“To give so much to a grand country house (Wentworth Woodhouse) and nothing to Moseley Road Baths (or other neglected listed buildings) suggests a snobbery about “heritage”. Municipal baths are as important a part of our history – social and architectural – as aristocratic seats”.
So wrote architectural historian.Gavin Stamp (right) this week.
He asks if Birmingham City Council is happy to contemplate the loss of the fine and well-used swimming pool at Moseley Road Baths (below) – one of only three swimming pool structures still in operation listed at Grade II* and well-supported by an active and enterprising ‘Friends’ association.
Professor Stamp points out that Birmingham city council had for years ’run, neglected and threatened to shul the complex’. Moreover, in 2012 the Heritage Lottery Fund offered £5m towards its restoration, but the council to refused to contribute the matching £3m – which Stamp finds ‘particularly reprehensible’’.
Our readers from further afield (yesterday coming from UK, USA, Mexico, Germany, Azerbaijan, India and Ireland) may read more about this in the Birmingham Post.
Stamp describes the Baths as one of the finest Edwardian bath buildings anywhere, with two fine swimming pools covered by arched iron and glass ceilings and two ‘unique survivals’, an intact set of private washing baths and a set of steam-heated drying racks.
The first class men’s pool above – considered by Simon Inglis, historian of swimming pools, as “the mosl dramatic Edwardian pool hall in Britain” – closed in 2003 but survives intact.
Stamp concedes that historic baths are expensive to run and maintain, but can be restored to stay in use, as the pools in Camberwell and Kentish Town demonstrate.
In the words of the World Monuments Fund, if Moseley Road Baths were restored, it “would continue to serve a diverse urban community in the 21st century and would join other destinations in Birmingham that proudly recount the social history of the city.”
Main source: Gavin Stamp as ‘Piloti’ in Issue 1436, Private Eye.