Belfast Ormeau Baths
About Ormeau Baths
Along Ormeau Avenue is this listed building which was designed by Robert Watt. It was constructed in a classical style illustrated quite strikingly in robust red brick.
The Ormeau Baths were built in 1888, when the social strata of Belfast being made up of mostly working class families would not have had hot water in their homes never mind a bath. For this reason, two swimming ponds as they were referred to then, and 36 private baths were installed here. The private baths were obviously more expensive so most people would have only ever visited the pools.
The main entrances are still wonderfully reminiscent of those early days with tiled floors and walls. Men and women would have had their own changing rooms which were apparently little more than thin cardboard dividers.
This section of the building is now rented to Ormeau Baths Gallery and is home to contemporary art. It has in its own right gained national celebrity status as major attractions have been hosted here, including international artists such as Yoko Ono and Glibert & George. They are currently preparing for another exhibition.
The baths were refurbished in the 1950s but one pool subsequently developed structural cracks. As a result it was closed some 20 years later and its future was left in uncertain terms. Furthermore, with the spread of local leisure centres throughout Belfast it meant that there was little need of public baths.
In the other entrance a white painted door and window frame seem to indicate that this is probably where people paid before entering the pool areas.
When the building suffered further neglect and left to generally run-down it was sold over to private hands in 1990. In 1995 one half was opened as the aforementioned Ormeau Baths Gallery while another private business occupied this part. In the hallway between both are now the only remaining exhibits of private bath tubs made from stone with ceramic lining. The steps on either side would have led down to the pools.