Category Archives: Building

Bright new future for Moseley Road Baths!

PRESS RELEASE

Baths exterior

BRIGHT NEW FUTURE FOR MOSELEY ROAD BATHS

The Moseley Road Baths Coalition is delighted that Birmingham City Council has taken the decision to keep Moseley Road Baths open for swimming until the end of March 2018. This is great news for swimmers and fans of the baths, and for the community of Balsall Heath.

The recently-formed Moseley Road Baths Coalition is made up of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, Moseley Road Baths Action Group, Historic England, the National Trust and the World Monuments Fund. The coalition team has been working with Birmingham City Council to explore a sustainable future for the baths that includes swimming, for what is unquestionably one of Birmingham’s most important heritage buildings and one of the nation’s most significant swimming pools.

The decision to keep the building open for swimming gives the Coalition, working together with Birmingham City Council, time to develop an alternative way of keeping the pool open (either through transferring operations to a Community Interest Company or via another operator), and to work on plans to bring all of the building back to life – a complex task which will require significant investment, given the scale and complexity of the backlog of conservation and building works required.

Vivienne Harrison, Chair of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths said: ‘The Friends of Moseley Road Baths are delighted that Birmingham City Council have agreed to keep our much loved swimming pool open until March next year.  For over ten years, we have been campaigning to save this locally, nationally and indeed internationally important heritage landmark and we appreciate the recognition of our efforts.  Moseley Road Baths is a vital facility for local people, a much needed meeting point which builds bridges between different sections of a diverse community and which contributes to improving health and lives in an area of high deprivation.  Of course, much still needs to be done and we look forward to working with Birmingham City Council and our coalition partners to secure a long term future for Moseley Road Baths.’

Birmingham City Council’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Ian Ward, said:  ‘I am delighted that the Council has made it possible for people to continue swimming at Moseley Road Baths until the end of March 2018. This will enable the Council to work with local and national partners to find a way to secure the long term future of one of Birmingham’s most important buildings, enabling people to swim there for another 100 years.’

Lucy Reid, Assistant Director of Operations at the National Trust said:  ‘Moseley Road Baths are a completely irreplaceable part of Birmingham’s history and a vital part of the city’s own story.  Thousands of Birmingham people have learnt to swim in these Baths and we want thousands more to be able to do so – this decision by Birmingham City Council is the first step in making this possible. The Friends of Moseley Road Baths and Moseley Road Baths Action Group should be thanked and congratulated for their tireless campaigning and commitment to the Baths.’

Rhodri Evans, Historic England Principal Adviser Heritage at Risk West Midlands said:  ‘We welcome the City Council’s decision to keep Moseley Road Baths open until March 2018. Moseley Road Baths is one of only 5 Grade II* baths in England and the oldest still in use for swimming. It has been on our Heritage at Risk Register since 2005 and we have already funded an Options Appraisal outlining a number of potential future uses. The additional time will enable us to continue working with the Coalition and the City Council to find a sustainable future for this significant symbol of Birmingham’s civic pride.

Professor John Darlington, Executive Director, World Monuments Fund Britain said: ‘A panel of international experts supported our view that Moseley Road Baths is unexpected, distinctive and different.  A building which speaks of a social heritage that belongs to a broad group of people rather than of fine country houses and the privileged. In 2016 it was one of only two buildings from the UK to be placed on the World Monuments Watch list. We are delighted to be a part of something that will save the Baths for future generations.’

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Why is Moseley Road Baths special?

The baths are of great heritage significance and are an important part of our city’s identity.

Moseley Road Baths are the only Grade II* baths that predate 1914 and remain in use. One of the oldest of five Grade II* listed baths in the country, they contain some unique fixtures and fittings, including a complete set of 46 private washing rooms with baths (in use until 2004), and original oak ticket offices and attendants’ kiosks.  Also, possibly the only surviving steam-heated drying racks in a British swimming pool, and a three sided spectator gallery with unique balconettes in the Gala or First Class pool.  

 

So significant are the Baths that the Friends of Moseley Road Baths secured the interest of the World Monuments Fund, who added the building to their World Monuments Watch List in 2016 of 50 important buildings and monuments from across the globe.

 

Built to encourage Balsall Heath to join the Corporation of Birmingham in 1907, the baths and the adjacent library are full of glorious details and both interior and exterior are a real testament to the designers, manufacturers and workmanship of Birmingham and Britain at this time. It spoke of a huge civic pride of a city and its people.

 

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PRESS CONTACT

 

Claire Deeley 07484 500852 / claire.deeley@nationaltrust.org.uk

All eyes on 27th June…

Hope for Moseley Road Baths?

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Many thanks  to everyone who signed Moseley Road Baths Action Group’s petition to help save swiming at MRB – well over 2000 signatures now and still rising!

We downloaded the petition on 10th June in preparation for a meeting on 27th between Ian Ward and a coalition including National Trust, Historic England, World Monuments Fund, Friends of Moseley Road Baths and Moseley Road Baths Action Group.  Earlier that day a proposal will go to Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet for approval to keep the baths open until March 2018 to allow the coalition time to find a way to a way to secure the future of our much loved pool.

We’ll find out when we meet with Ian Ward whether or not this proposal has been successful but we’re remaining positive that we’ve made a strong case for keeping swimming at Moseley Road Baths and will let you know as soon as there’s any news.

In the meantime, even though we have downloaded the petition, we’re not closing it yet and we welcome more signatures and comments!

Sign the Petition

Read the BBC News item

Read the Birmingham Mail Article

 

March Open Day – last chance to see?

Our Last Ever Open Day?

 

With Moseley Road Baths due to close in June 2017, the next open day on Saturday 18th March could well our last event at the baths for the foreseeable future.

Come along between 10am and 2pm for tours of parts of the building that are usually closed to the public and, more importantly, to find out how you can help us in our campaign to keep our pool open!

Can you spare a few hours to help out during our open day? If so let us know by emailing contact@friendsofmrb.co.uk.

How You Can Help Now!

The Moseley Road Baths Action Group is working hard to find a way to keep our pool open, liaising with Birmingham City Council as part of a coalition led by the National Trust, and including Historic England and World Monuments Fund.

In order to show that there is demand for swimming and that the pool can continue to operate outside city council control, they need your input.

Please take a few moments to fill in the survey below and help us to keep swimming at Moseley Road Baths.

Action Group progress and how you can help!

It’s been a while since we were in touch with some of you, but we can tell you a lot has been going on in our efforts to save Moseley Road Baths.  Here is an update from Karen Leach from the Moseley Road Baths Action Group.

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There is very much a chance that we can be successful in keeping Moseley Road Baths open for swimming and restore the building, but we will need everyone’s help in doing so. After giving you an update of our recent activities, we will outline some of the ways in which you could help and ask you to respond.

In spring last year, MRBAG was awarded funds from Historic England to undertake an Options Analysis. We commissioned National Trust and Princes Regeneration Trust to produce this, and the finished version can be found here. This excellent report has pulled together all the information on the huge heritage and community value of the baths, its state of repair, likely renovation costs, examples of other successful pools from across the country and much other useful information. It outlined some indicative options from which we have been developing our preferred options.

Meanwhile, the National Trust, Historic England and the World Monuments Fund have all identified Moseley Road Baths as a priority, and have formed a ‘coalition’ to work with Birmingham City Council on potential solutions to the renovation and longer term future of the building. This coalition has now put forward a set of proposals to Birmingham City Council as to how swimming might be continued and the building rescued from its current neglected state. This includes what we need the Council to provide as their contribution to making this work.

In outline, these proposals mean:

  • The Coalition partners, led by the National Trust, will be able to help us access heritage expertise and funding for design, feasibility work and eventual restoration of the building.
  • We have formed Moseley Road Baths CIC (community interest company) to take on responsibility for keeping swimming going at some point after the current closure date of June this year. This may involve bringing in a short term non-profit operator initially, then going on to manage the baths ourselves. Either way this will involve some volunteer time. This model is working in many other pools across the country, saving them from closure. We have won further funding and support from the Bright Ideas Fund, and local social enterprise specialist Dave Lane is helping us with this task.
  • We are asking the council’s support for a transitional period while we and they prepare for the handover.
  • All coalition partners including ourselves will continue to seek funding and raise the profile of the baths. Check out the Friends of MRB’s website for further info.

