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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 September, 2003, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Restoration hopeful opens its doors
Victoria Baths
The baths were a "water palace"
A stunning bathhouse which has fallen into ruin but could be saved if it wins a national vote is throwing open its doors.

Victoria Baths in Manchester won the North West heat in the BBC's Restoration project and is now up against buildings in the rest of the country to win a multi-million pound renovation.

The baths are now to be opened for the next fortnight to allow the public the chance to see what they have to offer.

Hundreds of people are expected to come and look inside the historic building, erected at the beginning of the last century.

The public vote in the final begins on Thursday.

Tony Bowyer, chairman of the Victoria Baths Trust says the region's entry has a good chance of winning.

"There are 10 fabulous buildings in the final but we feel ours is different because it is a real people's building built for the people and we want to return it back for people to use," he said.

"I think we do have a good chance, but we need everyone to get out there and vote."

Water palace

The baths 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".

They were amongst the most splendid municipal bathing institutions in the country.

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.

It even boasts an Aerotone, fitted in 1952, which was the precursor of the Jacuzzi, and despite having segregated areas for 1st class males, 2nd class males and females until 1914, the baths were where Sunny Lowry, the first English woman to swim the Channel, learnt to swim.

The council closed the baths in 1993, in the face of much local opposition.


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