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Public Baths, Infirmary Street, Edinburgh

A Category B Listed Building in Edinburgh, Edinburgh

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Latitude: 55.9481 / 55°56'53"N

Longitude: -3.1849 / 3°11'5"W

OS Eastings: 326097

OS Northings: 673420

OS Grid: NT260734

Mapcode National: GBR 8QH.C8

Mapcode Global: WH6SM.1RNG

Plus Code: 9C7RWRX8+62

Entry Name: Public Baths, Infirmary Street, Edinburgh

Listing Name: Dovecot Studios (Former Infirmary Street Baths), 10 Infirmary Street, Edinburgh

Listing Date: 11 January 1989

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 368431

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB29143

Building Class: Cultural

ID on this website: 200368431

Location: Edinburgh

County: Edinburgh

Town: Edinburgh

Electoral Ward: City Centre

Traditional County: Midlothian

Tagged with: Architectural structure Art gallery

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Robert Morham, 1885-7; converted to studios, gallery and office accommodation, 2009. Public baths in Italianate style, rock-faced ashlar. 2-storey elevation to Infirmary Street in 3 ranges inner (entrance) range banded arcaded, 3 bays at ground, 5 lights at 1st floor, broad-eaved piended roof with square lantern over; small-paned glazing. Rock-faced W range to left of principal block, basement with tiny lights, divided above in to 6 bays by giant pilasters, pilastered 2-light openings to bays at upper level, rectangular glazed section to new 2nd floor level. Original plain low range to E with new larger glazed openings at ground floor and 2-storey metal clad and glazed box section above; tall brick stack behind, deeply set back from street, and with polychromy. Further deep range to north, formerly containing baths, is piend-roofed with rooflights, ventilators set in flanks below ridge; slate roofs.

INTERIOR: seen 2013. Plan of rectangular swimming pool retained in 2009 conversion, retaining original gallery and open-timbered roof supported on tiers of cast-iron columns.

Statement of Interest

Infirmary Street Baths is a good example of a late 19th century public baths, designed in a solid Italianate classical style which has now been altered to form a modern art gallery, studio and office accommodation. The building is a significant addition to its streetscape. The Infirmary Street Baths were the first public baths opened in Edinburgh in 1887.

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. While men and women did not mix at these facilities, women would have had their own separate entrance, however they would have to attend at certain times when the male pools were not in use. It would not be until the 1870s when separate ladies pools were being considered in bath and wash house design. 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.

William Harley was the first to offer indoor baths in Glasgow, at Willowbank in 1804. Swimming became widely popular as a sport during the late 19th century as more residences in the UK gained access to mains water supply and could therefore wash and bath at home.

Robert Morham was an Edinburgh architect, first articled to David Rhind remaining with him for five years before transferring to the office of David Bryce (circa 1859). About 1862 he moved to London to widen his experience and spent four years with William Eden Nesfield, although there is little sign of his influence in his architecture. In 1866 he returned to Edinburgh as principal assistant to David Cousin and was briefly his partner until Cousin's retirement in 1873. He then succeeded Cousin as City Superintendent of Works.

The Infirmary Street Baths were in continuous use until the 1990s when they fell into disrepair. Following a £12million two year refurbishment programme completed in 2009, the building became home to the new Dovecot Studios a centre for excellence in tapestry making. The new building is also home to the Dovecot Foundation which supports the work of the studios and a programme of cross-discipline exhibitions and events.

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

External Links

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