Jacobs Wells Baths

This is an information page about the Jacobs Wells Baths, a historic grade 2 listed building in Bristol, UK.

Fusion Lifestyle were the successful bidders in the Community Asset Transfer process. A license was signed by them on 2nd October 2018 . Currently emergency repairs are being done by Bristol City Council and Fusion Lifestyle. A number of surveys have been carried out recently, but the building is in a critical and dangerous state in 2021 and can not be opened to the public. The building requires significant investment and in particular requires work to the roofs, overhead tanks, stone work and interiors. Water is entering the building. The Covid  crisis and scarcity  of grants from such bodies the Sports Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund has made it a difficult climate in which to restore such heritage buildings.

The Baths are located at Jacobs Wells Rd, Hotwells, Bristol BS8 1DX – See Google Map.

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Brief History

The Public Baths were designed in 1881 and opened in 1887 By Josiah Thomas. The building hosted a covered pool with a semi-circular steel truss roof carried on steel corbels of Northern Renaissance Revival style, as well as Warm Baths.  The architecture is stunning.

The Public Baths were converted into a Dance Centre c1980 with a fantastic and nationally revered rosewood sprung floor covering the still existing swimming pool. Bristol Dance Centre was founded in 1976.  Bristol City Council, who own the building, did not renew the Dance Centre lease and they left the building in 2016.

To find out more about the Heritage and History of the building see History of Jacobs Wells Bath Complex.

Current Situation

Artspace Lifespace had a licence to occupy until January 2018 . Artspace Lifespace is a charity specialising in mean time use of at risk buildings.They were looking after the building on behalf of Bristol City Council  until the end of September 2018, when lease was originally timed to be signed by Fusion Leisure.

Jacobs Wells Community Hub continued to use the Hub Space in the North Wing.  A feasibility study was undertaken by Helen Bone of Vivid Regeneration to help to decide the long term future of the building.

Expressions of Interest were invited by Bristol City Council for a Community Asset Transfer.

A Friends of Jacobs Wells Baths working group of experience and interested parties was set up by Jacobs Wells Community Hub and chaired by a local councillor.

Community Asset Transfer

Bristol City Council invited expressions of interest.

An extract from the Council’s CAT invitation:

“How community organisations can take over the management of the Jacobs Wells Baths building.

“We’re inviting expressions of interest from voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations that have the necessary expertise and imaginative proposals to take over the management of this historic central Bristol building.

“We’re looking for not for private profit organisations and social enterprises that might wish to lease the Jacobs Wells Baths building through Community Asset Transfer.

“A detailed brief with further details IS NOW available on this web page. It contains details of the property, the minimum expectations that we expect of a future tenant, and the application process.”

There was a free Technical Workshop on  3 May 2017, for prospective bidders and partners.

Please see our CAT Information page of useful documents and resources.

The Feasibility Study

The feasibility study included a community consultation process consisting of three drop-in days and a survey which was used to elicit the local community’s wishes for the future use of the building.

Helen presented her findings and recommendations at an Open Meeting on 19th January 2017 and her full report is publicly available – see below.

The Feasibility Study identified four possible options for Bristol County Council in relation to the Baths:

  1. Dispose of the building on the open market
  2. Dispose of the building (ringfence for not for profit organisations delivering social benefit – Dance, Arts, Community
  1. Lease the building on a Community Asset Transfer at a Peppercorn Rent.
  2. Set up a trust and lease the building to the new trust.

Number 3 is the recommended option and has now been adopted by Bristol City Council. The Community Asset Transfer process means that the building freehold would be retained by the Council, and a long lease would be granted to an organisation that can deliver what the community have clearly asked for in the feasibility study. Expressions of interest re taking on a lease would then be evaluated by a panel at Bristol Council with input from the community and the winning applicant would be invited to submit a full business plan.

You can access Helen’s report here:

Full Report

Here is a summary of the most important recommendations from the report:

  • Set up a Friends of Jacobs Wells Baths Group.
  • BCC must spend money on urgent maintenance works
  • Artspace Lifespace : It is felt that ASLS need funding to continue to use the building even in the short term. We hope that this will enable them to renew the lease for a further 6 months.
  • Vivid have now enabled a bid to be made to the Architectural Heritage Fund for up to £5,000 for a buildings condition survey.
  • An upgrade to Grade 2* listed building status should be applied for.
  • Vivid’s report suggest that a Community Asset Transfer should be the preferred long term option.
  • The Asset Transfer process should be started asap.
  • The JWC Hub will apply to the Heritage Lottery for a really interesting project which involves young people and our heritage.
  • In order to ensure success with the Community Asset Transfer BCC need to send a lump sum for urgent repairs to make the building safe and water-tight .
  • Fund raising is needed for further phased works and re-development ideas.

FRIENDS OF JACOBS WELLS BATHS

Jacobs Wells Community Hub set up a friends group with monthly meetings to oversee the CAT process.

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Some video clips from the community consultation days