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Old Slipper Baths, South Place, Chesterfield, 2004
About this image
The baths were built in 1904 as public 'slipper' baths (where people could take a proper bath at a time when few houses had their own bathrooms, The 'slipper' baths were so called because of the Victorian sense of modesty in draping bath-towels over the bath to conceal their bodies and by doing so making the bath look like a huge slipper). Many such municipal baths opened as part of a municipal drive to civilise the 'great unwashed' of industrial areas. The impetus to build public baths and washhouses was primarily a bid to improve social conditions amongst the labouring poor. The construction of the baths was authorised under the earlier Public Baths and Washhouses Act of 1846, which allowed borough councils to raise funds for social improvement through hygiene and cleanliness. These baths were built near the impoverished 'Dog Kennels' area, where few houses had bathing facilities and where people might have shared galvanised tin baths, which had to be filled and emptied by hand. By 1950 over 10,000 tickets were sold per year here for baths. The prices were 6d for a bath, 9d for a bath with 1 towel, and 1 shilling for a bath with 2 towels. By 1980 usage of the baths had slumped to 45 per week due to more people having their own bathrooms and demolition of local housing. The baths were a notable feature of the area and a reminder of social conditions of times past, and were sadly demolished in 2004.