Birmingham – Kent Street Baths

The following is taken directly from The City of Birmingham Baths Department 1851-1951. This work was written and compiled by J. Moth M.N.A.B.S. Birmingham 1951 and is presented here.

Kent Street Baths SketchKent Street, as one of the City’s shorter thoroughfares,

would be unknown today save to its few residents and those living in the immediate neighbourhood, but for the fact that on a site selected there as far back as 1845, the Town Council, in 1848, decided to erect Birmingham’s first Public Bathing Establishment.

During the past hundred years, Kent Street has become established in the minds of succeeding generations of the people of Birmingham and its countless visitors as a centre which has an unequalled reputation for the facilities it offers.

The foundation stone of Birmingham’s first Public Baths at Kent Street was laid on the 29th October, 1849 and the building, although not completed, was opened to the public on the 12th May 1851.

The site was in close proximity to the centre of the town and it was known that an ample supply of water could be obtained from the many underground springs in the neighbourhood. Indeed, these springs were to prove a source of great inconvenience to the builders who experienced difficulty in keeping water out of the trenches prepared for the foundations of the building and the construction of the swimming baths, with the result that considerable extra expense was incurred and the total cost of the site and buildings by the time the establishment was completed in 1852 was £23,000.

Kent Street Baths AdvertisementThe design of the building was in the sixteenth century style of architecture and of red brick with bath stone dressings, moulded string courses and coping; the window sills, mullions and transoms, were also of stone with cast-iron window frames and casements.

The accommodation is described as comprising sixty-nine private hot and cold water baths, two large swimming baths, three plunge baths and a public wash-house with laundry fitted up with twenty-five washing stalls and two sets of seventeen drying horses and other appliances’.

This is the only description there is of the original accommodation at Birmingham’s first Baths, but we learn that in 1897, after many alterations and additions had been made, the facilities included First and Second Class Swimming and Private Baths for Men, Women’s First and Second Class Private Baths, Turkish Baths and a Central Mechanical Laundry and Offices.

Later, a Women’s Swimming Baths and suites of Private Baths for Women were constructed on a site in Gooch Street adjoining the main buildings and opened on the 3oth March, 1914.

In 1930, the old Kent Street Baths, with the exception of the Women’s Bath in Gooch Street, was demolished and the present Kent Street Baths was constructed, comprising a Gala Swimming Bath, suites of Private Baths, Turkish and Russian Baths, Administrative Offices and a Repair and Maintenance Depot, and opened on the 29th May 1933.

Kent Street Baths 1951On the 3rd December, 1940, the Department suffered a great loss, when during a heavy night raid, the Gala Bath, which had become the most popular Bath in the City, was destroyed by enemy action and a great deal of damage to the remaining property was sustained.

The Baths Committee are at present dealing with the future of the Kent Street site, but we may be assured that whatever the ultimate decision, Kent Street and the Baths will continue their historic association.

 

 

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