Lilly Lane Baths

Eureka is one of Halifax's most popular tourist attractions, but did you know that the same area was also attracting large numbers of visitors many years ago too?

Lilly Lane Baths Aka Halifax Baths & Pleasure Grounds and Greece Fields Public Baths, Halifax.


Extensive facilities developed by Thomas Rawlinson at Coldwell Ings near the Hebble Brook at Lilly Lane. He had acquired a 99-year lease on the land from the Waterhouse Charities in 1784. They opened in 1793 on the east side of Hebble Brook. They were the only local public baths at the time. 

'John Wilson Anderson was Keeper of the Baths [1845]. His artistic talents were used to lay out the grounds at the baths, and some of Joseph Leyland's sculpture was displayed in the ground. Bronwell Bronte often visited the baths. '

from Malcolm Bull's website

The buildings are thought to have been designed by John Carr and were constructed of red brick which was very fashionable at the time. The facilities were said to be the finest and most extensive suite of baths in Yorkshire, including bowling greens, quoits area, shrubberies and landscaped gardens with some of Leyland sculpture, dining room, shower baths, swimming baths, medicated and sulphur baths, and hot, cold and tepid baths. A membership fee was charged for the use of the facilities. The baths were supplied by fresh-water springs which rose in Greece Fields. The privately-owned baths, which were built of red brick, closed in 1853 and were sold to make way for the railway. 

There was a long open pool with curved ends and steps leading down to the water. On one side of the pool were vapour baths, slipper baths and swimming baths, with changing rooms for men and women. Nearby were dining rooms, kitchens and an outdoor veranda.

Beyond the bath buildings were ornamental gardens, containing a bowling green and a quoits ground. To be able to use these facilities, you had to be a member, and this cost one guinea per year - roughly equivalent to £1000 per year now. Only wealthy people could afford to be members.

The baths were well used for about 50 years but in the middle of the 18th Century the railway came to Halifax, and the spring water supply to the baths was severed. The ground was bought by Mr. Robert Crossley, a son of John Crossley of Dean Clough, as an industrial site. He built Albion Mills in 1854 which subsequently were acquired by John Mackintosh for making toffees. The whole character of the area changed in a short time from a luxurious pleasure garden to an industrial area that it still is today. 

In 1872 there was another disaster at Lilly Lane when one of the two dams burst causing havoc. Marsden Brothers (silk Spinners) and other firms occupied the factory which stood between Lilly Lane and the South Parade Chapel burial ground (cleared in 1883) on the slope above the railway. The dam that burst was only 30 years old and was 12yards square with about 6 feet of water. The embankment collapsed where a new shed was being built.

Water escaped with a huge roar as it burst through the mill basement windows, carrying with it a huge amount of slurry and stones. More water rushed around the side of the mill leaving devastation. Gas pipes were burst open and more premises were flooded including several small houses and cellar buildings with several feet of water. The smell of gas and the dirty water were horrendous. At first people thought that it was a repeat of a boiler explosion twenty two years earlier but this turned out to be false. That earlier explosion in 1850, killed ten people and injured many others.

The railway viaducts were used as store places, and the rush of water damaged stocks of silk in three of these arches. At the Bath Tavern at the bottom of Lilly Lane the main flood swept in the side door, to the sudden alarm of many occupants, and passed through to escape at the back where it poured through holes it forced in an impeding wall down on to the railway, before finally finding it's way to the Hebble near the Bath Parade bridge.

picture from the Halifax Courier

This would have been the area where the Pleasure grounds existed.

Part of the large area once occupied by Halifax Baths & Pleasure Grounds

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