Heritage gem uncovered at The Imperial

Blackpool Civic Trust members are working on the Turkish Baths in the Imperial Hotel.  Pictured is John Garnham.
Blackpool Civic Trust members are working on the Turkish Baths in the Imperial Hotel. Pictured is John Garnham.
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Painstakingly scraping away layers of solid plaster more than an inch thick is not for the faint-hearted.

But this is the task dedicated members of Blackpool Civic Trust have set themselves after discovering a heritage gem lying forgotten in the basement of one of the town’s most historic hotels.

Blackpool Civic Trust members are working on the Turkish Baths in the Imperial Hotel

Blackpool Civic Trust members are working on the Turkish Baths in the Imperial Hotel

For more than two years volunteers have been working to uncover the hidden tiling in the former Turkish Baths at the Imperial Hotel in North Shore.

Now one room of ornate ceramics has finally been revealed, and work is well underway on the other two rooms which in their heyday were a magnet for well-to-do Victorian holidaymakers wanting to partake of the benefits of Blackpool seawater.

Sadly some of the decorative tiles are badly damaged, and only part of an intricate mosaic floors appears intact, but there are hopes the missing pieces can one day be restored.

In the meantime, the project is shining a light on an era which laid the foundation for Blackpool’s development as the country’s leading seaside resort.

The first room has been revealed at the Turkish Baths

The first room has been revealed at the Turkish Baths

In the late 19th century, bathing was becoming more and more popular, but not everyone wanted to endure the rigmarole of using a bathing hut on the beach.

Instead a complex system was introduced at many hotels, whereby seawater was pumped ashore and then piped into the baths.

A water tank on Dickson Road stored water for hotels including the Imperial.

Joan Humble, chairman of Blackpool Civic Trust, says while the project to uncover the tiles is time-consuming, it is proving to be a fascinating insight into how Blackpool first began to attract visitors.

An archive photograph of the Turkish Baths in the Imperial Hotel in their heyday

An archive photograph of the Turkish Baths in the Imperial Hotel in their heyday

She said: “Victorian holidaymakers came to enjoy the seawater here at the hotel.

“The Imperial was called the Imperial Hydropathic Hotel and there was even a residential physician to advise the guests.

“There were pipes bringing seawater into a water tower on Dickson Road which fed a number of hotels.

“It’s fascinating stuff and since we’ve been working on the project we have uncovered these fantastic tiles.

“Now for the first time, we have completed one room and the hotel is able to invite guests down to see it, and it will be included in tours during heritage open days.

“This heritage and history had been lost and covered up but we are doing what we can to expose it to the light of day.”

It was after a guest at the hotel did some research that conservationists realised the Turkish baths were still in existence, albeit languishing in the neglected basement of the building.

The Civic Trust was contacted and agreed to take on gruelling challenge of uncovering the tiled treasures.

Volunteer David Evans said: “I am very carefully removing the plasterwork from the tiling using very precise and non-damaging equipment that doesn’t contain any metal.

“It’s a long, lengthy process and can take a couple of days to remove one panel, but it is brilliant to see something that hasn’t been available for 60 or 70 years.

“The condition is incredible considering what they have been through. It’s sad some of the borders have been badly damaged but we hope they can be restored, perhaps using a mould.”

Another volunteer John Garnham added: “It’s hard work but we work well as a team and it’s very satisfying when you see what we have achieved.

“People would never have seen these tiles again if it wasn’t for this project.”