Birmingham & Black Country

Moseley Road Baths: Swimming pool scaffolding down after 17 years

The gala pool area at Moseley Road Baths in 2020 Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Repairs above the Gala Pool were completed following work by a partnership including community groups

A historic swimming pool can be seen without scaffolding for the first time in almost two decades after costly roof repairs were finished.

Moseley Road Baths, which first opened in 1907, is the oldest of Britain's five Grade II* listed swimming baths.

Fixing the roof at the Birmingham baths cost more than £800,000.

The Gala Pool area will serve as an arts venue while its long-term future is considered, Historic England said. A second pool is still used for swimming.

Gala pool area pictured in 2016 Image copyright Historic England
Image caption Roof repairs in the Gala pool area, pictured in 2016, cost more than £800,000

The repairs above the Gala Pool in Balsall Heath were completed following work by a partnership involving community groups and other organisations.

Historic England approved a grant of more than £700,000 and the building's owner, Birmingham City Council, has provided £100,000.

Moseley Road Baths' Gala Pool Image copyright Library of Birmingham Archives & Collections
Image caption The swimming baths in Balsall Heath date from the early 20th Century

With the roof repairs completed, work can take place on restoring other parts of the Gala Pool's infrastructure, including the balcony area, alongside ongoing repairs and maintenance elsewhere in the building.

Now it is weatherproof, events and fundraising activities could take place while a permanent use and further funding were being sought.

The doors to the ladies' lavatories in the gala pool area of Moseley Road Baths Image copyright PA Media
Image caption They were the only baths in the country built before 1914 to have continuously hosted swimming since they opened, Historic England said

They are the only baths in the country built before 1914 to have continuously hosted swimming since they opened, said Historic England

According to their website, there were originally three entrances to Moseley Road Baths dividing visitors into men's first or second class washing baths and swimming pools, with a third entrance to the women's washing baths.

It was several years before women were allowed to swim and the pools were then segregated with a men's side and a women's side.

Laundry, detail of drying racks at Moseley Road Public Baths, Birmingham, Image copyright Historic England
Image caption A picture of laundry drying racks at Moseley Road Baths, taken before the roof works

When it opened, water in the pools was not heated and one pool was boarded over during winter and used for dances, concerts and social clubs.

Rare fixtures and fittings are still intact, including an almost complete set of 46 private washing rooms.

The washing baths, or "slipper baths" as they were known, were still being used until October 2004.

Moseley baths Image copyright James O. Davies, Historic England
Image caption Moseley Road Baths are the only grade II* listed facilities that predate 1914 still open for swimming

Moseley Road Baths have been on the organisation's Heritage at Risk register since 2005.

The site's smaller pool remains open.

Gala pool area during restoration work in 2019 Image copyright Historic England
Image caption Scaffolding on the Gala Pool during the restoration works

After being under threat of closure for many years, residents in Balsall Heath got together to form a campaign group to save the pool.

In 2017 they set up Moseley Road Baths Charitable Incorporated Organisation which runs the baths and is staffed partly by community volunteers.

An animation celebrating the baths will now be shown at the site from 5 March, after the community was involved in creating it.

Moseley Road swimming baths Image copyright Library of Birmingham Archives & Collections
Image caption The swimming baths first opened in 1907

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