DO you remember the Bruce Street Baths?

The famous Clydebank landmark is open to the public once again – but not for swimming or saunas.

The Victorian bathhouse is now an exhibition venue, but Clydebank councillor Denis Agnew can remember the days when it was his favourite place to swim.

“I loved it, and went often with my pals,” he smiles. “I learned to swim there, did all my lifesaving badges with the Scouts there, and it was fantastic. It was a major activity centre for the area.”

Denis, now 67 and convenor of West Dunbartonshire Council’s Culture Develoment committee, adds: “But it was originally much more than just a social place – it had very important functions in terms of healthy and hygiene, and it’s important not to forget that.”

The C-listed Baroque-style Bruce Street Baths was designed to replace the nearby Hall Street Baths, which have since been demolished, as they were becoming too small to cope with local demand.

The plans for Bruce Street were approved by the Council in 1929 and the baths opened in 1932. 

With the rapid expansion of urban population, people often lived and worked in unsanitary conditions, and bath and wash houses were seen as essential public services. 

Denis recalls: “It wasn’t that long ago at all, but families just didn’t have baths in the house. We lived in closes and single ends, it was a bit like something out of the Broons – a tin bath in front of the fire if you were lucky. And if you were one of six, like me, and last in line, that could be a very murky experience indeed.”

Denis also recalls: “I remember you could bring your own trunks or hire them when you got there – I still have an old pair of the trunks you used to tie at the sides – the most inelegant piece of clothing you could ever have!”

He added: “When we were a bit older, you could pay a penny on the way out for a squirt of Brylcreem for your hair. And then you’d nip round the corner to The Palace fish and chip shop for a bag of chips if you were feeling flush.”

The baths started to cater for recreational swimming rather than washing eventually, and this became a hugely popular social pastime during the early decades of the 20th century.

Bruce Street became a focus of communal and domestic life, consisting of a swimming pool, 20 slipper baths, a suite of Turkish and Russian baths, sunray and foam baths and a laundry.  Bruce Street is slightly unusual in that there are two tiers of cubicles, one at swimming pool level and the other on the balcony.

“It was a very safe and friendly place,” recalls Denis. “I was very saddened when the original Hall Street part was torn down.”

The building was designed to complement the Town Hall, designed by James Miller, which was completed in 1902.

The baths were one of the few buildings to survive the 1941 Cydebank Blitz, but in 2010, the slipper baths were demolished as part of the regeneration of the Town Hall complex.

The old façade forms a wall in the new gardens on the site.

West Dunbartonshire Council has invested £90,000 upgrading the historic baths into a public space to support the ongoing town hall development.

Its first exhibition is Brick Histories, until September 2, which recreates major historical events using LEGO bricks.(

Gill Graham, Manager of Libraries and Cultural Services at West Dunbartonshire Council said: “We’re delighted to be able to attract a national exhibition like this to the Town Hall and I think this just shows how the venue is going from strength to strength. It is also really exciting for the area to see the historic Bruce Street baths being reopened to the public so that everyone can enjoy this fantastic building again.”

For Denis Agnew, retaining historic buildings is an important part of community life.

“I think the re-opening of the Bruce Street Baths will stir a few memories,” he says. “This is part of where we live and who we are and it’s wonderful to be able to remind people how important the baths were in Clydebank’s history.”