The Public Baths of Woolwich, designed by H.H. Church and commissioned by Woolwich’s local Board of Health, were built between 1892 and 1894. In the summer of 1894 the Duke of Westminster formally opened the baths to the public. The opening included a ‘display of ornamental swimming.’
The Baths consisted of two large recreational swimming pools – one first and one second class – fifty-two slipper, or private, baths for men (ten first class and thirty second class) and women (twelve, all the same class), a washhouse and a laundry.
With the scale of the whole complex and the amount of baths, water supply was a concern. The Board decided to sink an artesian well in order to supply enough water, which was finalised in 1896.
The baths were modernised several times, most notably between 1959-60, when the exterior was modified and a more egalitarian single entrance replaced several separate entrances.
The Public Baths closed in 1982 when Greenwich was planning the Waterfront Leisure Centre. Between 1983 and 1984 the baths were used as a community centre and the second-class pool was filled in to create a seating area.
It wasn’t until the early 90s that the University of Greenwich bought the building and converted it into a student union and discotheque with a bar. Soon the building became a hub for drama students and staff.
Although the exterior of the building has maintained much of its original brickwork, Portland stone and Northern Renaissance decorative ornaments, much of the inside has been converted into suitable rehearsal spaces and the 100 seat, black box theatre it houses today.
Some of the original balconies still remain and certain ornaments – such as the stained glass swimmers above the main entrance – remind us of the original use of the building.