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Moseley Road Baths

#1 by Voltman , Fri Jan 27, 2017 10:47 am

This is Quoted in full from Private Eye No.1436 21/01/17

"Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, opened to the public in 1907. Outside, this magnificent structure of red brick and terracotta is one of the finest Edwardian bath buildings anywhere.

Inside there are two fine swimming pools covered by arched iron and glass ceilings. There are also two unique survivals: an intact set of (46) private washing baths; and a set of steam-heated drying racks. All of which explains why Moseley Road Baths is one of only three swimming pool structures still in operation listed at grade II.

The first class men's pool - considered by Simon Inglis, historian of swimming pools, as "the most dramatic Edwardian pool hall in Britain" - closed in 2003 but survives; the other pool is still open, and much used. But not for long. Birmingham city council, which for years has run, neglected and threatened to shut the complex, has announced that the baths will close in June and the building used for other purposes, perhaps.

Historic baths are expensive to run and maintain, and cash-strapped councils are often keen to close them. They can however be restored to stay in use, as the roughly contemporary pools in, for example, Camberwell and Kentish Town demonstrate. But Birmingham's behaviour towards Moseley Road Baths is particularly reprehensible, for when in 2012 the Heritage Lottery Fund offered 5m towards its restoration, it refused to contribute the matching 3m, so the grant was lost (Eyes1198 & 1381). It is now happy to contemplate the loss of this amenity in a deprived part of the city.

The Friends of Moseley Road Baths and the MRB Action Group are trying to create an organisation to run and restore the building, a project supported by the Victorian Society, English Heritage, the National Trust and the Princes Regeneration Trust. Last year, the New York-based World Monuments Fund put two British buildings on its Watch List: Wentworth Woodhouse, the problematic 18th century country house near Sheffield; and Moseley Road Baths, securing a $15,000 grant from American Express, arguing that, restored, it "would continue to serve a diverse urban community in the 21st century and would join other destinations in Birmingham that proudly recount the social history of the city."

Last year chancellor Phillip Hammond found 7.6m to restore Wentworth Woodhouse - a good cause which SAVE Britain's Heritage has long championed. But when financial support for architectural restoration is so tight, to give so much to a grand country house and nothing to Moseley Road Baths (or other neglected listed buildings) suggests a snobbery about "heritage". Municipal baths are as important a part of our history - social and architectural - as aristocratic seats.


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Last edited 01.27.2017 | Top

RE: Moseley Road Baths

#2 by Sheldonboy , Fri Jan 27, 2017 8:30 pm

That was a great post Volty


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RE: Moseley Road Baths

#3 by mikejee , Fri Jan 27, 2017 10:35 pm

Good to get some publicity to the cause which might reach places that other baths might not reach


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RE: Moseley Road Baths

#4 by Voltman , Sat Jan 28, 2017 8:34 am

When I used to service emergency lighting, in the mid 1980s, I got to go round all the baths in Birmingham four times per year.
There were some really old ones, and some quite newish ones, I had to access all areas, from the underground pipe tunnels to the roof.
One of the things I noticed in many of them, old and new, was the damage that the corrosive atmosphere causes to the building materials.
Glazed tiles falling off swollen brick walls, concrete walls bursting open from corrosion of the reinforcing steels, iron trusses and balconies rusting vigourously.

I was amazed that any of the old baths survived into the 1980s, It would be such a shame to lose any of them thirty years later, when building technology has never been more advanced.


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