MOMENTUM is gathering behind a people’s campaign to revive the fortunes of Carlisle’s much-loved Turkish Baths facility in James Street.

Nearly 2,000 people have now joined an online group dedicated to giving the Grade II-listed building - described by one local campaigner as an architectural “gem” - the best chance of long-term survival.

Owner Carlisle City Council has repeatedly said there are no plans to demolish the building and confirmed last week that it is to benefit from a £400,000 facelift.

But even that good news failed to dispel fears for the future of the building, which is next to existing swimming baths which due to be knocked down as part of a redevelopment of the area. Campaigners want the Council to promote the Turkish Baths.

They have now also set out what they say may be a viable vision for its future if funding can be found. On their Facebook page, the Friends of Carlisle Turkish Baths have outlined that vision for the building’s future.

They state: “Imagine if the Baths not only survive, but they - and the adjacent 1884 Public Baths - are refurbished and relaunched as a new Turkish Baths & Wellbeing Centre or Spa?

“Imagine a new glass-fronted extension, clad with Lakeland slate... surrounded by grassed lawns to welcome visitors as they approach along the new walkway from the railway station. Imagine if the old gym in the public baths were reopened and treatment rooms were added?

“Imagine a cafe-bar on the roof terrace of the new extension, open in the evenings and where users could lunch on their spa day? Imagine if there was a shop selling local crafts, gifts and spa day vouchers? Imagine if you could hire the Baths as a venue for weddings and birthdays?”

The post goes on to speculate that such a transformation would be possible, and points to the example of the Turkish Baths in Newcastle, due to reopen after a long campaign which led to a £7.5m restoration of the facility, which had been mothballed in 2013.

Elsie Martlew, a Labour former Deputy Leader of Carlisle City Council, praised the Facebook campaign, saying: “This shows there’s somebody with the passion and the vision to make this happen.

"I want to see that replicated on at the City Council. This building is an absolute gem. It’s crying out for something to be done to secure its future. It’s a beautiful building. The Council should be more creative when it comes to getting money for things like this. The Turkish Baths are a huge asset to Carlisle and could help make our city a go-to destination.”

The City Council’s current Deputy Leader Gareth Ellis agreed the Turkish Baths are a valuable city asset and well worth protecting. “It has great potential,” he said.

“When we [the Conservatives] there was no funding to rectify the Turkish Baths but we’ve managed to get some through the Borderlands initiative. That means we can now pay for refurbishment and new boilers so there’s a hot water supply [it previously came from The Pools].

“The next stage is to get the place open again.”

Mr Ellis said it was important to temper aspiration for the Turkish Baths with realism. Any funding to develop the facility would have to be underpinned by a credible business base, he said.

The key issue - as with any public facility - would be winning the battle to persuade people to use the facility, which is currently closed because of covid restrictions. “There’s a general feeling that it should continue to be used as a baths,” continued Mr Ellis.

“But if all the people who are taking an interest on Facebook use it regularly when it reopens then there won’t be be any question over its future. Could we have a cafe in there?

“Could we put some kind health spa in there?

"I don’t think anybody wants to hold it back. In the short-term, let’s make sure it’s a better offering for the people of Carlisle and then we can explore how else it can be used.”

* You can find out more about the Facebook group to support the Turkish Baths here.