Victorian bathhouse revealed in Manchester

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An ornate bath tile depicting a blue floral design.
Many of the ornate tiles used in the Mayfield Baths were found during the excavation. CREDIT: Mark Waugh

The remains of a Victorian bathhouse have recently been discovered beneath a car park in the Mayfield area of Manchester. The site was excavated by archaeologists from the University of Salford’s Centre for Applied Archaeology in advance of the development – plans for which include new residences, retail space, leisure facilities, and the city’s first new public park in more than 100 years. The investigation revealed the layout of the bathhouse, including some of its finer details, such as the ornate tiles that once lined the bathing pools.

Mayfield Baths opened on what is now Baring Street in 1857. Situated right in the heart of Manchester’s booming textiles industry, the baths provided vital running water to the workers and residents with the incorporation of two pools (one for men and one for women), family washrooms, and laundry facilities. During the Second World War, however, the building was severely damaged by bombs and subsequently demolished. It was then all but forgotten – until now.

Graham Mottershead, Excavations Manager at Salford Archaeology, said: ‘The Mayfield bathhouse is a fascinating example of the social and public health advancements that came about during the Industrial Revolution. As the city’s population boomed with factory workers, crowded and substandard living conditions gave rise to the spread of cholera and typhoid. For those living and working around Mayfield, the Mayfield Baths would have been a vital source of cleanliness and hygiene.’

He added: ‘The sheer pace of change and innovation during the Industrial Revolution means many advancements were not recorded. Excavations like this help us to learn a great deal about what is arguably the most important period of human history and, in the case of Mayfield, a location that is so very relevant to the heritage of the people of Manchester.’

The team is now creating a thorough record of the site using 3D laser scanning, low-level drone photography, historical records, and digital drawings. The Mayfield Partnership, the company behind the redevelopment of the site, has indicated that they hope to reuse some of the recovered bath tiles in order to incorporate the site’s newly rediscovered history into the project.


This news article appears in issue 373 of Current Archaeology. To find out more about subscribing to the magazine, click here.

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