The border city of Carlisle has one of the last remaining Victorian and Turkish baths in the UK that are still working and open to the public. Following the controversial decision by Carlisle City Council to close the baths and repurpose the site, the Friends of Carlisle Victorian and Turkish Baths have stepped up their campaign to keep the baths open for the benefit of the community. In a video for That’s TV Cumbria in 2021 they spoke about the closure and outlined a possible future for the project.
Consulting the local public
The decision has left a lot of uncertainty about what is to happen with the iconic baths. The Friends group are now inviting members of the public to have their say on possible plans.
The group will be holding a special drop-in session on the afternoon of Friday 21 October at Carlisle’s Tullie House Museum, to share plans for how the 113-year-old Turkish baths could be restored and refurbished as part of a wider development of the James Street public baths.
Earlier this year the Friends won funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund and the Cumbria LEP to carry out a viability study to assess what might need to be done to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Grade II listed site.
Visitors to this Friday’s drop-in will be able to see the initial plans and have their say on what new facilities they would like to see in the building.
“Carlisle has the last fully operational Turkish baths in the Northwest, and we believe they can be developed to become a major tourist attraction and continue to support the health and wellbeing of local people,” explained Julie Minns, chair of the Friends of Carlisle Victorian and Turkish Baths.
“This consultation is the culmination of phase one of our project not just to save the baths but to realise our ambition to deliver a flagship centre for health and wellbeing for the residents of Carlisle and the wider Borderlands region.”
The fight continues to save the baths
The plans include moving the entrance to the baths to face the new Southern Gateway entrance to the railway station, adding a community laundry and hub and creating a cafe open to both users and non-users of the baths.
The consultation comes just two weeks after the six-member Executive of Carlisle City Council voted to close the Turkish baths and less than a month after the Grade II listed facility was crowned Cumbria’s Best Small Tourist Attraction in the Cumbria Life Awards.
Following public feedback, The Friends, who are a registered charity, will seek further grant funding to develop a detailed set of plans for the building and secure capital funding for a full renovation and restoration.
“This scale of what we are trying to achieve as a small group of volunteers is huge,” said Minns. “But we share the same ambition and passion for Carlisle as the members of the city corporation who voted to build the Public and Turkish Baths almost 140 years ago. We’re determined that the baths will not join the long list of historical buildings that Carlisle has already lost, and can play an important role in the future of our City.”
The public drop-in takes place in the Meeting Room, Tullie House, 1.30-5.45pm, Friday 21 October.
For further information contact Julie Minns 07782 329329.
About the Friends of Carlisle Victorian and Turkish Baths
The Friends of Carlisle Victorian and Turkish Baths formed in May 2021 to campaign to keep the baths open and put them on a sustainable long-term footing.