Victorian baths saved by cult TV show still in ruins

Thanks to bureaucratic delays, work has yet to begin on the winning building in last year's BBC heritage competition

It was the surprise first winner of Restoration, the BBC's popular heritage show. The derelict Victoria Baths in Manchester beat off competition from historic monuments and mansions to scoop a prize of £3.5m and the chance of a return to its former municipal glory.

Restoration has become cult viewing among Britain's chattering classes. Tonight will see the final of the second series, in which viewers will vote to "rescue" one of eight endangered buildings.

But one year on, the Victoria Baths are yet to see the start of work after a series of bureaucratic delays, it has emerged. There is no starting date for the project, nor a target for its completion.

Britain now has an international reputation for its inability to manage complex design and infrastructure projects. The troubled sagas of the Dome and the Wembley reconstruction have proved particularly damaging.

Last year, Victoria Baths in Manchester triumphed over the 13th-century Greyfriars Tower in King's Lynn and the Grade-I listed Darnley Mausoleum in Kent.

Ironically, the losers could be restored faster than the baths, as they have now been awarded grants by the Heritage Lottery fund.

The building work on the Victoria Baths might not even start in time for a third series of the programme, next year.

Visitors to the baths, which once boasted three pools, a Turkish bath and an art nouveau interior with stained glass and tiles, are so baffled by the lack of action that the BBC is preparing information packs to explain the delay.

No work can begin until plans are finalised for the £18m renovation of the entire site. This includes developing a business plan for re-opening the main pool which, controversially, may mean developing part of the building for flats or as a leisure centre. The baths are dealing with a plethora of funding bodies, including English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund, and tight conservation rules.

A BBC spokeswoman said the baths illustrate the problems facing historic sites. "We always knew it was a long-term thing," she said. Tonight's final is expected to pull in three million viewers. The show is made by Endemol, the company behind Big Brother.


Sherborne House, Dorset

A Grade I-listed stately home from 1720 built by a well-known Dorset family, the Bastards of Blandford Forum. A complete restoration and an Elizabeth Frink sculpture garden are planned.

Newbridge Memorial Hall, Gwent

The 1908 Celynen Collieries Workingman's Institute and Memorial Hall was built by local miners, with a dance floor, a theatre and cinema. The complex could become a community centre.

The Playhouse, Derry

Sited in the 19th-century buildings of two former schools, the Playhouse is one of Ulster's busiest arts centres. But it is in need of restoration. Schoolchildren linked hands around the city walls in its support.

The Old Grammar School, Kings Norton

The 15th-century building is on the English Heritage "at risk" register. The school would be reopened to teach local history. A separate house would become a community centre.

Gayle Mill, Yorkshire Dales

Built in 1776, this was a water-wheel powered mill. Later it became a saw mill. Restoration would create a workshop for timber products and a centre for forest management.

Archbishop's Palace, Charing, Kent

The Grade I-listed palace was built in the 1100s as a stopover en route to Canterbury. The plan is to restore access and create a home for the parish council and community events.

Knockando, Moray

Powered by a water wheel, the woollen mill is the UK's most complete example of its kind. About to collapse, it will cease work when the current owner retires. If it wins, the mill will become a working museum.

Bawdsey Radar Station, Suffolk

Built in 1939, the station helped pioneer radar and was an important part of Britain's air defences during the Second World War. The proposal is to restore the station as a museum.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions