Olympic Finnish sauna in Kent given Grade II listed status

Feb 24, 2024

By Amy Walker & PA Media

BBC News, South East Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-kent-68022308

A Finnish sauna that was gifted to the UK after the 1948 Olympic Games has been granted Grade II-listed status.

The wooden sauna in Cobdown Park, Kent
Image caption, The sauna was used by employees at the Reed paper mill, which had ties to Scandinavia

The site, which may be the earliest surviving Olympic sauna in the world, was moved from London to Aylesford, Kent, in 1949, and used by employees at Reed papermill.

Finnish athletes trained at the mill’s sports facilities ahead of the games.

Historic England director Tom Foxall said the sauna was “a remarkable survival”.

He added that it “would still be easily recognised by the Finnish Olympic team that gifted it to the nation back in 1948, as well as by the first paper mill employees lucky enough to have this novel sauna experience available to them”.

Inside the Finnish sauna
Image caption, Finnish ambassador Jukka Siukosaari said the sauna had “significance to Finnish-British relations”

Since 1957, the wooden structure, fitted with a dressing room, kitchen and wet room, has been at Cobdown Park in Maidstone.

The building is believed to be the oldest surviving purpose-built sauna in England that is still used.

Cobdown Sauna Club, which runs the leisure facility, is looking to secure the sauna’s future by replacing the electrics.

Richard Young, from the club, said: “I am so pleased that the Finnish Olympic sauna has been granted Grade II listing, which will keep it safe for future generations.

“We can now go forward and get the sauna working again for the members of Cobdown Sauna Club.”

The sauna was granted the listed status by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport after a recommendation from Historic England.

Finnish ambassador Jukka Siukosaari, who visited the sauna last year, led a campaign to gain listed status for the site.

He said preserving it would “guarantee that future generations in the UK will get to learn about sauna as an institution and its significance to the Finnish culture.

“I especially want to thank the local community in Aylesford who have looked after this special building for so many years,” Mr Siukosaari said.

Translate »