DRUMSHEUGH BATHS, 5 BELFORD ROAD, HAWTHORNBANK LANE, EDINBURGH (Ref:27621)
This building is in the Edinburgh, City Of Council and the
It is a category A building and was listed on 14/12/1970.
Group Items: N/A,
Group Cat: N/A,
Map Ref: NT 24146 73898.
John James Burnet, 1882-86 and 1900. Moorish influenced swimming baths with arcaded entrance elevation under deep overhanging eaves; stepped into site sloping steeply to rear with single storey entrance vestibule to street and intermediate level, leading to baths at lower level to rear with 3 storey gable fronting Hawthornbank Lane. Elevation to Belford Road roughly 8-bay. Deep sandstone ashlar base course, brackets and dressings; red sandstone columns and window dressings; brick arches; painted render; coursed rubble to rear. Doorway to left (W) of centre with red brick horseshoe arched surround and sandstone springing; polychrome porch behind cast-iron screen with geometric design of stars, bearing inscription DRUMSHEUGH BATHS. 2 red sandstone columns with foliate capitals springing from base course to centre forming transoms of 3 large openings to centre in red brick horseshoe arches similar to doorway; cast-iron screens with geometric star design bearing inscription DRUMSHEUGH SWIMMING AND TURKISH BATHS COMPANY. Large shaped sandstone brackets support advanced moulded eaves course; further smaller brackets to roof. Smaller window to far left (W) in similar surround with plain sandstone pilasters and small sandstone console bracket. Round arched brick surround to large window at N elevation with deep sandstone transoms and mullions forming geometric pattern. Predominantly fixed pane plate glass throughout in timber and sandstone surrounds. Pitched roof with lead ridge; grey slates. Corniced rendered ridge stacks with decorative corbelled brickwork and Turkish lantern ventilators with ashlar copes. Cast-iron window and door screens; cast-iron rainwater goods. INTERIOR: (seen 2009) Arched vestibule at street level with baths at lower level to rear. Intermediate level containing open balcony and corridor linking to former Turkish Baths to right (E), with tiled Moorish entrance screen and vaulted ceiling with apsidal east end. Main pool with open timber roof and 2 glass cupolas. Roof supported on 7 bays of cast-iron columns and red brick arches; large piers to N end. Further mezzanine gallery to E behind timber screen giving access to diving niche. Trapeze and rings over pool. Timber stalls down either side of pool behind columns. Further red brick arches to rear (S) lead through to tiled changing areas and shower. Moorish detailing; fretwork screens and red brick horseshoe arches throughout.
An outstanding example of a private members swimming pool and Turkish Bath in Moorish style by the prominent architect J.J. Burnet. Many features such as the trapeze and rings above the pool still survive and are in regular use (2008). The design of the baths in the Moorish style was influential and the baths are considered as the finest example of Saracenic architecture in Scotland (Sweetman). The choice of the Moorish style by Burnet is appropriate as most of the knowledge of Turkish baths in the mid 19th century came from the writing of travellers such as Thackeray (Notes on a journey from Cornhill to Cairo) who had visited the Middle East, the descriptions of Turkish baths in such books were vivid and seemed luxurious. The Moorish theme of the building was linking the experience which could be had at Drumsheugh to these lush literary descriptions.
The building now standing on this site is not the original as designed which burnt down in February 1892; it is rather a reconstruction of the original design by same architect which took place in 1900. At a cost of £6,000 it was similar in almost every respect to the old one, except fireproof (Building News). The Drumsheugh Baths Company was incorporated in 1882 and raised capital by the sale of 2,400 shares, purchasing the site on Belford Road for £2,500. The club opened on 26th December 1884.
William Harley was the first to offer indoor baths in Glasgow, at Willowbank in 1804. Swimming became widely popular as a sport during the late 19th century as more residences in the UK gained access to mains water supply and could therefore wash and bathe at home. Private swimming clubs were established to cater to the professional classes who were becoming more aware of the benefits of exercise to general health and wellbeing. The pools then being built were enlarged, to accommodate the shift from plunge pools to large swimming pools. The Arlington Baths, Glasgow, was the first private swimming club to be opened in Britain in 1871. The Arlington Baths Club proved so successful that its membership topped 600 by 1875. Thus a wave of successive clubs opened in Glasgow such as the Western Baths at Hillhead followed by the Drumsheugh Baths in Edinburgh.
Sir J J Burnet was a high profile Edwardian architect who was a highly competent designer in a number of styles having studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Drumsheugh Baths is one of the earliest of his independent designs (he worked for his father's practice J Burnet and Sons). He also designed the public baths at Alloa (see separate listing) which has both Renaissance and Moorish themes to its design and a similar open timber roof above the main pool.
Category changed from B to A and list description revised 2009 as part of re-survey.
Notes updated as part of the sporting buildings thematic study (2012-13).
Ordnance Survey, Large Scale Town Plan, (1893 -94); J Gifford, C McWilliam, D M Walker, The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh (1988) p. 396; John Sweetman, The Oriental Obsession, (1987); Danby Miles, Moorish Style, (1995); The Builder, May 12 1883; www.scottisharchitects.org.uk (accessed 11/6/08 and June 2013); www.victorianturkishbath.org (accessed 11/6/08); Additional information courtesy of Drumsheugh Baths (2008).
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