The town centre has a new star – and it’s the Health Hydro baths in Milton Road.

The 19th century building was already Grade II-listed, but now Historic England has added a star to that listing.

That puts it on a par with the Mechanics Institute building in terms of its historical importance and in a group of just six per cent of listed buildings across the country.

Historic England says it gets the star for both its architectural and historic value, and because it forms a group of important heritage buildings with the Mechanics’ Institute, the Central Community Centre and the Railway cottages a few hundred yards away.

Campaigner Sally Hawson is delighted. She is the founder of Save Swindon’s Heritage and said: “I started that group because of this place.

"I started a campaign against turning into flats when that was a possibility.

“I’m really glad that it’s got a the star, that gives it an extra level of protection.

"This is such a wonderful and important building, but it’s much less appreciated than some others in Swindon.

“I hope this recognition means that more people use it, which will mean that it’s kept for us all for future generations.”

While the current pool facilities are managed by Better, the building is owned by Swindon Borough Council.

The cabinet member for corporate services and operational excellence Keith Williams said: “It’s really good to have the recognition of how special and important the building is."

But he did acknowledge the extra level of listing was a double-edged sword, saying: “It does come with some complications. We have done some work on options for future sustainable use for the building and we’ve put in a lot of money for maintenance and upgrading, and the nature of the building does make it a more difficult fit with modern sustainable uses.

“But we are very pleased to have the star as part of the listing.”

The Health Hydro was built in 1891 as the former GWR Medical Fund Baths and Dispensary as a way of bringing various different facilities, including a pharmacy and doctors' consulting rooms, under one block as the town’s population and the railway company’s workforce grew.

It is Swindon to its core – the red brick were made at the GWR brickworks and the steel arches holding up the roof were made at the company’s town foundry.

During the First World War, the building was used as a military hospital, with the swimming pools covered over to create large hospital wards; the floors were removed after the war.

There were major refits in the early 1960s and in the 1980s, with the Faringdon Road entrance closed but the original pool and Turkish baths are still in use. The consulting rooms and dispensary office are used for spa treatments.