Blog

A sponsorship star!

Every so often Friends of Moseley Road Baths get someone who comes along and blows our minds.  It may be someone who tells us about bits of the history of the Baths that we knew nothing about.  It may be someone who gives us pages of petitions out of the blue.  Or, like Philip, it may be someone who lends their talents and charisma to raising money for the building.

On 4th December Philip Morris swam half a mile in Moseley Road Baths, in under half an hour, wearing Edwardian swimming costume.  What’s even more amazing is that the 82 year old athlete has now raised over £350 towards improving changing facilities at the Baths.  We anticipate that the money will be used to provide communal changing space for schools.  We’ll be keeping you posted on our progress with that.

Well done Philip, thanks so much for your energy, enthusiasm and hard work!

Philip prepares to swim
Philip prepares to swim
On your marks
On your marks
Get set...
Get set...
Go!
Go!
First lap complete
First lap complete
...and another one
...and another one
Well underway now!
Well underway now!
Only one more to go now...
Only one more to go now...
Cheered on by FoMRB
Cheered on by FoMRB
Last lap
Last lap
Job well done, £350 raised
Job well done, £350 raised
...and in only half an hour!
...and in only half an hour!
Hard work but worth it
Hard work but worth it
Wheres my medal?
Where's my medal?
Ill settle for a cuppa soup
I'll settle for a cuppa soup
Thanks Philip!
Thanks Philip!

The Works Winter Salon

The Friends of Moseley Road Baths Committee members are a talented bunch – when we’re not busy planning events, running stalls and talking to the press our members always seem to be doing interesting and creative things.

One such person is Viv Harrison, who has exhibited her art work across the city at events including ArtPride, and now at ‘The Works Winter Salon’ which showcases fine art from the holders of The Works Artist Studios.  Have a look at Viv’s website to see a selection of her drawing, illustration, prints and photography.  The exhibition runs at The Works from 8th December until 13th December, and many of the artworks will be available to purchase.

Victoria Baths

Every so often a newsletter pops through my door from the lovely people at Manchester’s gorgeous Victoria Baths.  The building, winner of the BBC’s 2003 ‘Restoration’ programme is a real jewel in the crown of British municipal architecture, and it’s always fantastic and inspiring to receive updates on their work.

In the last few years the Baths have been transformed from a derelict building to a busy heritage visitor attraction.  Last year members of Friends of Moseley Road Baths were lucky enough to spend the day touring the building and witness the restoration ourselves.  The visit was made particularly exciting as the facade of the whole building had recently been completely restored to its former glory, complete with lovely wrought iron fencing, cleaned up terracotta and beautifully restored stained glass windows.  The care and attention given to each little detail is staggering.  It’s well worth having a look at their website to find out how such an immense amount of work has been successfully achieved.

Even if you can’t make the journey up to Manchester yourselves for one of the many open days or arts events that are now taking place there, the chances are that you will have already seen the building without being aware of it.  Amongst other hit TV shows, various parts of the building were used to film the 70s spoof cop show ‘Life on Mars’ and more recently it has formed the backdrop to ‘Casualty 1909’.

Manchester’s Victoria Baths really shows how relevant and exciting our community buildings can be.  Great efforts have been made to get the community through the doors, to collect oral histories and to maintain the integrity of the building.  However, that’s not to say that it’s been an easy ride – all of the people who have worked so hard to get to this stage are to be commended.  Well done, and all the best for the next stages of restoration!

All change for Philip

An 82-year old swimmer is to undertake a dip at historic Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath to raise money to help upgrade changing facilities at the Grade II* Listed building. Philip Morris, who now lives in Stratford-upon-Avon, last swam at Moseley Road Baths in 1934 when he was a pupil at nearby Tindal Street School.

An experienced swimmer, who recently completed a successful fundraising swim at his local pool at Sibford, Mr Morris will be returning to Moseley Road Baths for the first time in over seventy years on Friday December 4th (2pm) aiming to undertake a half-mile non-stop swim – and wearing a vintage swimming costume. All monies raised from the event will go to help fund the installation of additional changing facilities needed to meet increased demand for what is currently Moseley Road Baths’ only operating pool.

Explaining what inspired him to make the swim, Philip Morris says: “In 1934, at the age of seven, I swam my first mile in Moseley Road Bath’s Gala Pool and 75 years on I’m returning to undertake another swimming challenge.”

The event is being supported by the Friends of Moseley Road Baths and members of the group will be in attendance on the day to help verify that Mr. Morris has covered the stated distance. Spokesperson Jen Austin says: “The fact that Philip is prepared to undertake this swim shows the strength of feeling and goodwill that exists towards this fine old building. The money raised will be really appreciated by the local community, as with the city council’s ‘Swim For Free’ scheme’ and an increasing demand for pool time from schools, there is great pressure on the existing changing facilities at Moseley Road Baths.”

