Raising the Roof on Edwardian Heritage Gem

Roof repairs are complete at Moseley Road Bath’s Gala Pool and and the media are due to take an exclusive ‘dip’ on Wednesday 12th February! This is the first time in 17 years the press and public will see this structure without scaffolding or debris detracting from its stunning architecture. 

Historic photograph of the Gala pool in use, contribution to the Friends of Moseley Road Baths’ National Lottery funded “Pool of Memories” project 2010-2013: Friends of Moseley Road Baths’ “Pool of Memories”

The pool area will now serve as an exciting arts venue, especially in the run up to the Commonwealth Games, while its long-term future is considered. 

Thanks to partnership working between community groups, national and international organisations and Birmingham City Council, the Gala Pool in the Grade II* listed baths has undergone extensive roof repairs. 

Historic England has so far grant aided £707,000, one of its largest grants to a project in the Midlands, to ensure the roof is safe and secure, preventing any further weather-related damage to the pool area, which closed in 2003. 

“Moseley Road Baths has been a key Heritage at Risk project for us for some time now and we’re so keen to see this special building’s future secured. We have provided many years of technical advice and expertise, project support and several grants. The completion of the roof repairs is a major step towards returning this extraordinary site to its former glory”.

Historic England’s Regional Director Midlands, Louise Brennan

The stunning Edwardian architecture takes centre stage again and the press are invited to take a first look at the Gala Pool as it prepares to play an important role as an arts and culture venue while its long-term future is decided.

2018 – The Gala pool, Moseley Road Baths, Birmingham. The building opened in 1907 and is one of the most complete examples of Edwardian Bath Houses in England. The building has been on the Heritage at Risk Register since 2005. Copyright Historic England

On Wednesday, February 12, from 10am the media are invited to take a tour of the Gala Pool, with representatives from the local community, Historic England, Birmingham City Council, the National Trust, the World Monuments Fund and Moseley Road Baths CIO available for interview. 

With the roof repairs complete work can take place on restoring other elements of the Gala Pool’s deteriorated infrastructure, including the balcony area. This will sit alongside on-going repairs and maintenance of the rest of this magnificent building. 

“The restoration of the Gala Pool roof is a brilliant and exciting statement of intent for the future of Moseley Road Baths, one which will support community and fundraising activities to help sustain both the swimming operation and the future restoration of the baths for the benefit of the people of Balsall Heath and wider Birmingham. We’ve a long way to go but by all working together we’re confident we will get there.” 

National Trust’s Assistant Director, Lucy Reid

The baths were first opened in 1907 and have been on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register since 2005. The baths are so significant because of the architectural quality and remarkably complete interior. Rare fixtures and fittings are still intact, including an almost complete set of 46 private washing rooms known as the ‘slipper baths’ – the only complete set in the country. The oak ticket offices and attendants’ kiosks, and possibly the only surviving steam-heated drying racks in a British swimming pool, also remain in place, making this space a real time capsule.

Historic photograph of the Gala pool in use – taken at a Brownies gala in the 1980s. Contributed by Deborah Taylor to the Friends of Moseley Road Baths’ National Lottery funded “Pool of Memories” project 2010-2013: Friends of Moseley Road Baths’ “Pool of Memories”

Moseley Road Baths are the oldest of only five Grade II* listed swimming baths operating in Britain and an iconic element of this part of Birmingham. They are the only baths in the country built before 1914 to have continuously hosted swimming since they opened. 

Indeed, the smaller pool, operated by the community formed group the Moseley Road Baths CIO, is open for public swimming. It has taken a coalition of the CIO, Friends of Moseley Road Baths, Historic England, National Trust, World Monuments Fund and the building’s owner Birmingham City Council, which has contributed £100,000 to a programme of repairs, to ensure the whole of the building was saved from closure. 

“I’m so excited to see the restoration of the Gala Pool roof and the future benefit it will bring to the community in Balsall Heath. With the Commonwealth Games on the horizon, this is a fantastic time for this iconic building to be repaired so that people of all ages can get involved in swimming and other community activities where they can learn and improve their skills in a stunning setting. This is a landmark moment and one which, I hope provides a roadmap for future projects across Birmingham.” 

Birmingham City Council cabinet member for health and social care, Cllr Paulette Hamilton

“We were delighted to place Moseley Road Baths on the World Monuments Watch in 2016, one of just fifty extraordinary historic sites from across the globe that also included the World Heritage Sites of ancient Petra in Jordan and the Great Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe. It’s wonderful to see real progress that ensures this much-loved local building will have a future.” 

World Monuments Fund Britain’s executive director, John Darlington

The hope is that now the Gala pool space is weatherproof, it can be used for events and fundraising activities to help with the costs of running the baths. The first of these events is an art installation, Specular Reflecular, coproduced by Trust New Art, the CIO and local residents. The artists Juneau Projects worked with the local community to produce hand-drawn animation celebrating the baths, and this will be shown from 5-28 March. 

“Moseley Road Baths has been an important building for Balsall Heath for 112 years, not just as a swimming pool but as a meeting place and a focal point for community activism. These repairs are hugely important to MRB CIO and the community of swimmers we represent as they have made this stunning space accessible again. We’re excited about all the future events which will take place in the Gala Pool.” 

Moseley Road Baths CIO trustee Kat Pearson