The Arches Leisure Centre – Greenwich – November 2018

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mockney reject

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The History

The Arches Leisure Centre boasted a 110 station gym, two swimming pools – one a fitness pool, allowing lane swimming throughout the day and the second a leisure pool including a spa pool, two exercise studios, a Crèche and a Sauna. It was also home to various swimming and sports clubs.

It was confirmed at the Greenwich Society's AGM that the Arches Leisure Centre was to close on the 12th Jun 2015. At 86 years old the leisure centre was offered for sale for redevelopment.

This now shabby looking neglected building has an interesting history.
It was built to the designs of Horth and Andrews, the winners of a National Architectural Competition of 1923 to replace the original 1850s building. The 1850 baths were among the first in England to be built to the recommendations of the 1848 Baths and Washhouses Act designed to give workers in the hurriedly built bathroom-less terraces a chance to wash as well as to learn to swim.

This building proved inadequate for the number of men returning from the forces after WWI to take up jobs in the then flourishing Industry in Greenwich. The new Baths extend across a whole block of the Trafalgar Road. It is the largest building in this domestic shopping street.

The arched design was inspired by Roman baths. It was original and symmetrical. It gives the street order and dignity, a worthy approach to the famous buildings of Wren. It has a character all of its own yet fits into the modest scale of its immediate neighbours and of Hawksmoor, which it does not compete with or ape. Renamed the Arches after the slipper baths (individual private bathrooms) in the centre of the complex were replaced by a gymnasium.

The Arches is a ‘Locally Listed’ building and its design has inspired many later swimming pools—Bryanston Baths, Ironmongers Row, Porchester Place, all of the 1930s, statutorily listed and in full working order. The Greenwich Society, anxious not to lose this fine, character-full building in the Trafalgar Road prepared a study in 2012 showing some of the unusual and original details of the design which won the competition in 1923.

The Society was pleased that after the original intention for the Arches to be sold for demolition the Council included the following ‘Planning Guidance’ with the advertisement for its sale:planning guidance was provided with the marketing particulars and this stated that as a locally listed building located on a busy road and in a conservation area, the potential for development is subject to certain constraints and that the preference would be for sympathetic conversion/extension.

The Explore

I first checked “The Arches” back in late 2015 with the usual crowd of people but we ended up bailing. A combination of being tied, cold, hungry and stupid lol

So fast forward to 2018 and it cropped up in conversation, I’d driven passed it a few times on the way to other stuff and it spiked my interest again. Fuelled further by @Oakley dropping a few pics of it into our group chat when he was working nearby.

Myself and @UrbanDuck decided to bowl into town and have a butchers. Parking up and having a quick wander things didn’t look too promising. A van and motorbike were parked just inside the hoarding and we almost bailed. After 15 mins we decided to give it a go.




We headed in not sure what we were going to find, sadly we found a really decent place that was in the middle of being stripped out. Kicking ourselves for not going back sooner we had a wander round and snapped a few pics.

The leisure pool was the first pool we walked into.

Pic shamelessly stolen from google earth


Yeah it didn’t look like that anymore lol

Spot the Urban duck?







Making our way out of the leisure pool we headed into the exercise studios

Again pic shamelessly stolen from google earth


This was a little dull and fairly dark so I only ended up with one picture from this part


You can see from the door halfway up the back wall that this part had originally been split into two levels.

Next came the fitness pool

Thanks again google earth


Again ripped to bits, but still with the balconies and an odd stage area full of old doors and chairs





The rest of the building was pretty much standard leisure centre




It was a little sad to see this lot left behind though, all that history left to go rusty and be forgotten




Hugh Jorgan

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Aberdeen, Scotland
What a transformation in comparison to the Google Street View pictures. Looks more like a buidling site than a lesiure centre.


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Sep 20, 2005
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Bristol, UK.
Quite often in pools of this era they had the capability to cover over the pool and have dances, etc in the space, I wonder if that's what the stages are for here.


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Jan 28, 2019
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You say that this complex has two pools? When I used to visit the Arches in the mid-late 80s when my kids were learning to swim it had a third, warmer, teaching/therapy pool towards the rear of the site behind what was then called the ‘Small Pool’. This was prior to the installation of the gym facilities. I don’t know what might have happened to that.

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