 Of course in an ideal world, we would want the City Council to continue running and staffing these baths, but it is clear that this cannot happen under current circumstances and this is why our only option for saving the baths is the one we have outlined here.

Our long-term vision for Moseley Road Baths is of a lively enterprise with swimming at the heart of the mix of uses for its exciting spaces, and possibly working with the Library to make best use of space.   To be successful, Moseley Road Baths will need to draw on its importance nationally and internationally to become a ‘destination’ with wide appeal in Birmingham and beyond, while maintaining its community roots, and respecting and celebrating the heritage of the building.

We have been overwhelmed by the messages of support from both our local community and people further afield who either care about heritage or swam here as children or both.

So, in order for this to work, we will need local expertise and passion to help govern what happens; volunteer input to manage the pool; local organisations and individuals to commit to keeping on swimming here; and crowdfunding. Any of these ways of helping is fantastic!

 To help us out, please take this short survey!

In the meantime if you do Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, please check out our social media campaign for the rest of February at #keepswimmingmrb and @moseleyrdbaths.  We’re showing what support there is for the baths. You can take part by posting a selfie or what you love about the baths, or just retweeting and reposting. And please do come to our next Open Day on 18th March.

As a final suggestion, if you do want Moseley Road Baths to be saved, it would be great if you can make sure your local councillors know this, so do be in touch with them by email or phone or in person.

We are really excited (if a little daunted!) about the future and look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Leach

On behalf of the Moseley Road Baths Action Group

Members of the Action Group are:

Ashram Moseley Housing Association, Balsall Heath Forum, Balsall Heath History Society, Birmingham Conservation Trust, Development in Social Enterprise, Friends of Moseley Road Baths, Localise WM, National Trust, RnR Organisation, St Pauls Trust

World Monuments Fund Watch List

It was announced on 15th October in New York by World Monuments Fund President Bonnie Burnham that Moseley Road Baths has made the WMF’s 2016 World Monuments Watch List.

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It is one of only two buildings in the UK selected for inclusion on the 2016 World Monuments Watch List. The list is published every two years in order to focus attention on sites of architectural significance around the world that are under threat.  The Baths gets a full feature on the WMF’s website, explaining why it was chosen.

Supporters fighting to keep the Baths open have welcomed the news as recognition of the architectural importance and social significance of the Edwardian building.
Moseley Road Baths is the oldest of only three Grade II* listed swimming pools in Britain. It was opened in 1907 and the building is believed to contain the only surviving example of a laundry room with its original drying racks. In an age before laundrettes, local people would have used the room and the racks for their clothes washing.
The ground floor includes a set of pre-war private slipper baths, said to be unique. There are no other examples remaining of this type of bathing facility that was used by local people until 2004. The cubicles contain cast iron baths, some with ropes still hanging over them to help people get in and out as well as the bell system used to call attendants if bathers were in difficulties.

There are two swimming pools, one of which is still in use by local people and schools throughout the week. Both have ornate, cast-iron girders supporting the roofs and the now disused Gala Pool is lined by glazed brick dressing boxes. Only one other pool in Britain still has these; wooden partitions were more common in Victorian and Edwardian periods.

The application for World Monuments Watch listing was submitted by the Friends of Moseley Road Baths (FofMRB). The group has been campaigning to keep the swimming pool open since 2006. Dates for closure of the building have been announced by the owners, Birmingham City Council, on numerous occasions but each time, action has been postponed. FofMRB members have raised the profile of the Baths with a series of arts events and open days while a number of organisations have used the building for filming.

An application for Heritage Lottery Fund support was due to be submitted but this had to be abandoned after Birmingham City Council withdrew its support. The building is now expected to close before the end of 2016.

