Jacobs Wells Baths (originally known as Hotwells Public Baths) was built in 1889 to cope with cholera epidemics sweeping Britain during the 19th century. For nearly a century, the public baths provided Bristol’s poorest with a place to bathe and swim. Until it was closed in 1977, shortly after the building was awarded a Grade II listing.
But Jacobs Wells Baths found new life again in 1984, as the Bristol Community Dance Centre, continuing until 2016 when it closed again. Since then, the building has largely remained empty, but many want to see it supporting the local Hotwells and Clifton communities again – including the team behind The Trinity Centre in St Jude’s.
Seeking to transform it into a community arts, “a dynamic space for youth, arts, community, and learning”, Bristol City Council has granted Trinity a 35-year community asset transfer. Having lain empty for so long, however, the condition of the building is rapidly declining. Repairs are needed urgently, with detailed surveys currently being carried out to assess what urgent works are needed.
The good news is that Trinity has secured a £1,050,000 grant from the Department for Levelling Up’s Community Ownership Fund to repair and restore the building. The bad news? This is still a long way off the £4 million it is seeking for the complete phased works. But – alongside £400,000 raised from Nisbet Trust, John James Foundation and other funders, including individuals from the crowdfunder – the process is one step closer to saving the Jacob Wells Baths from ruin.
Trinity will continue actively applying to grant schemes, with work already underway on the North Wing. If everything goes to plan, Jacobs Wells Baths will look to reopen as a hub for community, arts and youth by March 2025. In the meantime, if you would like to help support this project, you can do so by heading to the crowdfunder here.