A bittersweet experience

For so many of us who use Moseley Road Baths it’s a bittersweet experience.  How to convey the grandeur, the feeling of swimming in a palace, of being taken back to another place and time?  To a time when local authorities believed in providing ‘palaces for people’?  But how heartbreaking to see the dilapidation and lack of maintenance!

The vast majority of people who enter the building are quickly won over to fiercely believing that this valuable and unique facility should be restored to its former glory and kept for the purpose for which it was intended – a comprehensive swimming facility to serve local residents.

Having that discussion with the current state of the building and the contempt of some decision makers isn’t easy.  It can sometimes take a big stretch of the imagination to see how neglected areas can be brought back into use.

However, Alex Gamela and others on the HashBrum team have done some great work on documenting last Saturday’s ‘Memories and Memorabilia Day’ and showing both the passion and potential of the campaign.  Here is Alex’s film which I think captures the bittersweet feelings of so many of us really well.  Thanks ever so much!

Happy 102nd Birthday!

Well, we celebrated the 102nd Anniversary of the opening of Moseley Road Baths on Saturday in real style!  Our ‘Memories and Memorabilia Day’ on Saturday 31st October was a resounding success, with a packed hall and tours and wonderful feedback from all who attended.

Steve Beauchampé who has been a member of the group from the beginning and is the co-author of ‘Played in Birmingham’, which charts the heritage of Birmingham at play, led two tours of the building.  The tours took the public into areas that have been unopen for many years.  Apologies for all those who were unable to make the tour, we really were pushing the limits of how many people we could get in!  If you didn’t get round to putting your name down for future tours then please drop us a line at contact@friendofmrb.co.uk to be added to the list.

Just one of many bits of memorabilia shared with us
Just one of many bits of memorabilia shared with us

Simon Inglis’ talk on the history of swimming in Britain and Moseley Road Baths’ important place in this was standing room only.  He has some marvellous photos of historic pools, including images of a floating greenhouse on the Thames!  If you liked what you heard then there are several books in the ‘Played in Britain’ series which document Britain at play, including ‘Great Lengths’ featuring Moseley Road Baths, which are available from our group or online at www.playedinbritain.co.uk.

1890s Swimming Costume from Joan Gurneys collection
1890s Swimming Costume from Joan Gurney's collection

Joan Gurney brought along her impressive selection of historic swimming costumes to display.  Whilst the days of knitting your own swimming costume are thankfully behind us, there were some really gorgeous and fashionable outfits.  Perhaps wearing shoes to swim won’t catch on again, but many of the costumes made your average set of speedos look rather dull!

Thanks should also go to the groups who put on stalls and some really good displays.  Mentions here for the Victorian Society, Friends of Sparkhill Baths and Balsall Heath Local History Society who were showcasing their ‘Tales Out of School’ project.

To learn more about the day and our campaign, Andrew Brightwell and other students on an MA Online Journalism course documented the day and have put a selection of articles and films up on the HashBrum website, including some videos of yours truly getting rather excitable talking about the possibilities of the building!

I was also on hand to conduct filmed interviews with members of the public who wanted to share their memories.  Gordon Whittle brought along some fantastic photos from Woodcock Street Baths and shared his memories of working at Moseley Road Baths from 1970 onwards.  However, it was May Allen who trumped everyone to the earliest memory of the pools by a couple of decades; she recalls swimming there in 1938!

If you missed out on the opportunity to share your memories with us then please contact us to request a form to share your memories.  We will strive to put a downloadable form on here shortly, but in the meantime please e-mail us at contact@friendofmrb.co.uk in order for us to send the form out to you.  We really value all contributions, even if it is currently taking us a while to process them.  Hopefully our funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund will be successful, enabling us to do more than simply scratch the surface of these amazing memories!

Your cossies needed!

Friends of Moseley Road Baths are very pleased to welcome Joan and Gerald Gurney to our ‘Memories and Memorabilia Day’.  They have travelled from Essex with just a sample of 48 costumes from an even larger collection of swimwear and accessories that Joan has been collecting since the 1950’s.

Some of the costumes date back to the Edwardian era – so come and see how the first swimmers in our pool may have been dressed when they went for a dip!

Joan is a swimming historian who will be on hand on the day to answer questions and show you her exhibits.

We would also encourage you to search around at home and bring old costumes of your own, however embarrassing!  We are starting our own collection of swimming costumes, accessories, certificates, badges – in fact anything to do with swimming – as part of our oral history project. Come on the 31st October to the Memories and Memorabilia Day to share your memories!

2 days to go!

The excitement is building up to our Memories and Memorabilia Event on Saturday. Cakes are being baked, displays being finalised, videos being edited and posters and postcards are flying out of our hands!

As we are a small voluntary group we’re reliant on people passing on the word to other people. We’re always completely overwhelmed by what a great response we get. If you’ve not told people around you then please take the time to let others know about the event. Full details are here:


We’re also eager to hear from anyone who wants to share their memories, so if you want to be interviewed drop us a line at contact@friendsofmrb.co.uk. Likewise, if you want to bake a cake or have an unusual costume you can dig out to show us then let us know!

Flickrmeet at Moseley Road Baths

A couple of months ago the Birmingham Flickrmeet Group, decided to turn their attention to Moseley Road Baths.  The group, which meets monthly at various places of interest around the City took some absolutely fantastic photos showing many places in the building which are off-limits to the public.

Photo by Emma (EditorialGirl)
Photo of Laundry Room by Emma (editorialgirl)

It’s absolutely crucial that people get involved in documenting the state of the building, not only because it’s such an interesting building with unique features such as the laundry room (pictured, thanks to Emma (editorialgirl)) and slipper baths, but because it’s important that we highlight the criminal neglect of the baths and show just how much potential this beautiful building has.

You can view all the Flickr photos of Moseley Road Baths here.  Don’t forget to get in touch with us if you have any photos that you would like to share with Friends of Moseley Road Baths!  If this has whetted your appetite then remember to have a look at our marvellous Virtual Tour site where there are dozens of photos and videos of the building.

Using RSS feeds

The RSS symbol
The RSS symbol

Do you struggle to keep on top of all of the blogs and news sites out there? There’s debate as to what RSS stands for, but ‘Really Simple Syndication’ works for me – it brings information to you rather than the other way round. Eventually I’ve found a (slightly cheesey) YouTube video which outlines what they are and how to set them up. I use my AppleMail programme to access my feeds, and prior to that I used my Firefox web browser. Many people use Google’s Feedreader. Go with whatever works for you… have a think about where you access the net and how you like your information to be organised. Check out the video – RSS in plain English and then add this blog to your list using the RSS feed link in the right column.

Still endangered

Moseley Road Baths has hit the news this week with the news that for the third consecutive year it has been placed on The Victorian Society‘s top ten most endangered buildings.  The Society’s Director, Dr Ian Dungavell who earlier this year swam in Moseley Road Baths and numerous other endangered pools to raise awareness of their condition said;
‘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… Future generations won’t forgive us for leaving our heritage to deteriorate beyond repair.’
To find out about the other buildings that made the list go to the Victorian Society’s site, and also have a look at the BBC Birmingham feature on the news.

Memories and Memorabilia Day

We are pleased to invite you to this year’s ‘Memories and Memorabilia’ day. Please come and help us celebrate and don’t forget that we are eager to speak with people who want to share their own memories of the building! We welcome messages from anyone willing to get involved in helping to organise the event. Contact fofmrb@googlemail.com.

Moseley Road Baths 102nd Birthday celebration

Saturday, October 31st, 12:00-4:30pm

Moseley Road Methodist Church, Balsall Heath

The Friends of Moseley Road Baths (FofMRB) group is staging its second Memories and Memorabilia day to celebrate the 102nd birthday of Moseley Road Baths, one of Britain’s most historic and architecturally significant swimming baths.

The free event runs from 12:00-4:30pm on Saturday, October 31st, at Moseley Road Methodist Church, directly opposite the baths and will include:

  • A 1hr illustrated talk (starting at 2:00pm) on historic pools by Birmingham-born Simon Inglis, co-author of the recent English Heritage book, Great Lengths – the historic indoor swimming pools of Britain.
  • An exhibition of photos, video film, reminiscences and artefacts including old swimming costumes provided by swimming historian Joan Gurney.
  • Guided tours of the baths building, (including the Gala Pool and ‘slipper’ baths) at 12:30 and 15:30.
  • A trip on the Virtual Tour of the baths.
  • Activities for children with a swimming theme.
  • Stalls from local history groups and community swimming organisations.
  • Complimentary refreshments

Visitors will be encouraged to recount (and record) their own memories and bring along their own memorabilia for use in the three-year Pool of Memories project, for which the FofMRB recently submitted a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund.