Work has started on the £17 million restoration and expansion of Templemore Baths, in east Belfast, the sole surviving Victorian public baths on the island of Ireland.
It is also one of the few remaining in the United Kingdom that still delivers its original function, with most of its original interior fabric and fittings intact.
The project will see many of the historic building’s original features sympathetically restored, including the existing swimming pools, slipper baths and caretaker’s house.
A new extension will provide an additional six lane 25 metre pool, spa facilities and an 80 station fitness suite.
An extensive interpretive space will also be added to tell stories relating to the history of the baths.
Belfast City Council is investing £12 million in the project, with the remaining £5 million coming from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Work is due to be completed by autumn 2022.
Belfast Lord Mayor Frank McCoubrey said: “Templemore Baths is one of the city’s most historically significant buildings, dating back to 1893.
“This much needed investment will preserve and enhance the surviving original features of the building, while extending its footprint to provide state-of-the-art leisure and spa facilities.
“Templemore is the latest facility to be upgraded as part of council’s £105 million Leisure Transformation Programme.
“Our investment reflects the importance we place on making life better for all our residents by improving their health and wellbeing, reducing life inequalities and regenerating neighbourhoods.
“These are priorities outlined in the Belfast Agenda, the city’s community plan.”
Mukesh Sharma, Chair, Northern Ireland, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We’re delighted to see the restoration work at Templemore Baths get underway.
“This is a significant investment which will not only preserve the fabric of the building itself, but seek to uncover the fascinating history and many stories connected with its past.
“As a result, we hope that many more people will have the opportunity to explore the unique heritage of this important Belfast landmark.”
Belfast City Council’s £105 million Leisure Transformation Programme is the largest investment in leisure facilities in the UK.
Four new leisure centres have already opened, including Olympia, Andersonstown, Lisnasharragh and Brook, while the new facility at Avoniel is expected to open in 2021.
n For more information on the Leisure Transformation Programme, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/transformingleisure