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Report - Ladywell baths and playtower, Lewisham, London - February 2015

slayaaaa

28DL Regular User
Regular User
#1
Intro

I was hoping this would be a lot better than it was...

Wasn't going to put up a report either but after a request and the realization that it hadn't been properly documented by anyone else to my knowledge, I changed my mind. Plus it may raise some more awareness for the place. It's trashed and derp. In better condition this would've been a lot nicer. Ah well, enjoy!

History

Ladywell Baths were erected in 1884 to the designs of Wilson & Son and Thomas Aldwinkle, the latter a local architect who designed several bath houses of note. The builders were Hobbs of Croydon. The Ladywell Baths were built at a cost of £9,000 on a site procured by the vicar of the adjacent St Mary's Church. At the time, a local paper commented on the juxtaposition of church and baths that 'cleanliness was next to Godliness'. The site was chosen as it is on the main road into Ladywell from Brockley, Catford, Lewisham and Hither Green.

Local vestries were first permitted to levy a rate for baths and washhouses under an Act of 1846. Largely concerned with the hygiene of the lower classes, however, the Act only permitted slipper baths, laundries and open-air pools until an amendment in 1878 encouraged the building of covered swimming baths. Few authorities adopted the Act before the 1890s, when baths began to flourish. Lewisham Vestry, however, was notably progressive and appointed seven Commissioners in 1882, whose aims was to obtain funds and land to build two swimming pools at Ladywell and Forest Hill. By 1900 public baths were not only being built in large numbers, but also with increasing elaboration.

On 25 April 1885, the baths were opened by Viscount Lewisham, MP, who remarked that aside from the Paddington Baths (which do not survive), 'there were no others in London of that size'. The Forest Hill baths were opened the following week. The ceremony was reported in the Kentish Mercury of 1 May 1885, which described the baths as 'quite an ornament to the neighbourhood, standing in striking contrast to the ancient church behind it'. The charges for use were 6d for the first class pool and 2d for the second class. On two days a week the pools were reserved for ladies bathing.

SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE:
Ladywell Baths were erected in 1884 to the designs of Wilson & Son and Thomas Aldwinkle, architects known for their municipal baths, and are one of the earliest surviving public baths in the capital, built shortly after the 1878 amendment to the Baths and Washhouses Act, when vestries could raise rates to build pools, for which it has special historic interest. The building also has special architectural interest for the imposing façade to Ladywell Road, an attractive design in the muscular Gothic style, and the former first class pool interior. There are characterful details in the turret-like sections flanking the pool hall and the oriel window in the tower. The tower is distinctive, although the loss of the conical roof is regrettable. The building also has group value as a significant component of a complex of late C19 municipal buildings which are all of architectural quality.

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2010 saw the ladywell baths and playtower get 24 hour security and £400,000 spent to keep it from deteriorating, this clearly didn't work. (https://maxink.wordpress.com/tag/playtower/)

Later on some work took place seeing the balcony practically ripped off the sides and some heras and work lights get thrown about inside to presumably stop people falling through the floor.

Graffitti riddles the building and sometime later in it's life a fire destroyed the back hall.

Future

Planning permission has been submitted: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov...ormer Ladywell leisure centre site 311013.pdf
But presumably nothing has come of it, the building has been suggested for temporary housing whilst more is built in the area, but locals have had a few things to say about that claiming "temporary" is never temporary.

Until something happens, it'll sit and rot.

My visit

I had some spare time and had seen this in the past but forgot about it, MrWhite reminded me the other day and I thought why not? (Cheers by the way)

Not really worth the effort to be honest! Enjoy none the less.

Pictures

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Pow

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Last edited:

Speed

Got Epic?
Staff member
Moderator
#2
Thanks for that mate, i remember looking through a boarded window and seeing those railings and thinking it would be good inside.. Shame i was wrong!

Reports like this are worth a million times the 'yet another tourderp' reports that a lot of people stick up. Its not about how good places are its about having something thats not been covered.

Anyone know what happened to Forest Hill baths? I recce'd that the same day i did this one!
 

slayaaaa

28DL Regular User
Regular User
#3
Yeah true that mate, if anything maybe it'll encourage council locals to get it looking better than it does now? Probably not...
The railings look quite nice and I saw a pic of them somewhere and thought that same thing! Little too late unfortunately.
Glad someone enjoyed it! :)
There used to be loads of closed and derelict public baths all around London, but like the hospitals, most have been demolished which is a real shame. Forest hill, I haven't heard it before, but I'll certainly be giving it a look. :D
 

ACID- REFLUX

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
#4
Nice one mate :thumb

Well at least you can see where the £400K went mate ........:confusion

Looks quite nice from the outside as well

Wouldn"t fancy wandering @ there in the dark :D
 

Speed

Got Epic?
Staff member
Moderator
#5
I checked them all out in 2007-8ish

I did Brentford, Poplar and Ilford (and later Haggerston). This, Forest Hill and Eltham were well sealed up. Think Eltham went in the end tho.. Theres probably more now too. Birmingham seems to have a never ending supply!
 

slayaaaa

28DL Regular User
Regular User
#6
I checked them all out in 2007-8ish

I did Brentford, Poplar and Ilford (and later Haggerston). This, Forest Hill and Eltham were well sealed up. Think Eltham went in the end tho.. Theres probably more now too. Birmingham seems to have a never ending supply!
I'll keep an eye out if I'm passing :thumb

Cheers AR, real shame really, could easily be a nice building!
 

The Wombat

Mr Wombat
28DL Full Member
#7
i think that's pretty good, especially the second shot :thumb
 

kevin arnold

28DL Member
Regular User
#13
cheers for that report! ladywell baths was one of the first places i put on my to do list when i got into urban exploration. back then i checked it three times and didn't manage to get in so i always wondered what it is like inside and now i know.

yeah, it's trashed and all but it's about going out and checking new places and finding out what's inside. it might as well have been an awesome time capsule that no one bothered to check. best part of UE is discovering new things, you just don't get this feeling with say a crane or a gasometer - standing on the ground next to them you can pretty much see what's on top ;) it might be more adrenaline and you might get more spectacular pictures than in a derp but on the other hand you don't discover anything. where as thanks to reports like this we all learn something new :thumb

Anyone know what happened to Forest Hill baths?
if we're thinking of the same place, i'm pretty sure they're long gone. me and za gringo checked them ages ago and they were sealed, about a year later i was in the area and they were already half-demolished with workers on site.
 

slayaaaa

28DL Regular User
Regular User
#14
Cheers Kev, glad I could give something back, as I thoroughly enjoy reading the stuff you and BHG do. :thumb

Still love me cranez :D

Appreciate the comment! Thanks :)
 

Speed

Got Epic?
Staff member
Moderator
#15
Looking on street view it looks like the original pools got demo'd and they have built a new pool/leisure center on the back keeping the original frontage. Good outcome for he building but il add it to the list of explorer fails. :/
 

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