Raising the Roof on an Edwardian Heritage Gem
Essential roof repairs are complete at the main Gala Pool in the Grade II* listed Moseley Road Baths, Birmingham.
After a year of specialist repair work, the stunning Edwardian architecture takes centre stage again.
Thanks to partnership working between community groups, national and international organisations, and Birmingham City Council the Gala Pool is now able to play an important role as an arts and culture venue while its long-term future is decided.
Historic England has so far grant aided £707,000 to Grade II* listed Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath, one of its largest grants to a project in the Midlands. This funding has ensured the roof is safe and secure, preventing any further weather-related damage to the pool area, which closed in 2003.
The baths were first opened in 1907 and have been on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register since 2005.
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 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.
Moseley Road Baths is one of only a handful of 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.
The smaller pool is operated by the community formed group the Moseley Road Baths CIO, and 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.