Site of Cardiff Baths
The triangle of land between Churchill Way, Guildford Crescent and the railway was once occupied by the Cardiff Baths. The complex was adjacent to the dock feeder canal, which supplied the baths with fresh water from the river Taff.
The upper photo, courtesy of Cardiff Libraries, shows the view south along what’s now Churchill Way, with a steam train in the distance. The aerial photo, courtesy of the Welsh Government, shows the baths buildings in March 1948, when work was in progress on covering over the dock feeder canal.
A company was formed in the early 1860s to build the baths. Its directors included colliery owner James Harvey Insole, whose grand home Insole Court in Llandaff is now open to visitors. Another director was John Stuart Corbett, agent to the Bute Estate. The trustees of Lord Bute (along with the Taff Vale Railway) gave the land for the baths and agreed that water from the dock feeder could be used free of charge. The baths opened in 1862.
The water passed through filter beds before flowing slowly through the swimming pools. There were separate swimming baths for first class and second class customers, a Turkish bath (involving warm air and steam), private baths, hot water baths and a gymnasium. To improve access, a bridge was built over the feeder canal from Wellington Terrace, to the west.
The Cardiff Corporation bought the baths in 1873, ensuring they were saved and improved. One councillor had argued that Cardiff youths needed swimming lessons before becoming sailors. Another said public baths were important for the health of the working classes in particular, and it was a fact that dirty children needed more food than clean ones did!
In 1884 an inquest jury advised the corporation to make safety improvements after a fit young man named Albert Wills drowned in one of the pools. In response, the corporation appointed a “skillful swimmer” to take charge of the baths in summer, and had lifebuoys placed in the pool and a chain around the edges.
The baths closed in the 1980s and a hotel was built here, now the ibis Cardiff.
Postcode: CF10 2HA View Location Map