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Pool of Memories Book now for sale

We are absolutely thrilled to announce that copies of our book about the history of Moseley Road Baths is now for sale at our new website:

‘Pool of Memories – A History of Moseley Road Baths’ tells the 105-year old story of Birmingham’s Grade II* Moseley Road Swimming Baths in Balsall Heath. Author Steve Beauchampé has brought together over three years of research and interviews to produce a comprehensive account of the building’s history.

Pool of Memories cover

The 152-page book features memories drawn from an archive of almost 100 current and former Baths users collected of over the past three years by members of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths. Combined with this the book contains research tracing the building’s development and history dating back to the 1890s.

Also featuring a wealth of never before published photographs Pool of Memories – A History of Moseley Road Baths tells how the baths were built, explains its’ many rare or unique architectural features, and the importance of the three ‘slipper’ bath departments. The building’s contribution to the war effort, tales of its life as ‘Moseley Road Super Ballroom’ and its’ rôle in school and club swimming are also covered. A venue for art events, film and TV programmes, the Baths have also been used for synchronised swimming, baptisms and even underwater hockey!


Jennifer Austin, Chair of the Friends’ Group said, “For more than a century, Moseley Road Baths has been a hub of the community, providing swimming and bathing facilities for generations of local people. The Pool of Memories book helps preserve the stories of those who have swum, socialised, washed or worked there, providing a valuable archive of this nationally important building and its rôle in Birmingham’s history.

Buy your copy using PayPal at or contact Jennifer Austin on 07521 734 022 if you wish to use another method of payment or if you would like multiple copies for a group. The book costs £12 if collected from the Baths, £15 including postage and packaging.

Celebrate Pool of Memories!

You are all most warmly welcome to come along to our final ‘Pool of Memories’ event which will mark the end of our three year Heritage Lottery Fund supported oral history project. We have an exhibition, films, audio recordings, period costumes, free swimming and of course plenty of tea, coffee and cake! Bring the whole family!

Final flyer front a

The event will be a celebration of the hard work of volunteers and staff who have contributed their efforts to creating a vast archive of memories of those who have swam, socialised, worked, washed and danced there. We have seen nine year olds quizzing pensioners about 1p Bovril, project staff have created swimming races in school halls, we learnt about daredevil stunts in the Gala Pool, heard about GIs jiving in Pool 2, about Blitz survivors being bandaged up in the ‘Casualty’ department, the shark in the water tank and we even found out about Norman Wisdom running around the Slipper Baths!

Final flyer back a

Visitors to the event will get to see our new exhibition which captures just a handful of these stories and there will also be opportunity to view oral history interviews that pupils from around the area have worked hard to produce. The day will have a 1940s feel to it – you may see a few characters from the archive on the day!

There is a FREE splash swim session, 3-4pm when we will get the floats out for a fun swim. As much as we want to celebrate the history of the building, no celebration is complete without remembering that the joy of swimming lies at the heart of the building.

We will be taking pre-orders for our book, ‘Pool of Memories – A History of Moseley Road Baths’, a detailed history of the building by Steve Beauchampé. Teachers can also learn more about our forthcoming teaching resource pack.

We look forward to seeing you!

Pool of Memories

Sunday 24th February, 2:00pm-5:30pm

Moseley Road Baths

Memorabilia Event and Open Day – 24th February

IMG_0464Come and join us on Sunday 24th February between 2:00 and 5:00pm at Moseley Road Baths for our latest memorabilia and open day. Events on the day will include:

  • An opportunity to explore normally closed areas of the baths
  • Visit our heritage exhibition
  • Enjoy a free Splash session 3-4pm (*places are limited and children must be with an adult)
  • And to celebrate the achievements of dedicated local volunteers who have pulled together an extensive archive of oral stories.

Even squirrels want to swim!

Jenny Austin has been co-ordinating oral history interviews with volunteers over the course of the project.  We have a team of people who have gone to people’s houses and attended local events, collecting people’s reminiscences on audio recorder.  We now have almost 60 individuals who we have spoken to!  Here Jenny shares some of the highlights of the project:

We interviewed staff at Moseley Road. As Pool users will know, there’s a great team of long serving staff at Moseley Road, and we wanted to record their memories of the Pool.

Pic - Tony WalkerThe stories that stick in my mind are the funny ones: Tony’s story of the day a squirrel got trapped in the building and made a flying leap into the water, to be fished out mid stroke by a lane swimmer who calmly carried on (the squirrel was ok, and eventually released outside!)

