Bath Removal Stage Two – Heritage baths safely in storage

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

One lone bather remained in the Bath House building after Rotorua Museum closed in 2016 for earthquake strengthening and redevelopment.

This slightly shocked gentleman, together with heritage baths and several other original bathing features, has recently been moved into storage from the Mudbath Basement to prepare for the foundation works on the building.

Because of the importance of preserving and protecting these heritage objects, the removal process involved professional conservators, engineers, riggers and construction contractors Hawkins, working alongside our own Museum team to carry out this project.

Conservators, Detlef Klein and Marco Bürger visited the building in May 2020 to meet the Museum and construction teams and view the baths. With support from Heritage New Zealand and DPA Architects they then developed a detailed report setting out the process for relocation process including assessment of the weight and dimensions of each heritage element and most appropriate manner to move them.

Bath Removal

The removal process began in mid-July and saw 60 items removed from the Mudbath Basement area including:
• 2x women’s Doulton baths weighing 464kg each
• 1x man’s Doulton bath weighing 332kg
• 1x cast iron bath with bather weighing 170kgs
• 1x mud vat – rusted sides required frame stabilisation before moving
• 1x wooden linen cupboard
• Walls and frame of nurses’ station
• Clay and cast iron pipes
• Wooden ceiling battens
• Contents of the strong room – a specialist paper conservator was onsite to remove the delicate paperwork including ledger pages and a diary along with an ink stand and ink wells
• Other treasures found was a brush from under the men’s Doulton bath, a cigarette packet hidden behind the cupboard, old towels from under the baths and a glass milk station bottle found in a room alongside ceramic tiles.

The original time estimated for the removal process was two weeks however this was extended as all objects needed to be cleaned for asbestos prior to storage.

The Mudbath Basement was a must-see exhibition at Rotorua Museum. Visitors donned hard hats to head down underneath the historic building, ducking under pipes and scuttling past the boiler, to see the three original Royal Doulton ceramic baths – and one cast iron bath complete with surprised bather.

The original baths were used for medicinal mud bathing and have been in this location since the Bath House opened as The Great South Seas Spa in 1908.

The baths will be kept in storage at the Museum offsite storage facility while construction works continue on the Bath House Building.


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