New association aims to protect Britain's historic pools

Image: Moseley Road Baths

A new association has been set up to support the protection and restoration of the UK’s heritage swimming baths and lidos.

Historic Pools of Britain launched in London last week and set out its aims to celebrate and protect the hundreds of indoor and outdoor pools in the UK, mostly pre-dating 1939, and to recognise the role they play in our communities today.

Loyd Grossman, television presenter, food critic and chair of the Heritage Alliance, commented: "We have a responsibility to protect this important part of our architectural and social heritage.  I know from my own experience with the Heritage Alliance, that joining forces to campaign, build advocacy and share knowledge will go a long way to support community groups of passionate volunteers who are fighting for their local pool, recognising it as an asset, not a liability.”  

The association is following on from the success of local campaigns, which have saved three such pools from closure and helped two re-open in the last three months. Campaigners seek community ownership or operator and local authority partnerships for the pools.

Recent victories include Newcastle’s former City Pool, Northumberland Baths and Turkish Baths, Govanhill Baths in Glasgow and Bon Accord Baths in Aberdeen. Of the 116 listed baths buildings in the UK, only 52 are operational or in the process of being refurbished. 

According to Ian Gordon, author of Great Lengths and former doctor to the Great Britain swimming team, the historic swimming pools most at risk are Grade II listed derelict baths Greengate Baths in Salford, Edwardian-style Haggerston Baths in Hackney, and Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath, Birmingham; the most intact Edwardian pool in the UK and still partly open.