Then there was the day a bunch of “hippies” in the 1980’s who turned up and wanted to swim naked (that wasn’t allowed) or the guy who wandered in off the street, and jumped in the pool fully clothed – he had to be persuaded out.

There were memories of film work at the Pool: Dalziel and Pascoe (an episode with Norman Wisdom the comedian), and filming for the TV version of D. H. Lawrence’s “The Rainbow”.

We had some great stories from a retired local head teacher, Mel Matthews from Park Hill Primary, who had strong links to the pool through his lifesaving qualifications. The Pool was used for lifesaving training, and Mel also encouraged as many children as possible at his school to learn to swim. One small child had told Mel he “could swim a length of the bath”, and when they got to the Pool, he jumped in. But he sank like a stone, and had to be rescued. Turns out he meant he “could swim a length of the bath – at home!”

Pic - Ruth Dickinson (2)

We were also lucky to come across Ruth Dickinson who we think is our oldest swimmer so far – her memories of the Pool date back to the 1920’s. Can anyone beat that? We arranged for her to return to the Pool for her interview – she enjoyed visiting the Pool for the first time in over 80 years.

We found out that swimming plays a big part in the lives of local women who come to the extremely popular “women only” sessions on Mondays and Tuesdays. I interviewed some of the women at the Pool, and found a family where 3 generations were swimming – all the girls had learnt to swim at Moseley when at school.

We’re now working on transcribing and editing the memories we have, though more are always welcome.

Jen Austin


The Play House bring history to life!

During the Spring Term (I know, we’re behind with the updates!), The Play House worked their magic by bringing the oral histories we have collected to life for over 700 local pupils. Characters (based upon the accounts members of the public have shared with us) helped to tell the story of the building and its people throughout its history. Pupils had opportunity to meet architect William Hale, speak with the Baths superintendent, learn about ritual cleansing in the Slipper Baths and take part in their own swimming gala!

The Play House - Pool of Memories

There is more information on the project on the webpages The Play House have developed for the project. These include extensive resources for staff and pupils to deepen their understanding of the building, local history and collecting oral histories.

Have you been involved in a MRB art project?

Moseley Road Baths has always been a real inspiration to people doing creative, exciting things. A couple of weeks ago editorialgirl took a tour of the building and took this wonderful selection of photos, which complement her previous collection from 2009′s Flickrmeet for local photographers which we featured on here at the time.

We’re wanting to hear from others who have been involved in arts events at the Baths:

Have you ever organised an art event at Moseley Road Baths? Have you ever taken part in one, or just attended? If so, then The Friends of Moseley Road Baths would love to hear from you. As part of our Pool of Memories History Project we’re researching all aspects of the building’s 105-year history. So if it was an art show, a video shoot, fashion show, play, exhibition, TV appearance, or anything else then we’d love to hear from you. Maybe you were at Immerse, Swimming Without Water, saw Stan’s Cafe’s show, or maybe you have a copy of the Gangsters episode which included the baths, or the Dalzeil and Pascoe show that featured Norman Wisdom! If you think you might be able to help, memories or memorabilia (posters, tickets etc), then do get in touch at

The more I see you, the more I want you…

…so goes the song which was a popular number at the dance that took place at Moseley Road Baths, then known as ‘Moseley Road Ballroom’ in the 1940s.  Pupils from Anderton Park School learnt all about this and more when they interviewed singer and saxophonist Denis Brown about his memories of playing at the Baths in the 1940s.

Volunteer needed to help put our digital archive online

Friends of Moseley Road Baths are seeking a volunteer to contribute towards their Heritage Lottery Funded ‘Pool of Memories’ Project by putting excerpts of our digital archive online.

Pool of Memories Art Exhibition

Friends of Moseley Road Baths have a firm commitment to preserving and celebrating the heritage of Moseley Road Baths. In 2009 we submitted a bid for just under £48,000 to the Heritage Lottery Fund for an extensive oral history project encompassing a wide range of activities including the production of a book, teaching resource, DVD, permanent exhibition and drama project. The bid was successful and we launched the three year Pool of Memories project during February 2010.

Since then scores of audio recordings have been collected and catalogued. We are now seeking a volunteer to select some of this material for use in the wider project.

