Hello listeners. I’ve been a bit quiet on here of late – I’ve been rather poorly. Slowly feeling less like one of the living dead. Anyway – what we have here is a link to the website of Swindon photographer Elmar Rubio who has taken some rather fabulous photographs of our rather fabulous and special Health Hydro. Here it is:
This screen shot of a tweet from Mr Shifrin explains just why the Turkish baths and the Health Hydro are so special. Our Victorian Turkish baths are the oldest existing and functioning in THE WORLD.
If you’re curious as to how his interest began: ‘In Bath in 1990, he happened to notice a decorated initial B on a stained glass door panel in a health club which had once been a Turkish bath. This was his introduction to the strange world of Charles Bartholomew who (falsely) claimed to have built the first modern Turkish bath in England. Finding that no one else had made a study of the Victorian Turkish bath, he determined that this was how he would spend his retirement.’
A blog from Historic England featuring our very own Swindon Health Hydro:
‘Completed in 1891 for the Great Western Railway Medical Fund, Swindon’s Health Hydro played a big part in the formation of the National Health Service. It was paid for with compulsory deductions from member’s wages, giving them access to a dentist, hairdresser and surgeon as well as swimming and bathing facilities. Designed by JJ Smith it used red brick from the GWR brickworks; two Victorian swimming baths survive in almost their original condition.’
The Swindon Civic Voice AGM for 2017 is happening soon: 19th October to be be precise.
I’m mentioning it here because the business of the AGM will be followed by what promises to be an interesting talk. If you’ve got any interest at all in the Health Hydro in Swindon this is for you. SCV have secured Malcolm Shifrin talk about the history of the Victorian Turkish bath. And of course the the health hydro is on such!
But you can be assured listeners that there are groups and people in Swindon that care about Swindon, about its history and its heritage and do all they can in whatever way they can. Always. But never more so than at the moment. So, in no particular order, we in Swindon are blessed to have – and no doubt there’s others not mentioned here:
Swindon Civic Voice and the Mechanics’ Institute Trust.Note that although I just happen to have written about the two together in this particular blog post – https://swindonian.me/2016/02/26/swindon-civic-voice-the-mechanics-trust/ – they ARE separate and quite different organisations. Both are charities and both need your membership subscriptions to continue the work they do. Their websites and Facebook pages are below.
So, with a little help from a conveniently handy (geddit) piece of Swindon’s public art standing proudly outside the Arts Centre – see below – a round of applause for all their sterling efforts. Thank you – all of you.
Well listeners, as you know we’ve got a bit of a ‘how do you do’ and a ‘state of things’ going on with the Health Hydro. It’s a ta ta that looks set to run and run so I’ve dedicated a category to it on this here blog as a repository for sharing various pieces of writing about the building.
Then we come to this post from Frances Bevan on her Swindon History Blogspot: http://swindonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/milton-road-baths.html?spref=tw This blog is a great potted history of the hydro and gives some idea of how forward thinking all of this was at the time:
‘Keeping up with the times, the Medical Fund committee installed both Turkish and Russian baths. The Turkish bath with dry air heated rooms, followed by a full body wash and massage was seen as being ‘of great value as a sanitary and cleansing agent.’ The Russian baths were a variation on this theme, a vapour bath created by the throwing of water on hot stones, followed by a massage that involved being hit with a besom made of birch twigs and leaves. In the battle against disease and premature death, anything was worth trying.’
Then rounding up this post is this offering from Chris Humphreys of the Swindon Advertiser. Again well worth a read and a good gallery of pictures.
The Health Hydro’s place at the heart of a healthcare revolution
‘… Indeed, when Nye Bevan, the architect of the NHS, was seeking inspiration for what such a service might look like, it was to Swindon his gaze was drawn.
“There it was,” he is said to have remarked. “A complete health service. All we had to do was expand it to embrace the whole country….’
But what did the Health Hydro mean to the community?
As Graham Carters said in a recent Facebook post:
‘I think it is important to stress that the Health Hydro is far more than baths.
That, alone, would be good reason to protect and keep them, especially as they are a rare example of Victorian baths, still in use in the building’s 125th year.
It was conceived as a cutting edge health centre, which is why it was a cradle of the NHS (but 101 years older), and even in recent times housed a wide range of health and wellbeing practitioners, before SBC began running it down.
Over the years it has also been a hospital for First World soldiers, and the boarded-over pool hosted dances and rollerskating events at which generations of young Swindon people met their partners. And much more besides. It’s a gem that has suffered from poor marketing for years.’