First opened to the public in 1907 and steeped in rich cultural history, Moseley Road Baths can be counted as one of Birmingham’s hottest tickets into the past
The oldest Grade II listed swimming baths in the country, Moseley Road Baths is exceptionally grand in scale and architectural detail. A Gothic Renaissance structure made of red brick and terracotta, the building is also remarkably well-preserved, considering its age, with most of the original features, fixtures and fittings still in place. Despite years of struggle with funding, and a recent lengthy closure for repairs, the Baths reopened in April and the pool was subsequently listed as one of the Independent’s ‘50 Best Swimming Pools.’ I went along to check out this Birmingham treasure and found it just as enchanting as I expected.
REMINDERS OF A BYGONE AGE
I went to the Baths just before lunch to make use of the hour dedicated to lane swimming. Before entering the Baths, there is a moment of uncertainty as I walk past imposing entrances which declare’ ‘MEN’S BATHS’ and ‘WOMEN’S BATHS’, a quaint reminder of a bygone age. But these entrances stay firmly shut, at least for the time being. Today, everyone enters the remaining open pool using the main entrance. Once inside, I wait at the original, Edwardian oak ticket office and pay £3.60 for an adult swim, although it’s still possible to use a Leisure Card and swim for free at certain times of day.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF SWIM
The first noticeable detail in the pool area is the extraordinarily high ceiling and large, elegant windows, which mean that on a sunny day, light streams through onto the pool. The second thing I notice is the lack of lockers for my things. Following the lead of other swimmers, I get changed in a cubicle by the pool and leave my things there. This seems to be the system used by most people, although there are small lockers available for swimmers to store their valuables.
Swimming in the pool feels quite luxurious, despite the shabby chic feel of the space, because there is so much space, air and light. The room is lofty and echoing and it’s easy to picture turn of the century swimmers enjoying a relaxing swim here, all those years ago.
After a quick shower by the pool (in full view of the other swimmers – better have a proper wash when I get home, then), my things are, thankfully, still where I left them, and getting dressed actually seems less hassle than the usual traipse around a sweaty changing area. I step out through the antique lobby feeling refreshed and relaxed.
SAVING THE BATHS
While still in a perilous situation in terms of funding and repairs, Moseley Road Baths are thankfully supported by a dedicated group of fans, the Friends of Moseley Road Baths. The group, which has campaigned to save the building for a number of years, is currently contributing their efforts towards a second refurbishment project which will see the building rewired and reroofed.