Commenting on the inclusion of Moseley Road Baths on the 2016 World Monuments Watch, Mark Gunton, Treasurer of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths said, ‘Obviously we’re delighted to have been included but we know that this isn’t the solution to the crisis facing Moseley Road Baths. We still have to work hard to get organisations and individuals to commit to saving the building, keeping it open as an active swimming pool and to finding additional activities to make it a viable concern. The great thing about the Watch listing is that it focuses attention on our campaign and hopefully will help to open new doors for us so that we can protect this wonderful part of Birmingham’s history’.

The Friends of Moseley Road Baths will be marking the building’s inclusion on the list through a celebratory event on 31st October, which will also mark 108 years since the building first opened its doors to the public.  More details will follow soon!

Keep Moseley Road Baths Open Day

The Friends of Moseley Road Baths are hosting a ‘Keep Moseley Road Baths Open Day’ on 8th March, 10am-2pm, to mark the 108th Anniversary of the building opening its doors to swimmers.  We hope to demonstrate just how wonderful and relevant the building is, in spite of Birmingham City Council’s plans to close the facility in 2016.Open day poster 2015Whilst the building itself opened on 30th October 1907 for washing and laundry facilities, swimming pools at the time were only used in warmer months, so it wasn’t until Spring 1908 that swimmers were able to take the plunge.  During winters, pools were usually emptied and boarded over for social activities, including dances, billiards and card games.  Moseley Road Baths was also used as a Casualty station during the Blitz.

On the day there will be an opportunity to take a tour of areas of the building which are normally closed to the public – previous tours have been really well received and we encourage visitors to take lots of photos!  With the building due to close its doors for the last time next year, this may be one of the last opportunities for the public to see areas such as the Gala Pool, Laundry Room, Boiler House and original Water Tank.  As well as members of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, we are also pleased to welcome former employee John Berrill who will be on hand in the plant room to answer questions.

Swimmers of all ages can head into the water for a free fun swim on us, with floats and toys in the pool between 9:15am and 11:15am.  This will be on a first come, first served basis, so arrive in good time!

Members of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths will have a stall where postcards and our book will be available to buy, and visitors can learn more about our campaign.

110 Swimmers take the plunge!

After a hugely successful gathering of swimmers and pool supporters for a unique photo shoot, Attilio is now set to unveil his work to the world this Thursday.

In a truly humbling display of just how well loved our local pool is, photographer Attilio Fiumarella and the gang over at Some Cities succeeded in getting 110 swimmers together to stand in the empty Gala Pool in their swimming costumes on a sunny Sunday morning to show their love for the building – and dismay at its proposed closure.

The shoot was a massive boost to the campaign against the proposed closure of the building – earmarked for September next year.  There was such a fantastic, good natured atmosphere – it was so lovely to see so many pool users coming together.  Attilio captured a real cross section of the community who gather at the pool each week.  The event really illustrated what a diverse bunch we are – babies and toddlers lined up next to pensioners, keen lane swimmers next to ‘Strokes’ pupils, club swimmers alongside the Aquarobics devotees and members of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths next to pool staff.  That unique community is what we stand to lose if the pool closes.

The powerful images from the photo shoot were picked up by local news outlets, and soon the story grew to become the third most read story on the BBC News site, it was covered in the Daily Mail and we even gained coverage of our ‘Warrior Spirit’ as far away as Scotland!  Twitter went wild with the #100swimmers hashtag, and we even got a Tweet from Jeremy Vine!

Thanks to everyone who helped to spread the word and who shared their images and thoughts on the day.  Esther Barnes documented the shoot and has produced some lovely images.  Matthew Walters was one of the ‘Terracotta Army’ who took advantage of the event to take some gorgeous shots of around the building.  Proof as ever that this building continues to inspire.

Attilio’s image from the photo shoot will be unveiled this Thursday July 31st, from 6.30pm, at The Old Print Works, over the road from the baths – and all are welcome – whether you participated, spread the love online or only saw the story in the press.  Attilio will be there to answer questions about the project.

IMG_4169The Friends of Moseley Road Baths want to extend a huge thank you to Attilio for his vision and talent in bringing the project about, the team at Some Cities for supporting such an ambitious and exciting project, Ian Edwards (pictured above with his loudspeaker!) for his expert direction of the swimmers, to the crew who were running round supporting Attilio, to all of the swimmers who gave up their morning to stand around in an empty pool, and of course, thanks are also due to the pool staff for accommodating the event.

