Ardglass Early Victorian Bathing House Gets New Lease Of Life
Ardglass is still on the tourist map!
Built in the early 1830’s when Queen Victoria was just getting ready to assume the throne, the bathing house on the harbour shore was part of a wider scheme of harbour improvements instigated by Ardglass proprietor William Ogilvy to attract visitors to the seaside destination. The now iconic bathing house has been refurbished to ensure it lasts another hundred years.
The bathing house was increasingly under threat of collapse from the strong Spring tides that occasionally occur round ouyr shores. But £27,000 funding from the Follies Trust with a community contribution of £1000 from Ardglass Vikings has ensured the building will survive.
Following a survey by NIEA conservation architects last year, it was deemed to be in danger and an application was made through the Ulster Wildlife Trust which managed the Landfill Tax Scheme for the now defunct Down District Council and the Follies Trust were successful in their bid for refurbishment costs.
A report in 1835 noted: “Elegant baths have been erected by the late William Ogilvy Esquire, in consequence of which and the comfortable lodgings to be had on easy terms, the village has become a fashionable resort for the valetudinarians* and others during the summer months”. (People who are ‘constantly ill, sickly or hypochondriac’).
The bathing house is the only surviving part of a range of facilities that were available for the bathing public in the middle of the 19th century. It was likely to have been used as a ladies changing room and a high wall that originally stood immediately on the seaward side of the building afforded the bathers protection from the inquisitive eyes of those on the roadside above.
An advertisement targetting bathers in 1847 read:
“The HOT, TEPID, and SHOWER BATHS are constructed on a new and improved system, and [tickets] will be given either singly, or by the dozen, on moderate terms. The PLUNGE BATH for Ladies is on a highly approved plan, and to those who prefer open Sea-bathing, ample accommodation had been provided, as well by Bathing-Boxes as by an extensive range of Bathing-Rooms. The superior water, and salubrious air of Ardglass are too well known to require comment.”
Many of the fine nineteenth century buildings along the seafront in Ardglass were built especially for renting out to summer visitors.
Speaking at a short ceremony at the re-opening of the bathing house, Newry Mourne and Down District Council Vice Chairperson Gillian Fitzpatrick said: “I am delighted to be in Ardglass for the official reopening of the bathing house. I understand it was built in 1847 and thanks to the Follies Trust it will be here fro a long time to come.
“The Follies Trust are volunteers who do a lot of great work with professional conservationists. This project fits very well the strategic aims of our new council in tourism. It has enhanced our built heritage greatly.
“I’d like to thank Cllr Dermot Curran too for working with the Follies Trust on this. It goes to prove that local people can work together on the ground and get things done.
“Hopefully when my broken leg has healed I can return to Ardglass with my bathing costume for a dip! ” said Cllr Fitzpatrick.
Primrose Wilson, chairperson of the Follies Trust, said: “Small structures such as these are important in our communities and I’m delighted to know now that the bathing house is hear to stay. It is a very important part of our heritage.
“We were lucky in finding matching stones in Castle Ward. The stonework for the bathing house was sourced locally. So we’re pleased that Michael Conway Contractors have managed to repair this structure. A new floor has been laid too. And we again would like to thank both Newry Mourne and Down District Council and the legacy council, Down District Council, for all their assistance.”
Councillor Dermot Curran who helped to secure funding for the project said after the ceremony: “The bathing house is an important part of Ardglass history and I’m delighted that it has preserved for our future generations. It is even today an important tourism feature on our harbour shoreline.
“Soon an information board will be erected explaining its history. This is something positive for the village and is to be welcomed.”