First look at restored Ironmonger Row Baths as Paralympic star Ellie Simmonds attends gala reopening
PUBLISHED: 19:02 19 November 2012 | UPDATED: 09:50 20 November 2012
It's been a long time coming and plagued by unexpected setbacks including archaeological discoveries - but a multi-million pound revamp of an iconic and much-loved Turkish baths and swimming pool is finally complete.
These images offer the first peek inside Ironmonger Row Baths in Finsbury following a dramatic overhaul that cost £16.5million and took 30 months to complete.
They reveal that the ageing 1931 building – which officially reopens to the public on Saturday – has been brought up to standard without sweeping away any of its charm and character.
Original features such as the wooden teak benches overlooking the main pool sit side-by-side with state-of-the-art gym equipment and even a training pool with a moving floor.
The Gazette joined a tour of the Grade II-listed site on Friday – when four-times Paralympic gold medallist Ellie Simmonds, 18, was the guest of honour at a gala opening event.
The champion swimmer said: “The facilities are so good, it’s amazing how it’s an old place but it’s still really modern.
“It’s a great facility for the community, not just the swimming pool, but it’s great to get the whole community involved with the gym and the Turkish baths.”
The baths, in Ironmonger Row, shut in May 2010 and were due to reopen in time for the Olympics, but the build was delayed by complications including the unearthing of medieval artefacts during work on the basement.
While the main pool has been lovingly restored and looks much as it did in the 1930s, the changes have been extensive elsewhere in the building.
They include the training pool, a newly-built public laundry – complete with industrial scale ironing presses – and overhauled Turkish baths and spa area, featuring steam rooms with multicoloured, changeable lighting. The gym boasts a whopping 60 fitness and weight machines.
Cllr Troy Gallagher, a Labour member for Bunhill ward who attended the gala, said: “It’s even better than I imagined it would be and the fact they have been able to keep the old and new together is great.
“It’s a crown jewel in the local area, people have a lot of affection for it and wanted to see it renovated with care, which is what they have been done.”
While all pools in Islington offer £1 swimming for under-16s, Cllr Gallagher called for residents who live near Ironmonger Row to be given extra incentive to use the facilities. He said: “I would like to see reduced rates for local young people. We also want to ensure it’s promoted for school children and local residents and that it isn’t booked out in advance with corporate bookings, as happens with the football pitches at Finsbury Leisure Centre. We want as many local people to use the facilities as possible, both swimming pools and gym, and hopefully that can help to tackle some of the serious health issues in the area.”