. Between 1886-1897 John Archibald Campbell was a partner in John Burnet and John James Burnet's architectural practice John Burnet & Son. Sir John James Burnet and John Archibald Campbell both studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and at Jean Louis Pascal's Atelier. Pascal's love of sculptural treatment is evident in much of their work, including the external treatment of these public baths. Their distinctive style is an assimilation of Scottish Renaissance with Beaux Arts and the practice was responsible for many renowned private and public commissions. These include the new Glasgow Athenaeum, Ewing Gilmour Institute, Alexandria and Baronald, Lanark (see separate listings).
By the mid 1960s the baths required refurbishment and in 1965 work commenced to improve the Turkish baths. In 1966, during the refurbishment work, fire broke out damaging the E section of the building and in particular destroying the Turkish baths. The pool was closed in 1986 reopening in 1998 as a gym. The building was renamed the Spiers Centre after Tommy Spiers, a local boxer who trained in the gym, and won the Scottish lightweight title from 1932-34.
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 wash houses 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 wash houses soon started to cater for recreational swimming rather than washing and became a hugely popular social past time during the 20th century.
Category changed from B to A and list description updated on 18 January 2012.
List description updated as part of the sporting buildings thematic study (2012-13).
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