Iconic Victorian pool closing for major investment

Edinburgh Leisure | Friday 5th July 2019 6:30am

Iconic Victorian pool closing for major refurbishment

Another of Edinburgh’s iconic Victorian pools, Leith Victoria Swim Centre, is being  refurbished,  from Monday, 12 August 2019.  Due to the unique layout of the centre, it will be a phased refurbishment, starting with the closure of the pool and studio 2, with these areas reopening in February 2020.

Affectionately known as ‘Leith Viccies’, during phase one of the works, the gym, cycle studio and studio 1 will remain open.  Access to the venue will only be via the  Bonnington Road entrance (car parking will be reduced).  The  Junction Place entrance will remain closed throughout this phase. 

When the pool and studio 2 reopen in February 2020, phase two of the works will take place. This will involve the cycle studio and studio 1 closing for two weeks for improvement works.

The gym will remain open throughout.

The centre will be fully operational by March 2020.

Nicola Duffy, Leisure Manager at Leith Victoria Swim Centre said: ‘We’re unique in having five B-listed Victorian pools in our portfolio but from time to time, these historic venues need some ‘tlc’. The investment will future-proof the building so that customers can continue to enjoy its facilities for many years to come, as they have done for previous generations.  We will, however, still maintain certain characteristics of  ‘Viccie Baths’ to ensure they keep their charm, which is so loved by the people of Leith and, indeed Edinburgh.”

Duffy continued:  ‘The part closure will obviously mean disruption to many of our customers. We have plans in place to provide customers with alternatives and we do hope our customers stay active with us here at ‘Viccies’ or at another Edinburgh Leisure venue.

Councillor Lezley Marion Cameron, Vice Convener for Finance and Resources at the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “We’re delighted to be investing in this major work at the much-loved Leith Victoria Swim Centre. The work will secure the safety and sustainability of the building for years to come and, importantly, will continue to provide opportunities for the people of Leith, Edinburgh and the many visitors to be active.”

Similar to the recent makeover at Dalry Swim Centre, which reopened to the public after a six-month closure in January 2019, much of the refurbishment will be behind the scenes and will include:

·         A mechanical and electrical works, including  improvements to the ventilation system and  more energy efficient solutions;

·         Structural improvements to the pool hall, including the windows and maintenance work to the sandstone structure and roof.

·         Maintenance work to the sandstone structure and roof

Updates at every stage will be posted on Edinburgh Leisure’s social media channels and website during the closure and customers have been informed of the impending renovations.

Leith Victoria Swim Centre

Junction Place, Edinburgh EH6 5JA Tel: 0131 555 4728



About Historic Pools

According to the Directory of Historic Pools, which was compiled by Played in Britain, there are 375 historic pools of which 299 are indoor and 76 are outdoor. ‘Historic Pools’ in the directory includes all pre-1940 pools and any post-1940 pools, which are either listed or otherwise notable (and only includes pools with public access).

Of the 299 historic pools, 135 are open:  114 in England, 20 in Scotland and 1 in Wales. 

Edinburgh Leisure has five B-listed, Victorian pools in its portfolio, which are: Warrender Swim Centre; Portobello Swim Centre; Glenogle Swim Centre; Leith Victoria Swim Centre;  and Dalry Swim Centre.   It also manages the Royal Commonwealth Pool and A-listed building, which is the only venue to host three Commonwealth Games in 1970, 1986 and 2014. 

Many of the Edinburgh Victorian swimming pools were part of a much wider scheme to build public baths to promote cleanliness and hygiene amongst the working classes in the Victorian times, who did not have routine access at the time to sanitation.

Whilst the City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh Leisure has succeeded in keeping the character of the ‘Baths’, they have added modern twists to them so whilst they have kept their charm, they are able to meet the demands of a modern leisure /fitness customer, which includes modern heating, upgraded changing facilities and meets the environment’s demands where energy recovery is essential.

About Leith Victoria

The original Victoria Leith Baths were opened in 1899 by Provost John Bennet. The original plaque is still on display at Leith Victoria Swim Centre. A plaque is also still on display on the exterior of the building which says: ‘Leith School Board, Swimming Baths, 1896’.

Leith Swimming Baths (now restored) linked to the public baths (i.e. rows of enamel baths) and laundry, both now demolished to create the Victoria Swim Centre. 

The baths were in use until the late 1970s, due to the high number of Leith dwellings lacking bathrooms up to that time.  Until recently, Leith Victoria Swim Centre had a hot bath, located just off reception, which could be used by members of the public for a small fee of £1.70.  This will be removed as part of the upgrade to the reception area.

In the old days, men got changed on one side of the pool, and ladies on the other. Edinburgh Leisure has maintained those good old values and men are asked to change on the left-hand side of the pool and ladies on the right. Dalry, Glenogle and Warrender also have changing cubicles on the poolside.

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