Victoria Garden - Atlas Obscura

The Victoria Garden’s story dates back to Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. At the time, local Farnham residents formed a Commemorative Committee to consider ways to mark the historic event. The idea for a swimming pool was settled upon and funded by the people of the town. Before long, residents were able to enjoy their first dip in the local “swimming baths,” as Victorian pools were typically referred to as baths.

The Duchess of Albany, Queen Victoria’s daughter-in-law, officially opened the Victorian swimming baths using a key cast by a local jeweler whose last name was Borelli. The open-air pool remained in use for almost 90 years. So popular was the pool that another, larger pool, was built beside it, and the original was made shallower and often used to teach children to swim.

In 1982, the outdoor swimming baths were closed, in favor of an indoor pool located in the local leisure center. After sitting empty for over 15 years, the site was reclaimed and reimagined, to serve Farnham once more as a peaceful flower garden. The garden was re-opened in 1997, the baths’s centennial year.

The Victorian archway which welcomed swimmers for nearly a century remains in use as the garden’s entrance. Designed by local architect, Harold Falkner, the Falkner Arch incorporates two commemorative beams on either side of the entrance. One beam details the opening of the baths and the second commemorates Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee reign.  

A small but curious detail of the Faulkner Arch is the dents that pepper the red brickwork of the archway. These enduring divots are the result of generations of children twisting coins in the bricks as they queued to pay for entry to the baths, creating ever-growing holes.

Another endearing reminder of the former life of the site stands amongst its blooming roses and bright flowerbeds. The statue of a young boy stands, shoulders wrapped in a towel and, though static, undeniably shivering. The smiling statue stands on the edge of the former pool, as so many Farnham children did for decades.

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February 27, 2024

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