W Clarke and G Bell, 1876-81. 1 and 2 storeys and basement, symmetrical 13 bays (arranged 1-4-3-4-1), outstanding Byzantine and Gothic style swimming baths with central 3-bay raised section, 4-bay linking sections and single bay pavilions. Club building to front with swimming pool at rear. Snecked rubble with ashlar dressings, rock-faced rustication to basement with plinth. Ground floor cill band.
E (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: CENTRAL BAYS: 3-bay recessed, arcaded portico with sculpted spandrels, flanked by 3-light colonette mullioned windows with cusped heads. Windows at first floor round-arched, 2-light in outer bays with corbelled cills, 3-light in centre bay with balustraded balcony. Bracketted eaves, corniced to 3 faces. LINKING BAYS: 4 2-light cusp-headed windows with raked cills, 4-light with stone transomes in S bays, upper lights blind. PAVILIONS: raised with vertically linked colonette mullions and architrave, 2-light pointed windows; frieze level string course. Plain eaves cornice.
Predominantly, piended slate roof with finials. Wallhead stacks to returns. Cast-iron railings on coped boundary wall. Cast-iron rainwater goods.
INTERIOR: Arcaded round-arched hall screen. Arcaded, glazed screens with geometric glazing bars to poolside changing rooms. Lancet windows in pool hall gables. Decorative cast-iron roof brackets to main pond with initials W and B detailed in the roundels. Many original circa 1900 fittings and pool apparatus, including hanging rings and trapeze. Spittoons and corner steps to pool. Extensive polychromatic floor and wall tiling. Top-lit cooling room with carved cornice. Panelled rooms. Grand imperial staircase and columned hall to entrance.
Statement of Special Interest
Western Baths Club is an outstanding, extremely rare and intact example of an early private members swimming facility in Scotland with Turkish Baths and other facilities. Surviving largely as it appeared as it was built in the late 19th century and maintaining its ornamental style, the building emulates the form and air of a Venetian Palazzo. It was designed and constructed by prominent architects of the time, Clarke and Bell, for the residents of the burgh of Hillhead following the launch of the Western Baths Company Limited in 1875. A part of the Western Baths Club's special interest lies in the fact that it has continued in use as a recreational facility since first opening its doors in 1876.
The Western Baths Club was established as a subscription club and was constructed at the cost of £20 000. By the 1870s Hillhead was still an independent burgh. Families with wealth were moving to Glasgow's West End with the draw of the new university, West End Park and an array of leisure facilities to keep them occupied. The Baths offered patrons a unique and relaxing escape from daily life. It offered a variety of treatments and its Directors were keen to keep up with current fashions. It boasted the largest swimming pond in Scotland, until Aberdeen's Esplanade Baths (now demolished) opened in 1898. In 1907 they commissioned architect John Keppie to make some alterations to the therapeutic Baths section, and this was complete by 1908.
By 1933 it had the first filtration system installed in Scotland, becoming one of few in Britain with this technology. Interestingly, this system was only first replaced in 1988. Women were allowed to bathe during limited hours from early on in the Baths history, and by WWI the number of ladies subscribing was greater than that of men. Ladies petitioned for more time at the pool, however it was only in 1965 when mixed bathing was eventually allowed.
Late 20th and early 21st centuy alterations include the replacement of Walter MacFarlane's cast iron dale, reinstatement of the frigidarium dome, and a sports hall extension.
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 bath at home. Private swimming clubs were established to cater to the professional classes who were becoming more aware of the benefits of exercise and general health and wellbeing. The pools 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. Edinburgh got its own club in 1884 with the opening of Drumsheugh.
William Clark and George Bell established their practice in Glasgow by 1843. The practice was responsible for a number of prominent public buildings in Glasgow and the west of Scotland, including Glasgow's Fish Market in the Bridgegate (see separate listing). When Bell died on 4 January 1887, the practice, by then a loose partnership with Robert Alexander Bryden, (b. 1841), was continued by his son George Bell II (b. 1854), who had been articled to the firm in 1869 and became a partner in 1880.
Category changed from B to A (2013). List description updated as part of the sporting buildings thematic study (2012-13).