Donations can be pledged to Philip Morris directly at philip-morris@supanet.com or on the afternoon of the swim at Moseley Road Baths itself.  If you are around to help cheer him on that would be fantastic!  Good luck Philip!

Coseley Baths Campaign

Last Sunday around 200 local residents and pool users turned out at Coseley near Wolverhampton in the wind and rain, determined to stop the councils plans to demolish their pool.

The building is already shut up and only the presence of a protected species of bat! is stopping the bulldozers moving in. Local MP’s and Councillors spoke at the meeting, and I confirmed the support of Friends of Moseley Road Baths for their campaign. A protest is planned at their next full council meeting.

See Birmingham Mail article: http://www.birminghammail.net/news/birmingham-news/2009/11/23/protesters-demonstrate-against-plan-to-bulldoze-coseley-baths-97319-25231181/

See also Save Coseley Baths on Facebook

Community Pools First!

November public events

On Saturday, November 21st, the Friends of Moseley Road Baths group will be taking part in the annual Birmingham History Day event at the University of Birmingham during which we will be discussing our Pool of Memories project.

Full details of what is a full day’s programme are included below. Admission costs £14 (including lunch), £10 (without lunch).

The following Saturday (November 28th) the Baths feature again in a Birmingham University Day School entitled Buildings at risk in Birmingham and the West Midlands. The event will include a one-hour talk on the history and importance of Moseley Road Baths, it’s current condition and the prospects for its restoration. The speaker will be Steve Beauchampé who is both a member of the Friends group, and one of the team involved in the production of Great Lengths – the historic indoor swimming pools of Britain (Malavan Media, 2009), part of English Heritage’s Played in Britain series of books.

Other buildings to be featured at the Day School include Weoley Castle, Matthew Boulton’s Soho Foundry works and Berthold Lubetkin’s Modernist buildings at Dudley Zoo. The event (which we appreciate is not cheap) costs £34 (lunch and refreshments included).

If you are interested in attending either of these events please contact Sandra Ilott at the university on 0121 415 8102 or e-mail s.e.ilott@bham.co.uk

Birmingham History Day 2009

Saturday 21st November – 10am – 4:50pm

Large Lecture Theatre, Arts Building, Edgbaston Campus, University of Birmingham

10.00am Welcome and Introduction, Malcolm Dick

10.10am Sally Baggott, Matthew Boulton 2009, Past, Present and Future

10.40am Shena Mason, 2009: A Legacy in Print. Matthew Boulton:Selling what all the World Desires’ and A Lost Landscape: Matthew Boulton’s Gardens at Soho

11.10am Refreshments

11.35am Ted Rudge, Winson Green to Brookfields through Time and In and Around Ladywood through Time

11.55am Tony Rees, ‘An Obscure Philanthropist’: Frank Mathews 1871-1948 and the welfare of invalid children

12.25pm Norman Bartlam and the News Team, The History Show DVD

1.00pm Lunch

1.50pm Doreen Hopwood, Sources, databases and websites for Family History at Birmingham Central Library

2.10pm Anna Keast, Winterbourne Memories

2.30pm David Callaghan, ‘History Detectives’, Community driven project to uncover the hidden histories of ethnic minorities who migrated to the West Midlands prior to WWII.

2.50pm Steve Beauchampé and Jenny Austin, Moseley Road Baths, Pool of Memories project

3.20pm Refreshments

3.40pm Sian Roberts, New History Projects in Birmingham Central Library

4.10pm Henrietta Lockhart, Birmingham – A City in the Making. Planning the New History Galleries in Birmingham Museum

4.40pm Final Questions

4.50pm Finish

Support Coseley Baths Campaign

There will be a protest outside Coseley Baths on Sunday 22nd November at 11am. The pool is due to be demolished – another community pool gone. The address for the Baths is Peartree Lane Coseley – postcode is WV14 8HA, there are 3 Peartree lanes in the Black Country so make sure you go to the right one! It is near Coseley Station.

For more information please have a look at the following film about the Coseley Baths campaign; the music was composed for the campaign.  You can also join their Facebook Group page here.

Swimming Without Water

We’re very pleased to announce that a very talented group of artists have successfully been granted Arts Council funding for an art project, called ‘Swimming Without Water’ at Moseley Road Baths, in our very own Gala Pool!

The group are anxious to make use of the space, raising awareness of that part of the building and showcasing their own work against the backdrop of the gorgeous Edwardian Pool.  Artists Flora Gare, Debbie Akam and Tim Skinner will  be working in the Baths and within the local community to create their work.  More information on the project will soon appear on their website – http://swimmingwithoutwater.org/

We’ll be keeping you updated on the project.  Exciting times!

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!