Renovations are underway on the Grade II listed internationally renowned renaissance baths in Balsall Heath, Birmingham.
The baths were closed in 2003, but in April 2018, the Moseley Road Baths Actions Group and Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), including the ‘Friends of Moseley Road Baths’ took over running the baths as a non-profit community enterprise.
They are now working with heritage partners The National Trust, World Monuments Fund and Historic England, alongside Birmingham City Council, not least because the building retains many of its original features.
The Friends group wanted to keep the building open, and they’ve been hosting activities and events in the space, as well as work tirelessly to secure its future.
The renovations which started back in January are focused on the pool roof. It’s hoped the work will bring the community back together again and provide a safe space for local people to enjoy.
Libby Watts, an architect at Donald Insall Associates, is part of the team working on the revamp.
“1907 was the arts and crafts movement, just past Edwardian times. For us, its about craftsmanship, this building and the contractors who have worked on it, are all very highly skilled and trained, the stain glass has been done by a specialist who has been trained for years to learn how to do stain glass.
The pointing is all lime, all done by and external specialist.”Libby Watts, Donald Insall Associates
To get the pool up and running, Libby says that first and foremost, the space itself needs to be safe to be in.
“The most important point is the structural repairs, this space was deemed dangerous to enter, so structurally we have repaired the steel and timbers in the roof allowing it to be watertight, and structurally sound and stable.
Moseley Road Baths has a long history in the community. It originally opened in 1907, first as a communal swimming pool and washing baths.
They are the oldest of only three bathing complexes in Britain and are still in operation today.
With the building being such a historical landmark in the area, Libby wants to make sure that the most important parts of its history are being preserved.
Local resident, Graham, who’s 63, was an avid user of the pool as a child. It was the pool that he was taught to swim in.
“I taught my children to swim in this pool, my children taught their children to swim in the pool that is still open here. I would hope that this space can be for them what it was and still is for me, somewhere that people can come to relax, have quality family time and make memories like mine, that have lasted a lifetime.”
£700,000 has already been spent on the refurbishments so far, and 50 weeks spent working on the interior. Libby Watts hopes the build will help the community both financially and physically.
“This building is about health and well-being. We have got one pool that had remained open but unfortunately, the amount of money you can gain from that isn’t enough. So by doing these repairs and having the rest of the building to back that up, hopefully, you can retain swimming for the community, but also have a building that can pay for itself without relying on the need for council funding.”
The long-term fate of the building has yet to be decided, but residents are hoping that if the community pulls together, it will last for another one hundred years to come.