Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Still Fit for Good Clean Fun; in Another of Our Occasional Hidden Tyneside Series, LAURA CAROE Gives You a Glimpse of a Washhouse

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Still Fit for Good Clean Fun; in Another of Our Occasional Hidden Tyneside Series, LAURA CAROE Gives You a Glimpse of a Washhouse

Article excerpt

Byline: LAURA CAROE

IT WAS a place of bathing and washing for thousands of Geordies, but now the former Gibson Street Baths has turned into a sports centre with badminton courts.

Built in 1906, the Grade II building in Shieldfield, Newcastle, opened as a swimming pool and wash house, with bath tubs provided at a time when most homes did not have bathrooms.

Principal facilities manager Ged Nearney says the building has transformed over the years, as he opens the big wooden doors with a swipe card for the Chronicle's exclusive tour.

The smell of chlorine is still strong as we walk into a green-tiled room with stained-glass windows.

Straight ahead is where the pool used to lie. It has now been completely enclosed and is being used as a badminton court.

The baths' two entrances, one for men and one for women, still holds a turnstile where families would have pushed through for their weekly wash.

Painted tiles of swimming tales still decorate the walls in the small reception.

It is strange to see the building empty when it would have been filled with families swimming and others walking around in towels.

A bright orange vaulted ceiling with a raised glass roof brings colour to the otherwise green room and footsteps echo across the hall making it easy to imagine the noise of splashing water and children laughing as they learn to swim.

Upstairs is closed off with a locked door but is where the baths used to be, and the caretaker had a flat. "It's not insured for health and safety, so we can't have any members of the public here. The upstairs has all been gutted," says Ged.

We are led upstairs into a huge room where more than eight bathtubs used to lie, each in its own partitioned private area. Here, the public could bathe in private, and would even bring their laundry. …

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