If you are old enough to remember, or you have ever visited Birmingham’s ‘Back to Backs’ (restored historical houses near the City Centre), you will know that many houses in Birmingham did not have their own bathrooms until the 1950s. Toilets were usually outside, and quite often shared with other houses. Each house would have just one tap in the kitchen. This would be a cold tap; if you wanted hot water you would need to heat water over the coal fired stove.
Running a bath involved getting the water from the tap, heating it on the stove and gradually filling up a bath made of tin in the kitchen or front room. This took a long time, so baths usually only happened once a week, and everyone used the same water.
All that changed when Public Washing Baths, like the ones at Moseley Road Baths opened. For just a small amount of money it was possible to have a hot bath in a private cubicle. It was even possible to hire a towel and soap. The ‘Baths Attendant’ filled up the Bath with hot water and then took the handle of the tap away to stop people from using too much water. There was an electric bell that you could press to get the attention of the attendant if you wanted anything or felt ill. There were so many people who wanted to have a bath that bathers could only stay in for a maximum of 30 minutes.
Baths like these were often called ‘Slipper Baths’ as in the 1800s baths had covers on which were designed to keep the water warm when you were sat in it. It looked a bit like a slipper!
There are 46 baths at Moseley Road Baths, divided into ‘Men’s First Class’, ‘Men’s Second Class’ and ‘Women’. There is no other complete set of baths like this in the country which makes Moseley Road Baths very special!