In the second half of the 19th century, an ambitious program of building public baths and washhouses was launched throughout the city.
Liverpool has long been a leader in pioneering public health measures.
Liverpool’s oldest baths were an important part of the city’s pioneering public health initiatives.
Inspired by their actions, the first combined public bath and washhouse was built on Upper Frederick Street in 1842, and many more followed in the decades that followed.
Her development was inspired by the actions of Kitty Wilkinson, an Irish migrant who came to Liverpool as a child. During a cholera outbreak in 1832, she opened her kitchen – the only one in the area with a boiler – to neighbors so that they could wash their infected clothes. In this way she saved many lives and helped in the fight against a raging epidemic that claimed over 1500 lives in just five months.
The public baths, which were combined with washhouses, became important public health tools at a time of severe epidemics, when outbreaks of infectious diseases such as cholera were all too common amidst the overcrowded housing, lack of sanitation, poverty and social inequalities in Victorian Liverpool.
A piece of greened land demolished in 1996 is now located where the baths once stood, next to a vivid mural painted by local artists on the side of the wall of the former Lodge Lane library.
The Lodge Lane Public Baths and Wash House in Liverpool 8 was the seventh facility of its kind. It was opened in 1878 and served the residents of Toxteth for over a hundred years until it was closed in the wake of the city’s cutbacks in 1990.
One reader wrote to the ECHO letter page in 1990 to complain about the closure of the baths, reflecting a sentiment shared by many who have used the baths over the years: “I grew up in the Lodge Lane area and learned to swim in the baths like my mother, brother and uncles.
Although there is no trace of the baths in Lodge Lane, it still holds fond memories for many residents, and generations of families learned to swim in the well-used and often overcrowded Victorian swimming pool.
“I find the closure of the baths very sad, especially when I think of the long nights – summer and winter – I spent in these pools.
The baths regularly hosted galas, competitions and water polo matches, which were attended by teams from all over the city.
The baths were not just a place to exercise, do laundry or clean up – they became important social hubs of their time and brought the community together in various ways.
The Baths at Lodge Lane were also one of the first in the city to offer an addition that may have seemed strange in modern times – in 1913 it was one of the first to receive a film license, and the films were shown regularly in the decades that followed.
Among a number of other sports, boxing took place, a much needed space for the local community.
In the 1930s, a series of free public lectures were held on topics ranging from “Shakespeare’s Heroines” to “10,000 Miles on Horseback from Buenos Ayres to New York”.
When war broke out in 1939, an article in the June of the same year in ECHO referred to concerns about coal shortages, as only “lumps of coal” reached the municipal warehouses and directly affected the operation of the baths.
Dance events were also held, including one that appeared in ECHO’s public bulletins in the 1920s, which advertised a big band and jazz musicians, with names like The Georgians, who played “all the latest dances”.