Swindon Heritage is raising funds to place a blue plaque on the GWR Medical Fund’s headquarters and baths, now known as the Health Hydro, in Faringdon Road.
Swindon Heritage is raising funds to place a blue plaque on the GWR Medical Fund’s headquarters and baths, now known as the Health Hydro, in Faringdon Road. This year marks 125 years of community use.
Built in 1891 and opened the following year, Milton Road Baths (as it was formerly known) soon became the hub of the Great Western Railway's Medical Fund activities.
With a grand glass-covered entrance in Faringdon Road, the redbrick building was designed by Swindon architect JJ Smith at a cost of £10,000.
Keeping up with the times, the Medical Fund committee eventually installed both Turkish and Russian baths. The Turkish bath, with dry air-heated rooms, followed by a full body wash and massage, was seen as being ‘of great value as a sanitary and cleansing agent’, while the Russian baths were a variation on this theme: a vapour bath created by the throwing of water on hot stones, followed by a massage that involved being hit with a besom made of birch twigs and leaves. In the battle against disease and premature death, anything was worth trying!
Central to the building were the two swimming pools, the larger one, reserved for men, which could be covered and used for dances and concerts, seating around 2,000 people. The smaller pool, which is currently out of use, was for women and children.
Over the past 125 years, thousands of Swindon's children have learnt to swim in the small and large pool, some going on to Olympic honours.