The future of the Baths

Moseley Road Baths was for many years under threat of closure. Faced with the potential loss of a cherished community facility, local people campaigned to keep their pool open. So significant are the Baths that the Friends of Moseley Road Baths secured the interest of World Monuments Fund, who in 2016 added the building to a biennial selection of at-risk cultural heritage sites that combine great international, historical significance with contemporary social impact. The Baths also feature on Historic England’s ‘at risk’ Register.

In 2016 a group of organisations came together to form a ‘coalition of the willing’, led by the National Trust, to work alongside Birmingham City Council (who owns the building) to reimagine a new future of the Baths with swimming at its heart. Working together, so far the ‘coalition’ has contributed over £2m of time, expertise and funding: Historic England kicked off the first phase of work with a major grant to restore the Gala Pool roof with match funding from Birmingham City Council in addition to a second grant to repair the roof over the caretaker’s flat; World Monuments Fund is supporting works to the façade of the building; the National Trust is leading the master-planning process; and most importantly of all, Moseley Road Baths CIO is running a swimming offer in ‘Pool Two’ aimed at meeting the needs of the local community – all with significant support from a committed group of local volunteers.

Back in February 2020, thanks to an £800,000 investment from Historic England and Birmingham City Council, the restoration of the Gala Pool roof was completed, so the space could once again be enjoyed. This was the first phase of major repairs to the building and the result of years of work by the ‘Moseley Road Baths coalition’, a unique partnership led by the National Trust, and involving Moseley Road Baths CIO, Birmingham City Council, Historic England, the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, and World Monuments Fund, working together to reimagine a new future for the baths with swimming still at its heart. In the meantime, Moseley Road Baths remains proudly open for swimming in Pool Two.

Keeping swimming going is just one part of the challenge: a multi-million-pound capital repair programme is needed to repair the whole of the building and safeguard its future. Watch this space…

About the coalition:

Moseley Road Baths are the only baths in the country built before 1914 to have continuously hosted swimming since they opened. The baths, which are operated by a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), are currently closed due to Covid restrictions. The baths were first opened in 1907 and have been on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register since 2005. The baths are significant due to the architectural quality and remarkably complete interior. Rare fixtures and fittings are still intact, including an almost complete set of 46 private washing rooms known as the ‘slipper baths’. The oak ticket offices, marble water fountains and attendants’ kiosks, and possibly the only surviving steam-heated drying racks in a British swimming pool, also remain in place, making this space a real time capsule.

Copyright Mark Anton Smith

Moseley Road Baths CIO

Moseley Road Baths Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) was set up at the end of 2017 with the aim of ensuring that the people of Balsall Heath can continue to enjoy fitness and wellbeing activity and swimming lessons that would otherwise be unavailable to them because of the cost or need to travel.

The CIO took over the day to day running of swimming at Moseley Road Baths at the beginning of April 2018 on a business-like but not-for-profit basis. Trustees are members of the local community and regular swimmers at the pool and many have been involved for some years in the campaign to try to save this Grade II* historic baths. The CIO has a business plan which shows that, with a part staff and part volunteer model, the pool should be able to sustain itself after three years.

Friends of Moseley Road Baths

The Friends of Moseley Road Baths were formed in 2006 to campaign against the City Council’s proposal to close down the building. It succeeded in keeping the baths open for a number of years. But it was succeeded by another group which eventually became the MRB Charitable Incorporated Organisation, which formed the Coalition which includes the Friends and Historic England, and which now manages swimming at the baths. The Friends continue to support the operation of the building, and to publicise its many successes.

Birmingham City Council

Birmingham City Council delivers more than 700 services to a population in excess of 1.1 million citizens. The council has an annual budget of £3.1billion and employs just under 9,000 FTE (Full Time Equivalent) members of staff. The council owns the Moseley Road Baths and continues to support the coalition to keep swimming open for everyone.

Historic England

Historic England is the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s spectacular historic environment, from beaches and battlefields to parks and pie shops. We protect, champion and save the places that define who we are where we’ve come from as a nation. We care passionately about the stories they tell, the ideas they represent and the people who live, work and play among them. Working with communities and specialists we share our passion, knowledge and skills to inspire interest, care and conservation, so everyone can keep enjoying and looking after the history that surrounds us all.

National Trust

The National Trust is a conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people: Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley, who saw the importance of the nation’s heritage and open spaces and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy. Today, across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we continue to look after places so people and nature can thrive. The challenges of the coronavirus pandemic have shown this is more important than ever. In Birmingham, we are working in partnership with others to celebrate, help care for and protect a range of places and outdoors spaces that are important to local people, and of which the City can be proud.

World Monuments Fund

World Monuments Fund is the leading independent organization devoted to saving the world’s treasured places. For more than 50 years, working in more than 100 countries, its highly skilled experts have applied proven and effective techniques to the preservation of important architectural and cultural heritage sites around the globe. Through partnerships with local communities, funders, and governments, WMF seeks to inspire an enduring commitment to stewardship for future generations. Headquartered in New York City, the organization has offices and affiliates worldwide.

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