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13 November 2014

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You are in: Birmingham > People > Stories > Historic baths on hit-list

Moseley Road Baths opened in 1907

Moseley Road Baths

Historic baths on hit-list

Moseley Road Baths, in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, is one of the finest Edwardian pools in the country, but according to preservationists The Victorian Society it remains under threat.

Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath remains the country's only Grade II*-listed public swimming pool in which it is still possible to swim.

Inside Moseley Road Baths

Inside Moseley Road Baths

Opened on 30 October 1907 at a cost of £32,924, Moseley Road is a window on a lifestyle that was common to millions of Britons at the turn of the 19th century.

It is the oldest of only three Grade II*-listed swimming baths currently operating in Britain (those at the privately-owned RAC Club in London and The National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace being the other two).

With its beautiful tiles and ornate stain glass decorations, The Baths is regarded as one of the finest Edwardian pools in the country.

Yet conservation group The Victorian Society believes it is under threat and has put it, along with Smethwick's Grade II*-listed Waterloo Hotel and Grill, on its top ten of 'endangered' buildings.

It is the third year running the group has placed the Baths on its hit-list.

The Society says that despite some progress being made over the last year the possibility remains that the Edwardian baths could close as a working pool.

Birmingham City Council says no decision has been taken about its future.

Dr Ian Dungavell, Director of the Victorian Society

Dr Ian Dungavell

'We have been amazed at the response from the public," says Dr Ian Dungavell, Director of the Victorian Society, a charity which aims to preserve buildings from the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

"Moseley Road Baths is the best of them all and it's the most fabulous pool in the country that you can still swim in.

"We need to preserve it as a community swimming venue for local people, who clearly feel very strongly about beautiful, robust buildings being left to decay.

"In the case of The Waterloo the building is now in a deplorable state, despite still being open for business.  It surely won't last much longer without help"

"Even in the current economic climate money must be found to weather-proof these buildings and protect them from vandals.

"Future generations won't forgive us for leaving our heritage to deteriorate beyond repair."

Moseley Road Baths

Moseley Road Baths

One of the pools in the Baths is still in use, but the second, larger pool remains out of operation.

It was closed in 2003 due to a leak and structural problems with the spectators' balcony and has remained out of action since then.

According to the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, several rare or unique features are contained within the building, which has the only complete set of pre-war private washing, or 'slipper' baths, still in existence in Britain.

It says its original oak ticket office and attendants' kiosks are largely intact and a three-sided spectator gallery and unique balconettes in the gala (or first class) pool remain, as does the original poolside arched glazed brick dressing boxes.

A 98ft long Gothic renaissance red brick and terracotta frontage, lavishly embellished and decorated, is intact. And sited in the first floor laundry room is what is thought to be the only surviving steam-heated drying racks in a British swimming baths.

The original 45,000-gallon capacity cast iron cold water storage tank is also present.

Waterloo Hotel, Smethwick

Waterloo Hotel, Smethwick

Campaigners are pushing for the second pool to be restored, but earlier reports by Birmingham City Council estimate a repair cost of £30million.

"The best use of these building is for what they were originally designed," adds Ian.

A Birmingham City Council spokesman says it is a priority to ensure that people across all of Birmingham have access to first-class swimming facilities.

"Moseley Road swimming baths are playing a critical part in that strategy, given the current closure of Sparkhill pool.

"A report is due before Cabinet that will seek member approval for the development of plans to provide improved swimming facilities in the Moseley and Sparkhill areas.

"It must also be noted that £1million has been spent on emergency repairs at Moseley Road since 2005, underlining the council's commitment to the building."

The top ten was drawn up after a national appeal to find the nation's best and most threatened buildings.

last updated: 12/10/2009 at 14:52
created: 12/10/2009

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