CAMPAIGNERS fighting to protect a historic site in Carlisle have received a significant grant.

The Friends of Carlisle Victorian and Turkish Baths received a triple boost this week, including news of a £19,500 grant from the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF).

The grant will enable the Friends to hire expert architects and a business advisor to assess the viability of their vision for the James Street Baths.

The Friends believe that expanding the Turkish Baths to include the 20m pool in the Public Baths and adding treatment rooms and a cafe in an adjacent part of the building would attract even more users to the Grade II listed Turkish Baths - one of only 12 remaining in the UK.

The Friends also want to examine the possibility of opening an affordable community laundry in the old laundry room of the Baths, and look at how the 10m pool could form part of a new health and hydrotherapy centre.

Campaigners are confident that putting all the existing facilities and space in the Public Baths to use would guarantee the future of the 138-year-old building.

News of the grant came on the same day that the number of people following the campaign's Facebook page topped 3,000 and the local peer and broadcaster, Melvyn Bragg, lent his support to calls for the Baths to be retained.

In a message of support to the Friends, Lord Bragg said: "Carlisle Public Baths has provided an outstanding service for the city for over 100 years.

"It looks set to continue to do so for the next 100 years. It makes a great contribution to the uniqueness of the city and were it to go it would be a great loss."

The Friends celebrated the good news by giving the lounge of the Turkish Baths a facelift.

Emma Desborough-Hartley from the Friends said: "From fundraising and campaigning, to running heritage tours and raising awareness, we have rolled up our sleeves and turned our hands to anything we think will help secure the future of these beautiful baths.

"This week we have been hard at work restyling the lounge to give it a period feel. I won't spoil the surprise, but I think what we've achieved will make a visit to the Baths even more of a treat!"