Last Sunday we welcomed over 130 people through the doors of historic Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath not to swim, but to enjoy and learn about the history of these Edwardian Grade II* public baths.
Birmingham Conservation Trust worked with the Friends of Moseley Road Baths and pool staff to run a ‘behind the scenes’ afternoon as part of the community consultation we are carrying out to help shape the Activity Plan for the Heritage Lottery Fund (round 1) application being submitted by the city council later this year.
It was a fantastic afternoon – with over a third of visitors from Balsall Heath itself. 15% of our visitors had travelled from outside Birmingham, from as far as Leicester and Warwick. It’s amazing how word spreads amongst heritage enthusiasts when you have the opportunity to explore places you don’t usually get to see!
Huge thank you to the wonderful volunteers from BCT and FoMRB for making the event possible!
We asked visitors to come up with their ideas about what kind of history and heritage-related activities they would like to see at the Baths alongside restoration work; to be inspired by the building and its spaces and give us their suggestions on how to encourage people to visit or get involved with the Baths – not just to swim, but to explore and appreciate their local heritage.
Our tree, just like at the Eid Mela, two weeks previously, was soon full of leaves (and when we ran out of leaf post-its, apples as well!)
Activity ideas included Edwardian swim parties, dressing up the Baths as a living museum, site-specific theatre productions and more tours and coffee mornings. It was really interesting to hear suggestions for the longer-term restoration of the Baths as well. Visitors saw the Gala Pool being used long term as a cinema and for ballroom dances, as a theatre venue, film set or ice skating rink as well as a swimming pool. Many people wanted to see some of the slipper baths being used as treatment and spa rooms, private reading and internet rooms (linked to the library) and of course, used for their original purpose as assisted private bathroom facilities for older people, followed by a coffee and a natter!
The consultation work continues. BCT have a stall at Joseph Chamberlain College’s Freshers Fair tomorrow, and are holding focus groups with professionals from the arts and cultural sector, school teachers and education professionals, and a parents from Balsall Heath Children’s Centre amongst others over the next few weeks. For some of these Suzanne is joining forces with Rachel from the Friends of MRB who is managing the Pool of Memories oral history project and developing further relationships and resources with schools as part of their current HLF funded project.
Has anyone got any memories of dancing at Moseley Road Baths? (In the old days during winter the small pool would be covered over for tea dances and concerts).
We would love to hear any memories or ideas for heritage activity at the Baths.