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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 September, 2003, 22:49 GMT 23:49 UK
Baths win 3.4m Restoration final
Manchester's Victoria Baths
The building has been derelict for a decade
Derelict swimming baths in Manchester are to get a new lease of life after winning the BBC's Restoration programme.

Almost 3.4m will be poured into restoring the Grade II listed Victoria Baths, after 282,018 viewers voted for the project to win.

Lissan House in Cookstown, County Tyrone, took second place, while Wentworth Castle in Stainsborough, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, came third.

During its six-week run on BBC Two, Restoration averaged 3m viewers per episode and several thousand votes each Tuesday and Friday evening.

A minimum of 17.9p from every 30p call contributed to the Restoration Fund, while the largest chunk of money - 3m - will be given to the baths by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Often we only recognise the true value of a building ... once it has gone and is no longer that friendly neighbour
Prince Charles
The final show was broadcast live from the Tower of London on Sunday, and presented by comedian Griff Rhys Jones.

Viewers were asked to vote for their favourite of 10 finalists, which had been revisited by Rhys Jones and historic buildings experts Marianne Suhr and Ptolemy Dean to remind viewers of their individual histories and architectural value.

The programme also featured a message from Prince Charles, who revealed he had been watching the show.

He reminded the public of the other buildings featured on the programme, and urged them to protect other, unpromoted buildings that are also in need of repair.

'People's building'

"It is a sad fact but well worth remembering that... there are many more priceless historic buildings, from redundant mills to country houses, from hospitals to warehouses, which for a variety of reasons are lying abandoned and derelict and in danger of being lost to future generations.

"Our history is all around us, though often we only recognise the true value of a building ... once it has gone and is no longer that friendly neighbour."

Restoration finalists

Victoria Baths, which won the programme's North West heat to make it into the final, were built for the poor of inner Manchester between 1903 and 1906.

When the Lord Mayor opened the building in September 1906 he described it as a "water palace" of which "every citizen of Manchester was proud".

No expense was spared, with lavish use of stained glass and ornate tiling around the three pools, 64 wash baths, and Turkish and Russian baths.

The building even boasts an Aerotone, fitted in 1952, which was the precursor of the Jacuzzi.

Sunny Lowry, the first English woman to swim the Channel, learnt to swim in the baths.

They were closed by the council in 1993, in the face of much local opposition.

Speaking before the final result, Tony Bowyer, chairman of the Victoria Baths Trust, said the building was a "real people's building built for the people".

"We want to return it back for people to use," he said.

Other finalists included a grand Methodist hall in Stoke now fallen into disrepair, Wilton's Music Hall in Wapping, east London, and Llanelly House, the oldest town house in Wales.

Rhys Jones said the Restoration programme had been a huge success.

"It has put conservation concerns on the agenda, and, I hope, entertained a lot of people on the way."




SEE ALSO:
Restoration hopeful opens its doors
07 Sep 03  |  Manchester
3m at stake in viewer vote
14 Sep 03  |  Wales
Charles backs Restoration
13 Sep 03  |  Entertainment
Historic home wins viewers' votes
27 Aug 03  |  Northern Ireland


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