Govanhill Baths are undoubtedly an important part of Glasgow’s history and cultural development. Built in 1914-17 and designed by A.B. MacDonald, they provided swimming pools, public baths and a steam laundry where local people could come to wash their clothes and talk. There are also slipper baths, which are individual baths that could be hired to wash in.
Listed at Category B in 1992, the Baths were still used as originally intended until 2001 as a valued facility open to all members of the community. Their closure became a symbol of the perception of decline in the area.
Local community group, the Govanhill Baths Community Trust (GBCT), wants to refurbish the Baths as a wellbeing centre. This is a comprehensive response to the call for better individual and community health facilities in the area, which GBCT identified through significant community consultation research in 2009. Critical to this vision of a wellbeing centre is a holistic concept of restoration and regeneration for the wider Govanhill community. Through the project GBCT wants to achieve crime prevention, community cohesion, local economic growth and employment opportunities.
With GBCT’s involvement, the front suite of the baths have been reopen for community use since February 2012 and some aspects of the Baths are already being well-used. The toddlers’ pool will reopen in early April and the main pool is being used as a theatre and event space. Film classes, photography exhibitions, arts and crafts courses, and even money-saving workshops have all been held at the Baths. Some 40 different local, national private, local authority and third sector organisations have used or rented these facilities since the opening in 2012.
In April 2014 The Big Lottery Fund awarded Govanhill Baths Community Trust (GBCT) a development grant of £34k to take forward Phase 1 of their scheme to refurbish the Govanhill Baths. The award means that GBCT can now further develop its future plans for the project.
GBCT appointed The Prince’s Regeneration Trust as project manager to oversee the work at the site and the development of an ambitious programme of community engagement activities. Working with the Board of GBCT, this will lead to the appointment of a design team and a full Business Plan, which will help GBCT to work up and submit a further application for funding for the completion of Phase 1.
Since PRT came on board in 2014, GBCT has secured over £1.5million in funding from public sources, and has recently completed its record-breaking Community Shares issue, raising over £270,000 of grass roots investment for the project. This funding, which is the most money raised by an urban project community shares issue in Scotland, will go a long way to completing the project’s funding target. As well as fund raising, PRT has managed the work of the design team to plan the refurbishment of the building, and has supported the Trust in preparing for operating the finished building.
Final decisions by the remaining large funders are anticipated in March 2018, when it is hoped to complete the funding package. If all goes according to plan, the Baths will reopen in 2020 as a wellbeing centre, with restored functionality to two of its three pools and a host of new activities and services designed around the needs of the local community.