A swimming pool in Haggerston that’s been derelict for the past couple of decades is to be restored to public use again, although as a community centre and offices.
Built in 1904 at a cost of £60,000, the Haggerston Baths is a classic community building of the era, richly decorated frontage in the mix of brick and stone in the Queen Anne style that was frequently used for municipal buildings of the era. Inside, the swimming bath takes up the bulk of the space with a large curved ceiling, and to the side of the baths are the laundry and changing rooms, with the hot water boilers in the basement.
Sadly, the baths closed in 2000 initially for emergency repair works but have remained closed ever since. Due to the condition they’re now in, the baths are currently on Historic England’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ Register.
In 2015, Hackney Council asked for ideas about how to restore and reopen the building. There weren’t any viable proposals for the re-use of the building as swimming baths, and it was decided to deliver a mixed-use development comprising of public access and community space in the historic pool hall area together with cafe spaces and workshop areas, the scheme also provides office accommodation within the new build to the west of the Pool Hall.
The redevelopment will require the demolition of a 1950s extension at the rear of the baths, to be replaced with a new six-storey brick building, for the office space, while the swimming pool will be largely converted into an open-plan community space and cafe.
One of the old boilers in the basement will be restored and displayed on the ground floor.
The redevelopment was designed by Squire & Partners.
The development doesn’t meet the council’s requirements for low-cost rent for local businesses, but they accepted that the high cost of restoring a listed heritage building, and the lack of tenants expected to pay high-margin rents means that the low-rent subsidy wouldn’t be possible.
There were some objections to the plans, particularly the height of the new brick extension affecting local residents, but in general, the plans have widespread local support to bring the derelict building back into use.
As with most restorations of historic buildings, some of the plans are subject to change if they find problems, and the developers have already noted that some of the basement fabric might not be possible to save due to the presence of asbestos.
There is also, somewhat ironically for a bathhouse, a lot of damage from water coming in through the roof which needs to be stabilised after the roof is made secure again.
It currently costs Hackney Council around £100,000 a year to keep the building secure and stop people from going inside. In a few years time, it’ll be earning money instead of costing it, and will be open to the public once more.