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.

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.

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:

http://www.friendsofmrb.co.uk/2009/10/memories-and-memorabilia-day/

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!

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.