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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

A Great Year for Ashton Old Baths

Friday, 22 June 2018


This Thursday I had the pleasure of joining colleagues, stakeholders and budding entrepreneurs at Ashton Old Baths, to celebrate the first anniversary of the reopening of the famous building.  

The history contained within the walls of Tameside’s most famous landmark is familiar to most people living in the borough. The Ashton Old Baths were originally built as a response to a report in 1843 about the poor sanitary conditions in the town. Designed by Henry Paul and George Robinson, and opened to the public in 1870, they were a public hygiene facility unlike anything the UK had seen before that time.

With a pool 100 feet long and 40 feet wide, with a capacity of over 120,000 gallons of water, it was a bold statement of civic pride when Tameside and the surrounding areas formed the beating heart of the new industrial society. The Ashton Old Baths served the town well, remaining in use for over a century for both hygiene and leisure purposes until their closure in 1975. Even today, residents of our borough over a certain age still have fond memories of their childhood trips to the baths.

While that time has long since passed, we could not and would not allow such an iconic piece of our local history to crumble away to nothing. That’s why in 2013, 38 years after their closure, Tameside Council got together with the previous owners of the building, the European Regional Development Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund to come up with a plan to resurrect the Baths for the 21st century.

While the restoration work included extensive repairs and renovations, we made the decision early on that the exterior of the building must remain intact. To that end, the office space was contained within a three-level pod built inside the structure; a process that many described as like building a ship inside a bottle. Everything from materials to machinery was brought in through the main doorway to be assembled on site. The restoration was shortlisted for the prestigious Historic England Angel Awards in the category of ‘Best Rescue of a Heritage Site’, the Architects’ Journal Retrofit Awards and the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce Building of the Year. It has also been named as a key asset for the city region in the Greater Manchester Digital Strategy.

Now operated by specialist business incubation experts Oxford Innovation, in collaboration with Tameside Council, the new Ashton Old Baths has assumed its rightful place as the jewel in the crown of our pioneering digital strategy. Just as the cotton mills brought jobs, skills and prosperity to our borough two centuries ago, our investment in digital skills and infrastructure will grow and attract businesses in the creative and technology sectors. Hand-in-hand with this is our project to transform skills and learning provision in the borough, providing young people with the education, careers advice and opportunities they need to thrive in the high-tech economy.

None of this would have been possible without the dedication and commitment of the businesses that now call this great building home. Ranging from event management company ZestME, to engineer consultancy Welman Group, low-calorie alcohol producers SkinnyBrands, and the aspiring entrepreneurs of the Digital Dozen initiative, they have filled the new office space to capacity and created over 70 new jobs. The Old Baths also contains a mental health resilience hub, opened by HRH Prince Harry, for those affected by the horrific bombing in Manchester last year.

During the course of the evening, those in attendance had the opportunity to tour the building and hear about the restoration process from the people who helped make it happen. A number of our tenant entrepreneurs were also on hand to explain how the Ashton Old Baths has helped them realise their ambitions for their businesses.

As somebody who has closely followed the renovation of the Ashton Old Baths from its earliest days, I’m delighted to see how the grand old building has been given a new purpose and lease of life. Nor are our plans by any means complete, as we are currently in advanced planning to develop an Annex to the main building, which will include a data centre and space for 75 more people. My thanks go out to everybody who spent their Thursday evening celebrating Tameside’s past, present and future with us.   

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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