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Historic Victorian bathing clubs now A-listers

ONE was founded in 1870, the other six years later.

TRUE BLUE: Swimmers enjoy the the Western Baths, also pictured the Arlington pool and the exterior when it was built. Picture: Colin Mearns
TRUE BLUE: The interior of the Arlington pool, the world's oldest baths club to be owned and run by its members.

And now two venerable Glasgow institutions - the Arlington Baths Club and the Western Baths Club - have been quietly celebrating their buildings' new A-listed status.

Historic Scotland's decision to elevate them from their current B-listed status further illustrates their role in Glasgow's renowned Victorian heritage. Both are now buildings of "national or international significance".

The Arlington, in Arlington Street, near Charing Cross, the older of the two, is located a mile from its "friendly rival" in Cranworth Street, Hillhead.

The clubs - both member-owned and not-for-profit - have no commercial link although they offer each other's members use of their facilities during brief annual maintenance shutdowns.

The Arlington prides itself on being the world's oldest baths club to be owned and run by its members - 1000 of them in this case.

The building was designed by the noted Glasgow architect, John Burnet, among whose surviving works are Glasgow Stock Exchange, Merchants' House on George Square, and Govan Burgh Chambers.

It was refurbished 14 years ago and its striking features include a sky-lit swimming pool.

The 2500-member Western, which was designed by architects Clarke and Bell, has period trapeze and exercise rings over its pool.

Last year it replaced a cast-iron "diving dale" - an ornate version of a diving board - at considerable expense when the original version, which had been in place since 1878, needed to be renewed.

First-floor decorative balconies overlooking the swimming pool have also been replaced to recapture their original appearance.

Andrew McGilp, general manager of the Arlington, said: "`We are thrilled at being awarded A-listed status by Historic Scotland.

"The Arlington Baths Club is an iconic building which is a vital part of the community and which is much-loved by its members.

"The club - along with Page\Park architects - has recently begun a major assessment of our magnificent buildings to establish how best they can be further restored and to focus our efforts to raise funds to ensure that improvements are in keeping with their original Victorian grandeur."

Fraser Makeham, his opposite number at the Western, said: "We are very pleased to have been awarded this new status. Our members are understandably delighted that a building so admired by them and by others should receive such an accolade.

"We are very much aware of the need to preserve and cherish such an iconic venue as the Western. It is held in great affection by many and the new status is a ringing endorsement of our efforts to look after it now and in the future."

Elizabeth McCrone, Historic Scotland's head of listing and designed landscapes, said: "Both Arlington and Western Baths Clubs are outstanding examples of 19th century swimming pool architecture and they have retained their special character while continuing to delight their members today. In changing their category of listing from B to A we are recognising their significance as buildings of national importance. They tell us much about the development of private swimming baths in this period. "

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