On this Day 13th July 1887

Hot, Cold or Salt in Penzance

The new  Penzance bath house, opened 1887 (Private collection)The new baths on the Promenade: granted, that’s all they are as yet. Baths. No swimming pool, although that’s sure to follow soon. The Baths Company just needs to raise a bit more capital. To be frank, just needs a bit more support from the people of the town. The type who’re always quick to complain about losing the beach; about no theatricals on the seafront; about all the tourists heading for St Ives and Newquay these days. It’s time they stopped moaning, and opened their wallets.

But even if there is – as yet – nowhere to swim on the premises, there’s room to extend. And plans, too. The directors are just waiting for a bit more revenue to roll in. Subscriptions, shares, donations… all are welcome.

But in the meantime, a spanking new building offering hot and cold running water is better than Mr Norton’s old place at the bottom of Cornwall Terrace. Let alone that even older one at the bottom of Jennings Street that some of us can remember. It’s designed in the latest Gothic fashion, the new bath house, and on the roof is a “fine lantern”, casting daylight into the depths below, where windows - obviously - would be pointless.

Inside there are “four bath-rooms, which are fitted with Cliff’s porcelain baths, and Shanks’ lavatories”. The baths have “polished mahogany mountings”. “Hot, or cold fresh and salt water can be supplied according to desire”. One of the bathrooms even has a spray and a douche bath. And there’s a waiting room, which will be necessary if demand for the four cubicles is as the directors hope. Plenty of space has been allocated to Mr and Mrs Andrews, the attendants. They’re a very respectable and reliable couple, “in every respect suitable ….for the post”, and come with “the highest testimonials”.

Perhaps some were expecting a rather more imposing structure. Well, the rather modest scale of the place was explained today, in the speeches made at the opening ceremony. You see, the land alone had cost £1,000, and then the cost of the piping and the foundations was higher than expected – I would imagine it’s all about building your house on a rock, or failing that at least upon clay, rather than trusting to luck and the stability of those old sandbanks behind the sea wall.

And so, shortly after 4.00, Mr Buckett – the Chairman of Directors, and very much the man who has brought the scheme to its present state of fruition – presented the Mayor with a “handsome silver key”, which he turned smoothly in the lock. But before he did so, he called attention to the “exertions, pluck, time, and money” of Mr Buckett and his co-directors. ”It was a good beginning,” he said, and one which “he hoped to see extended at some future day, when a large plunge bath and swimming bath might be added”.

So – it remains only to bid my fellow townsmen to come down to the Promenade, and enjoy the benefits of an invigorating bath. The fresh water is straight from the Borough supply, the purity of which is beyond question. And the salt water? Bathers need not fear the cleanliness of the supply. It is to be piped straight in from the Lariggan rocks, and will arrive at the sea wall clear of any contamination that might be feared from the sewage outfall or the dock.

The very last word, 50 years on, the demolition of the bath house after a serious fire (Courtesy of Morrab Library Photo Archive)But the last word should go to Major Ross, in seconding the vote of thanks. Very well, so some people were muttering about the small size of the baths. “ There was remedy for that” he said, with the blunt honesty of the military man. “If people would only take shares they would soon make them larger.” From those present, a heartfelt “Hear, hear”. And then the Major “hoped that the old proverb which said that ‘cleanliness was next to Godliness’ would be remembered, and that the baths would be used as much as the places of worship.” At least one person took his words to heart; by the end of the ceremony, the first book of tickets had already been sold.

Cornish Telegraph 21 7 1887 page 7

Cornishman Thursday 21st July 1887 page 4 - 5

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Growing Up in West Cornwall. A Publication by the Penwith Local History Group

"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

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