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Kent Street Baths and Wash Houses (c 1855)

 poster for Kent Street Baths circa 1855

In 1846 an Act 'to encourage the establishment of baths and wash-houses', was passed which permitted a local authority to incur expenditure in erecting Public Baths in the locality, dating back to the eighteenth century, but these were strictly for the wealthier inhabitants.

The foundation stone for Kent Street, Birmingham's first public baths, was laid on October 29th 1849, and the baths opened for public use on 12th May 1851. By the time of its completion, in 1852, the building had cost £23,000 and comprised "sixty nine private hot and cold water baths, three plunge baths and a public wash-house with a laundry fitted up with twenty five washing stalls and two sets of seventeen drying horses and other appliances". From this it can be clearly seen that the baths were not only a leisure facility but also made an important contribution towards the improvement of public health. For people living in crowded courts with no internal water supply they provided the ability to use a washing room, with hot water on tap, and laundry facilities instead of a draughty 'Brewhouse'. The personal washing provision with 'warm baths' must also have seemed luxurious for those used to tin baths in front of the fire. However the use of hot water was strictly controlled by the attendant, who used a 'Key' to operate the hot tap. Most of the original Kent Street building was demolished in 1930.

  • Woodcock Street baths opened in 1852
  • Northwood Street baths opened in 1853
  • Monument Road baths opened in 1883
  • Victoria Road, Aston, baths opened in 1892 (not incorporated into Birmingham until 1911)

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