Whitworth Baths on Ashton Old Road in Openshaw, were built in 1890 and designed by Scottish architect James Wiiliam Beaumont (Whitworth Art Gallery, Kendals) in honour of celebrated philanthropist and engineer Sir Joseph Whitworth, whose name is remembered throughout Manchester including street names and parks and in particular his home which is now the superb, Whitworth Art Gallery.
The sparkle may have faded somewhat but Whitworth Baths could surely shine once again and become a cultural and historical asset for the people of Openshaw as well as Manchester and the wider world and bring together what over the years, like so much of our North Manchester, as become fractured and exposed to streams of crime, property developers and overly zealous Council CPO and demolition squads who see historic building nothing more than obstacles, rather that assets.
Areas like Openshaw have never really escaped the shadow of the last “slum” clearances of the 1960 and 1970s and the decline of industry. However, unsympathetic demolition and grand masterplans have a very unenviable record of success in Manchester as they do throughout the country.
With seemingly whole areas sold off to the highest bidder, often with no interest in providing or retaining services for the community, communities have further struggled and Whitworth Baths stands as testament to the failure of political policies that solely should seek to better and enrich the lives of those it represents. Marginalization, gentrification, privatization of public spaces (Piccadilly Gardens is a notable example), sit comfortably with large (“anchor”) multi-national businesses whose interests exist at the polar opposite of those of the community they so elegantly profess to serve (“every little helps!”).
Is the history, the struggles and the endeavours of our ancestors to remain nothing more than a fleeting memory. To be encapsulated in a faded photograph, aspiring to achieve nothing more than to hang on a museum wall.
Why bookmark history. Learn from it everyday. It’s only dead if we are not educated by it.
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