Buddhist reincarnation for historic baths mean they are no longer at risk

The Buddhist Channel, March 19, 2007

London, UK -- The Historic Manor Place Baths in Southwark, South London have been saved for the local community by the Kagyu Samye Dzong Tibetan Buddhist group, which is opening a new complementary health centre for Southwark residents in the building this Saturday, 17 March.

A much-loved landmark on the Walworth Road since 1895, this grade II listed washhouse has been on English Heritage's Buildings At Risk Register for the last three years. Now Southwark Council has recommended that the building be taken off the register, after the successful renovation by volunteers from the Kagyu Samye Dzong group.

Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, Abbot and Director of Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre, will open the building by presenting Simon Hughes MP and other dignitaries with white scarves - the traditional Tibetan symbol of peace. There will be exhibitions and displays of Manor Place's past and present, along with children's activities and refreshments. Tibetan music will be on offer as will free treatments of Tai Chi, Yoga, Acupuncture, Shiatsu, Meditation, Reflexology and Korean Hand Massage.

The baths, walls, piers and railings were built in 1895 and the complex was originally used for public swimming, washing and laundry. It survived heavy bombing by the Germans in the Second World War and was later used to stage boxing tournaments. There are many colourful tales of locals seeing fighters staggering off down Walworth propped up by friends on the lively fight nights. However, the building began to fall out of use by 1978 and by 1995 it was in a dangerously poor condition with no viable use.

Samye Dzong is a Tibetan Buddhist group based in a building next to St Thomas's Hospital. While looking for new premises they discovered Manor Place Baths. The exterior was well preserved but parts of the interior had been left in a derelict state.

Since 2006 local volunteers have lovingly restored the rotten windows, floors, painted the walls and addressed severe damp and water damage. Volunteer builders, plumbers, electricians from all over the UK have helped turn the building around, and the centre now offers rooms for community events alongside the resident Buddhist community. The latest reincarnation of the Manor Place Baths building has seen it transformed into a place of spirituality, alternative therapies and local history.

Malcolm Woods, English Heritage's Historic Buildings Area Advisor, said: "We are very pleased that this important Southwark building has been repaired and brought back into use by the Kagyu Samye Dzong Buddhist Community and can be used once again for community events. The building can now come off the Buildings at Risk Register because it has a secure future. We would like to congratulate the Buddhist community and hard-working volunteers who have made this possible - it truly is an exemplary way to bring a Building at Risk back to life."

Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, Abbot and Director of Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre, said: "I am so happy that Manor Place Samye Dzong is opening to the public. It is so wonderful that a building that was so cherished by local people in a previous life is being reborn as a centre for health, wellbeing, community and spiritual practice. Manor Place Samye Dzong is truly a place for everyone."