White Rock Baths
Opening in 1878, the baths were constructed by a limited company set up for that purpose; "THE HASTINGS AND ST. LEONARDS-ON-SEA PUBLIC BATHS AND AQUARIUM COMPANY (LIMITED). Capitalized at £30,000 in £10 shares."
The Council contributed £1500 to the construction costs on the understanding that the roof would be open to the public as a promenade. There was an initial reluctance by some to purchase shares because of doubts about the viability of the Aquarium. These were resolved when a special meeting agreed to proceed only with the baths.
Description of Baths as built
The Builder magazine carried the following report and plans;
PROPOSED HASTINGS AND ST. LEONARD'S PUBLIC BATHS AND AQUARIUM.
Mr. Thos. Brassey, M.P., has opened a portion of the building contemplated by the projectors of this establishment, — namely, the Baths. We give some illustrations, including a plan and description of the whole scheme.
The baths occupy the western portion of the site, and are to be approached by a double flight of steps leading to an open portico, on one side of which will be placed the entrance to the gentlemen's baths; that to the ladies’ being on the other. Between the two entrances will be a check-taker’s office.
On either side of the large open area will be placed the first-class private baths for the two sexes, four in number, each consisting of a bath room, with dressing-room and convenience attached. These will include every description of bath, — hot and cold, fresh and salt water, slipper, shower, douche, medicated, vapour, hot aid and various hydropathic packs and foments.
Besides these, six more private baths are provided on the gentlemen's side, and three on the ladies’, each having access to the swimming baths. These will be supplied with hot and cold, fresh and salt, water only.
Construction and Opening
The foundation stone was laid by Sir Thos. Brassey, K.C.B., M.P., on Wednesday, June 28th, 1876, and the first portion of the building (the Gentlemen’s Swimming Bath) was opened by that gentleman on May 28th, 1878, and a second portion (the Ladies’ Swimming Bath) in 1879.
In 1883 a lady resident of Saint Leonards offered to give £50 for the erection of an ornamental band stand, to be erected on the Baths. An application was made to the council by a Mr. W. L. Vernon, on behalf of the English Town Band for permission to place a band stand temporarily during the summer season, at a spot on the roof of the Baths, but the Council did not believe they had the authority to grant permission because, although they had the right to walk on it, the roof belonged to the Baths Company. Mr. Vernon was told to deal with was the Baths Company, and that if he could obtain their permission, and there was no objection raised by the householders opposite, they did not anticipate he would find out any difficulty. The Roads Committee was informed that the people living opposite had been consulted, and had one and all given consent.
In 1896 the Corporation took over the control, management and repair of the Band Stand, agreeing to "keep the Band Stand in good and decorative, repair and condition, and not in any way to alter the same or the positions thereof without the consent of the Company and to pay the Company in respect of the said Band Stand the sum of 2s. 6d. on the 1st of January in every year; and to remove the same within one calendar month after notice in writing."
During 1898, the facilities at the baths were refurbished under the stewardship of Mr. Crosby. The facilities then included no fewer than three hot rooms, a 4½ foot deep sea-water plunge-pool, masssage and medicated electric therapy among other services, together with a chiropodist and hairdresser upon demand
From June 1901 the Council maintained a liaison sub-committee, and in 1911 acquired from Lord Brassey his shares in the baths. Ownership passed to the Corporation in 1925, and a Special Committee was established, which became a full Committee from November 1929. From November 1936, for one year, the functions of this committee were transferred to the Entertainments Committee , but the Special Committee was re-established from November 1937. From November 1942 it was again merged in the Entertainments Committee. Between November 1947 and May 1954 the Baths were administered by the Baths and Foreshore Committee .
The Baths Chimney was tunnelled under the road to behind the shops at White Rock to prevent fumes etc from being emitted at low level at the baths. The chimney base can still be seen behind White Rock even today.. At the time of the 1930s rebuild, there were a number of concerns about smoke from the chimney affecting the health of nearby residents; the furnaces burning anthracite
The baths underwent a substantial re-build commencing in 1931 at a cost of £31,500. The council having purchased the lease in 1922, the baths being more than fifty years old and considerably dilapidated due to age. It was planned to carry out most of the works in the main pool area; extending the pool to be 165 feet long and thirty six feet and eight inches wide.
- Parsons' Illustrated Guide to Hastings & St Leonards
- British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 12 March 1898 Pg. 0005
- East Sussex County Council Archive The Keep DH/B/36/8
- East Sussex County Council Archive The Keep DH/B/58/1
- VICTORIAN TURKISH BATHS: England: Hastings: White Rock Baths : chimney and tunnel|, accessdate: 13 February 2020
- British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 15 February 1930 Pg. 0007
- East Sussex County Council Archive The Keep DH/C/28/12
- East Sussex County Council Archive The Keep DH/C/6/1/8479