The promise of a tomorrow for Medina Bath House

In light of this weeks dismissal of plans to demolish Medina Bath House, let’s enjoy Medina Bath House and its delightful history and place on Hove seafront:

Nestled in between rows of crouched cottages, the scale and decoration of Medina Bath House stands proud and confident, unabashed by its pebbledash exterior and additions of thoughtful graffiti.

Although hard to image against the lazy modern apartment block architecture that jutted up in the 60s, the remaining corner of Medina Baths is curiously charming, despite its current state of neglect. The name Bath Court proudly inscribed on the flats is the only part of its design that lends a clue to its historic predecessor:

Medina Esplanade c.1910

With a little background and imagination the Hove baths come easily come to life…
Salt water was pumped a few yards under the prom, indeed, the mechanics and pipework may well still be extant underground. The bath house not only offered bathing facilities, but laundry services too, operating as Hove Bath & Laundry Co, in 1893. Bathing in those days was to get clean rather than for pleasure, as very few houses would have had running water, a trip to the local baths was regular and often a social occurrence. Hove Baths made good use of the water they were pumping and filtering and washed both the people of Hove and their clothes. This was both enterprising and usual. The opening hours of the baths followed the seasons and the baths closed when it got dark as there was no artificial lighting until electricity was installed in 1919.

Members of Hove Shivers club remembered to me how the water was a Medina Baths was very cold and how they would swim at King Alfreds because it was a bit warmer. Medina Baths were used for regular and very popular polo matches through to 1920s at least.

Mens' pool, c1911 (Middleton 1996)

In 1930s new swimming baths were built nearby and would have forced Medina Baths to close, but the Admiralty requisitioned the building as a navy base and the new baths became known as King Alfred’s rather than Hove Marina as previously intended. Medina Baths remained useful as a bath house as a result and stayed open for several more years.

More recently; people frequenting Morocco’s ice cream parlour and restaurant next door, or taking a simple stroll along the seafront; may remember the diamond merchants who occupied the site throughout the 50s and 60s. Monncikendams diamond workshops opened onto the street and Mr Barham remembers how, as a child, his eyes bulged in marvel as he was hurried past the open workshop doors as he caught a glimpse of the wonderful diamond workers world. If I ever do have a look under the floor boards for that Victorian pipework, I’ll be certain to keep an eye out for any twinkling in the shadows!

The ceramic faience scheme that ran throughout the Baths and is still spectacular today:

This week Medina Baths has fought off demolition and the proposed construction a 9 storey tower. The planning appeal has finally been DISMISSED with a well balanced report from the Planning Inspectorate. The inspector noted the local list description and the building’s historical significance and its key place in the development of Hove as a seaside resort. Despite 18 years of neglect the inspector noted the surprisingly good condition of the building and encouraged the owner to invest in maintenance and modernisation of the building in quashing unnecessary demolition of an important building.

So the door has been openied for re-use and adaptation of this Medina Bath House…

I hope I may be of help in the conservation of the tile scheme and other important elements of the Baths some day. And look forward to the next chapter of this well loved little building…

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