Saturday, July 15, 2006

Update on Conservation Survey of Moseley Road baths – 15th July 2006 – initial results of the Historical Review

The findings of the different stages of the Conservation Survey of Moseley Road baths are coming in thick-and-fast. Below are the initial findings of the historical survey of these baths. These findings will provide the conservation philosophy for the future use and any alterations to the buildings ie what can and can not be changed

Background to the Conservation Survey
Moseley Road baths and library are in the middle of a Conservation Survey which is a pre-requisite for a Heritage Lottery bid.

The Heritage Lottery bid for restoring these buildings needs to lodged by December 2006, so that the £1million used during repair works in 2004/5 can qualify as match funding.

The Conservation Survey is on target to be completed by 22nd September 2006. This is so as to allow approval by the Council Cabinet for a Heritage lottery bid in December.

There are various stages to the Conservation Survey: Historical Review, Structural survey, Fabric condition; Conservation Management Plan. All of these are now in full swing.

Initial findings of the Historical Survey
The importance of Moseley Road baths on a national context
· It is safe to say that Moseley Road baths are one of the most important swimming baths in Britain from a conservation point of view. Indeed, it could argued that from a social history perspective it one of the most important buildings in Britain!
· Moseley Road baths are one of four swimming baths that are statutory listed grade II* in all of Britain. It is the only one out of these four that is still operating as a swimming baths.
· Moseley Road baths is now recognized to one of the twelve most important public swimming baths built in Britain during the Victorian (1839 to 1901) and Edwardian (1901 to 1914) periods. It is the only Edwardian swimming pool out of these twelve that is still open. Only a handful of the Victorian baths are still open, but most of them have been significantly altered internally.
· Moseley Road baths contains the only complete collection of slipper baths in Britain. The slipper baths are the cast iron baths that members of the public would wash themselves in. These were still in operation until October 2004 and the intention is to re-open them. In all other public baths these have long being removed.
· Moseley Road baths contains the last remaining example of an intact laundry room in a public swimming baths – it still has its huge cast iron drying racks for towels. No other similar drying rack is known to exist.
· Moseley Road baths still contains its huge cast iron water tank in the boiler tank – it has not been used in living memory. No other similar cast iron tank is known to still exist in a public swimming baths. The cast iron tank was used to store water from a nearby water well.
· The two large Edwardian filter tanks, which keep the water clean, are considered to be rare. They are still used to keep the water clean.
· The floor plan is considered to be both innovative and unique. The swimming baths used a central ticket office at a hub of corridors to keep First Class and Second Class customers separate.
· No other swimming baths retains so clearly the way First and Second class customers were kept separate. From a social history point of view, Moseley Road baths is of up most national importance.

The theory behind the layout of Moseley Road baths
Moseley Road baths had three entrances:
a) First Class males to access either Pool 1 or the First Class wash rooms
b) Second Class males to access either Pool 2 or the Second Class wash rooms
c) First and Second females to access either the First class female wash rooms or the Second class female wash rooms.

All three entrances lead to a square shaped central ticket office. Two of the three the counters for the ticket office still exist. The counter for the First Class males has gone and made into the tea room. This is the only real major change to the entire building since it opened.

Points to note:
· Women were not allowed to swim.
· First and Second class women had to share the same entrance and corridor, although they used separate wash facilities.
· The First class swimming pool (pool 1) is very extravagant in design and details
· The Second class swimming pool (pool 2) is very plain. Indeed pool 2 did not have same brick-and-wood cubicles as pool 1. Pool 2 users had to use a curtain to protect their modesty from other users.

The first and second class male corridors contained an attendant office where customers were given a towel and trunks. These would then be washed and dried afterwards in the laundry room.

The conservation philosophy of any proposed changes.
· It is important that the floor plan of the building is retained, so that the way First and Second Class customers were kept separate is clear.
· Pool 1 (first class men) must be retained as swimming baths.
· It would be preferable to retain Pool 2 (second class male) as swimming baths, but if it is decided not to retain them, then any changes must be reversible. Ie a frame should be constructed inside the pool room, so as to preserve it. This would enable the room to be re-converted to a swimming pool at a later date.
· If the laundry room is converted into offices, then the drying racks need to be retained, plus any other features that indicate how the room operated. For example, there are some concrete stubs on the floor of this room, whose original purpose is still not understood. Work on understanding how the room operated is still ongoing.
· The cast iron water tank should be retained.
· The two Edwardian water filters should be retained. One of the filters has recently been cleaned after more than 20 years operation and the swimming pool staff say the water has never been so clean.
· It is important that one room full of operational cast iron slipper baths (wash tubs) is open to the public.


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