You will be required to:

  • Listen to audio recordings
  • Select the best material for use on our website, literature and in exhibitions
  • Extract audio clips using audio editing software (we suggest Audacity)
  • Upload audio files to an online space
  • Embed audio recordings into our website (hosted on WordPress)

You will need:

  • An interest in oral history and appreciation of the requirements of our project
  • Experience of using audio editing software
  • Access to your own computer
  • A copy of Audacity (available to download for free)
  • To collaborate with the Pool of Memories project co-ordinators and workers

We are not looking for a certain number of hours or edited files. We are willing to work around your existing commitments – anything that you can contribute to the project is welcomed. In return we can provide references, give you opportunities to get involved in other aspects of the project and credit you in our ongoing work.

If you are interested, please contact

Park Hill pupils learn about swimming for kids

Pupils at Park Hill School have been working hard over the past few weeks with Rachel Gillies – Community Film Maker to create two short oral history films about Moseley Road Baths.  The project has involved the group researching the history of the building, learning how to use film equipment and how to conduct oral history interviews.  The group then divided into two film crews to film and interview two members of the public who had very fond memories of the Baths, particularly swimming there with their children.

The project started off with a fun look at the building using the Virtual Tour website, which allowed the group to look at parts of the building usually closed off to the public.  Through the site we were able to watch films of the laundry room, wander onto the roof and explore the Slipper Baths!  The pupils had loads of questions not just about the building, but about the wider social history of Balsall Heath, making lots of connections between what was happening locally and what they know about 20th Century British History.

Park Hill Pool of Memories Project

Park Hill Pool of Memories Project

After learning how to use film and audio equipment, the two film crews did an excellent job of interviewing Marion and Fran, who both recall swimming regularly at the building.  Fran told us about swimming regularly when she was pregnant and how much she enjoys swimming with her children now they are older.  Marion praised the pool’s excellent swimming lessons – both school lessons and the ‘Strokes’ programme.  She told the group how important it was to learn to swim and how staff at the Baths have helped her learn to swim as an adult.

Park Hill Pool of Memories Project

Park Hill Pool of Memories Project

The films were screened at our recent Pool of Memories Art Exhibition.  However, on Tuesday pupils did a proper Premiere of the films in front of almost 120 classmates from Year 4 and Year 5.  The group presented the films and explained what they had learnt over the course of the project, before going on to answer questions from the floor.  They will now be given their own copies of the DVD and certificates to reward them for their hard work!  The films will be added to our archive and will be appearing on the Pool of Memories website shortly!  Thanks to all pupils and to staff at Park Hill School for being so accommodating!

Park Hill Pool of Memories Project

Moseley Road Baths – at the ‘art’ of Balsall Heath

Where to start with summarising last Saturday’s fantastic art exhibition and celebration of Moseley Road Baths’ 104th Birthday? We were overwhelmed by the response from artists and those who attended on the day; what a timely reminder with the Baths currently closed that it still remains as popular and loved as ever!

Pool of Memories Art Exhibition

Pool of Memories Art Exhibition

First off I must say a huge thank you to the artists who produced such fantastic work! Please do look them up and support them! They are: Anne Irby Crews, Eleanor Leonne Bennett, Harry Starling, Heather Ramsden, Helen Flanagan, Maria Reaney, Michelle Bint, Paul Hull, Paul Jessett, Robert Geoghegan, Rose Jennings and Vivienne Harrison.

Thanks also to Corinne Fowler who read an excerpt from her novel which vividly describes a full-immersion Baptism at Moseley Road Baths – something that the Riverside Church used to do. She did an excellent job of transporting the audience to the poolside in the absence of our annual tours!

Pool of Memories Art Exhibition

The day was also an opportunity to celebrate our Pool of Memories project so far. The bits of our archive out on display really got people talking and we got so many wonderful stories and great feedback! A number of people left their details for us to interview them, and this wonderful certificate was shown to us which dates back to 1928!

Pool of Memories Art Exhibition

I was lucky enough to do two wonderful oral history interviews with visitors. Betty spoke about her first attempts at swimming in the early 1930s and going for weekly baths, right through to swimming as a teenager, courting with Fred (now her husband!) and taking their daughter there when she was a toddler. Ruth was visiting from Yorkshire and spoke fondly of her 13 years of working as a lifeguard and how it was so much more than lifesaving but about building important relationships with the whole community.

We also screened films from our Pool of Memories School project, including Premiering two films produced by pupils at Park Hill School over the past couple of weeks. A few of the pupils were in attendance and proudly showed their work off to family!

Pool of Memories Art Exhibition

Finally, a massive thank you to all those who volunteered their time on the day and to the staff at the School of Art for making us so welcome. Over 110 people were in attendance which I think is a huge achievement for a voluntary group! Please do let us know what you thought of the event so we can build on this success for next year’s event!