Agreement on future of Moseley Road Baths
The Moseley Road Baths coalition and Birmingham City Council have agreed today (6 March) on a plan of action to keep people swimming at the historic Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath.
At the city council’s Cabinet meeting, it was agreed that a licence to operate swimming would be granted for three years to the Moseley Road Baths Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) which has been formed by Moseley Road Baths Action Group. The council also agreed to retain responsibility for the maintenance of the building and the pool for the same period of time and invest £100,000 in repair and maintenance over the next 12 months. This is in addition to the council grant of £100,000 to help with roof repairs agreed in June 2017.
It is the latest development in the campaign by local people and national and international heritage organisations to keep the pool open for swimming and ensure there is a sustainable future for the building. Last year, the Moseley Road Baths coalition was formed including the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, Moseley Road Baths Action Group, Historic England, and World Monuments Fund, led by the National Trust. Working together with Birmingham City Council, the team is seeking to secure a sustainable future for what is one of Birmingham’s most important heritage buildings and one of the UK’s most significant swimming pools. Moseley Road Baths is so special that it was added to World Monuments Fund’s Watch List – including buildings from around the globe – in 2016.
Also announced at the Cabinet meeting was over £1 million of grant funding and resource from the heritage organisations to be channelled into emergency repairs and developing a robust plan for the future. This includes a grant of £659,000 from Historic England to repair the roof above the Gala Pool in addition to expert advice and support, a £300,000 package of technical support from the National Trust and £100,000 from World Monuments Fund.
Karen Leach, the Chair of the Moseley Road Baths CIO, said: “We are thrilled with the outcome of today’s Cabinet meeting – it is all we could have hoped for and more. We will maintain swimming at these beautiful baths and a process has been started to repair and restore the building.”
The agreement with Birmingham City Council is the latest good news for Moseley Road Baths. At the end of last year the CIO raised £26,495 through a crowdfunding campaign to recruit and train volunteer lifeguards and swim leaders. This means it is ready to take over all swimming activities at the baths on Tuesday, 3 April.
Councillor Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “I know how much Moseley Road Baths mean to the community and the campaigners deserve a great deal of credit for their dedication over a number of years. So I'm absolutely delighted that we've been able to take these important steps to protect and preserve such a significant building, ensuring that it is not only a part of Birmingham’s history, but a part of our present and future too.”
Veryan Heal, Planning Director West Midlands, Historic England said: "Moseley Road Baths are nationally important as well as being an irreplaceable part of Birmingham’s heritage. The Gala Pool roof will be repaired and we hope that when the work is complete, this truly beautiful building will be available for public use. Moseley Road Baths has been one of Historic England’s top Heritage at Risk priorities for some years, and I am delighted at the part we are playing to save it for generations to come."
The Baths are of great heritage significance and are an important part of our city’s identity.
Moseley Road Baths are the only Grade II* baths that predate 1914 still open for swimming. One of the oldest of five Grade II* listed baths in the country, they contain some unique fixtures and fittings, including a complete set of 46 private washing rooms with baths (in use until 2004), and original oak ticket offices and attendants’ kiosks. They also boast possibly the only surviving steam-heated drying racks in a British swimming pool, and spectator gallery wrapping around three sides of the building with unique balconettes in the Gala or First Class pool.
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 their World Monuments Watch List of 50 important buildings and monuments from across the globe.
Built to encourage Balsall Heath to join the Corporation of Birmingham in 1907, the Baths and the adjacent library are full of glorious details and both interior and exterior are a real testament to the designers, manufacturers and workmanship of Birmingham and Britain at this time. It spoke of a huge civic pride of a city and its people.