Art Deco Pool drained

Local papers The Birmingham Post and Birmingham Mail have reported on the last minute pleas to save the Kent Street baths on Kent Street from demolition, (Plea for historic Kent Street baths to be saved, Twentieth Century Society hopes to save Kent Street Baths), while the council proposes a new Olympic size pool and redevelopment of city wide swimming facilities, (Swimming plans for Olympic dream, Birmingham's 20 minute swim, Olympic Pool to boost City's sporting provision).

The historic baths which are Locally Listed as Grade B, "important in the city wide architectural or local street scene context, warranting positive efforts to ensure retention" were the first public swimming facility and wash house opened by the City Council run Birmingham Baths Committee in 1851.

While the baths were opened in May 1851 they were not completed until 1852. The building was designed by D.R.Hill and was in close proximity to the town centre allowing the baths to receive a good amount of water; Ladywell Walk the site of a well is a short distance away. The building contained first and second class swimming baths for men, first and second class baths for women, Turkish baths and laundry facilities. In 1914 a women's swimming baths and baths for women were opened in an adjoining building to the main building on Gooch Street.

In 1930 the main buildings, excluding the women's baths on Gooch Street, were demlished and rebuilt with new facilities in a more modern style. The rebuilt baths contained a gala swimming bath, private baths, Turkish and Russian baths, offices and a repair and maintenance depot. The building opened in 1933, designed by Hurely Robinson, to an art deco design.

The Turkish Baths, reproduced from The City of Birmingham Handbook, 1950, p.71.

The 1930's rebuild produced a neoclassical facade which the Twentieth Century Society has called a superb example which should not be destroyed.

“The frontage is a superb example of a neoclassical facade and should not be destroyed,” she said. “The area is suitable for re-development and it would be a shame to lose another traditional building.”

The bath suffered heavy damage during World War II, losing the gala bath to a night raid on December 3 1940. The Birmingham Baths Committee repaired the baths after the war. The pools closed thirty years ago with the building remaining in use as offices and multi-purpose units until it became derelict five years ago although proposals were mused to convert the building into a gym.

Demolition work began on Tuesday 15th September with Penny Cook Collins, the estate agents working on behalf of owners Benacre Property saying the cost of maintaining the vacant building had led to the decision to tear it down. The decision was blamed on paying Government fees for derelict properties and insurance. Benacre has no plans to re-use the site.

The demolition represents another shameful episode in the council's dereliction in it's duties to protect the heritage of the city in the ever changing regeneration that is taking place and follows Sainsbury's demolition of the Birmingham Battery Office in Selly Oak and the loss of Wesley Richards Gun Factory in Selly Oak which has made way for the Selly Oak New Road. The Baths is an interesting building with historical importance that would offer character to the regeneration of the gay village and wider city amongst increasingly bland new build development.


Anonymous said…
The loss of this important part of Birmingham's architectural heritage and social history is scandalous. What on earth are the City Council thinking of standing by and allowing this orgy of demolition to take place as one by one historic buildings in the city are torn down and replaced by crud (the site of the baths will be a car park). Have they learnt nothing from the terrible mistakes of the 1960s? - are they so stupid that they are repeating the very same blunders that made Birmingham the epitomy of ugliness and the most reviled city centre in England?

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