The site of one of Surrey’s most popular leisure centers was once a concert hall which hosted some of the biggest touring bands of the 1960s and 1970s. The Epsom and Ewell History Explorer website reveals The Rolling Stones (1963/1964), Queen (1971) and Genesis (1972) all performed at the site, in a now demolished venue known as Epsom Baths Hall.
The building had its origins as the Epsom Municipal Baths and Hall. The Baths and Washhouses Act 1846 was introduced to encourage local councils to provide better cleanliness facilities such as baths and washhouses in an effort to control disease.
In 1935 Epsom Urban District Council had set up a committee to look into the costs involved and the following year a full report was provided, allowing the baths to be built in East Street on land owned by the advice at a total cost of £. 65,000. The hall would be used for shows in the winter and officially opened on March 15, 1939.
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But it wasn’t open for long – the venue closed shortly after the outbreak of World War II in September of that year. But it reopened to boost morale throughout the war, with sandbags and cables protecting doors and windows from blasts.
After the war it became an incredibly popular attraction and its peak in the 1950s saw the area attract over 100,000 swimmers and spectators a year. And of course it was used as a concert hall known as Epsom’s bathroom.
Many performances were by bands early in their careers, a world away from the arena and stadium fillers they became – The Rolling Stones played in 1963 and 1964, shortly after forming in London in 1962 and just before releasing their debut albums ‘The Rolling Stones / England’s Newest Hit Makers’ and ’12 x 5′ in 1964. They are said to cost just £60 to book!
Queen played in 1971, the same year they formed their classic lineup of Freddie Mercury on vocals, Brian May on guitar, Roger Taylor on drums and John Deacon on bass, but two years before the release of their first “Queens” album.
Genesis, who played in 1972, were slightly more established around the time they played. It was about five years after the band formed as students at Charterhouse School in Godalming, and they had just released their fourth album ‘Foxtrot’ (featuring their longest song, the 23-minute ‘Supper’s Ready ‘), the group at the time with Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks and Phil Collins.
It’s not just the venue but the prices that were different – you could see Genesis for 50p at Epsom, while their reunion gigs at London’s O2 Arena last year (originally scheduled for 2020) cost between £68 .15 and £176.50! Setlist.fm also reports that there were appearances from Fairport Convention in 1971 and MC5 in 1972.
But despite this enviable array of musical guests, it proved difficult for the venue to maintain its reputation as the rise of television allowed people to be entertained from home. Baths Hall concert venue closed in 1989.
The site was remodeled to become known as The Rainbow Centre, with a fitness center added and baths used year-round. In 2001 the original baths were demolished, with the Rainbow Leisure Center as we know it today built in its place, complete with gym, pool, spa, badminton and everything from a children’s play park with courses for the over 60s.
Thanks to Epsom and Ewell History Explorer for information on this piece.
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