Pool of Memories Book now for sale!

We are absolutely thrilled to announce that copies of our book about the history of Moseley Road Baths is now for sale at our new website: http://www.poolofmemories.co.uk/buy-our-book/

‘Pool of Memories – A History of Moseley Road Baths’ tells the 105-year old story of Birmingham’s Grade II* Moseley Road Swimming Baths in Balsall Heath. Author Steve Beauchampé has brought together over three years of research and interviews to produce a comprehensive account of the building’s history.

Pool of Memories cover

The 152-page book features memories drawn from an archive of almost 100 current and former Baths users collected of over the past three years by members of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths. Combined with this the book contains research tracing the building’s development and history dating back to the 1890s.

Also featuring a wealth of never before published photographs Pool of Memories – A History of Moseley Road Baths tells how the baths were built, explains its’ many rare or unique architectural features, and the importance of the three ‘slipper’ bath departments. The building’s contribution to the war effort, tales of its life as ‘Moseley Road Super Ballroom’ and its’ rôle in school and club swimming are also covered. A venue for art events, film and TV programmes, the Baths have also been used for synchronised swimming, baptisms and even underwater hockey!

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Jennifer Austin, Chair of the Friends’ Group said, “For more than a century, Moseley Road Baths has been a hub of the community, providing swimming and bathing facilities for generations of local people. The Pool of Memories book helps preserve the stories of those who have swum, socialised, washed or worked there, providing a valuable archive of this nationally important building and its rôle in Birmingham’s history.

Buy your copy using PayPal at http://www.poolofmemories.co.uk/buy-our-book/ or contact Jennifer Austin on 07521 734 022 if you wish to use another method of payment or if you would like multiple copies for a group.  The book costs £12 if collected from the Baths, £15 including postage and packaging.

Why we swim…

After years of campaigning it can be easy to take the baths for granted.  So it was marvellous to get this e-mail through from Amy Williams, a new swimmer…

I live in nearby Kings Heath and can cycle to Moseley Baths as there are cycle stands outside. It’s such a beautiful building and reminds me of learning to swim under light curved ceilings as a child. It has a feel of generations of people bringing in their hearts, souls and minds to be washed clean of their daily concerns and revived ready to face the world again.

I’ve just returned from a swim this morning. I started 2013 with the aim to improve my health and stamina while seeking a chance to meditate on daily obstacles to my dreams. I find swimming is the best recommendation for gently easing into enjoyable exercise. I started out with two lengths a few weeks ago and today, despite the snow, I’m back for 10 lengths. I hope to get into a regular pattern of twenty lengths on a Monday using the Be Active scheme which is free to use.

The pool side cubicles make it safe and private to change. There’s even one with a baby seat and to accommodate disabilities. The pool is small enough that you can achieve a number of lengths but large enough that you feel you aren’t kidding yourself. The temperature is warm but not tiring there are warm jets from the sides giving pleasant sensations of relaxation as you work on your stroke. The showers are super warm so that you can leave feeling ready for the world and the journey home.

Staff are friendly and helpful with knowledge of lots of schemes to get you involved with attending; whether Be Active, Strokes for lessons, ladies/men only, parents, disabilities. Plus, as I needed a rest before cycling home, I popped into the library next door to sit down and read. As it happened I had a chat with another ‘newcomer’ to Birmingham (we have been here several years) about getting to know the local community and making friends. We’d come to the right place as there was a ‘Local History’ corner and shared knowledge of local cafes to grab a bite to eat.

I’m surprised that the Baths are seen as ‘history’ of the past. They are making the history of the ‘now’ and the ‘future. The complex is large and beautifully constructed. It would be great to create an urban spa with sections for exercise, learning, bathing and treatments, sauna and steam room. The old city centre Eye Hospital has been refurbished and modernised wonderfully and I could see Moseley Baths taking step in that direction but accessible to the whole community. Recreating the new complex at Harborne but using urban regeneration to bring together the old and the new. What an opportunity and now is the time to invest!