Thornaby-on-Tees Swimming Baths

Baths and Bath Engineering The Official Journal of the National Association of Baths Superintendents Editor; Jenkyn Griffiths, BSc., P.A.Inst.W.E. June 1938 No.52 Vol.5 p.141 – 145

Thornaby-on-Tees Swimming Facilities


It is now generally acknowledged that wherever swimming facilities are provided the majority of people avail themselves of these means of healthy recreation. It is, therefore, only natural, that when considering various measures for the progressive improvement of the amenities of the town, the Thornaby-on-Tees Municipal Corporation recognised the necessity for the provision of a municipal swimming bath.

In 1931 the corporation adopted the “Baths and Wash-houses Acts” and plans and estimates were prepared for a scheme which was to cost £25,000. At that time, grants were available from the “Unemployment Grants Committee” and the Corporation made application for financial assistance. The Ministry of Health decided to hold an inquiry, but before it could be held information was received that the grants avail­able when the scheme was submitted were to be considerably reduced. It was then decided to examine the scheme with the object of reducing the cost but before it was revised, the Ministry of Health recommended the Corporation to defer the expenditure. Almost at .the same time the Unemployment Grants Committee intimated that they were not in a position to give any further consideration to the proposals. These decisions, together with the financial situation of that year, were obstacles which determination and enthu­siasm could not overcome, and the scheme had to be filed away with great reluctance.

However, in 1935, a sub-committee was set up to report on a suitable site for the baths, and afterwards submit a scheme in detail for the consideration of the Corporation. The sub­committee soon selected a site and in a short time the Corporation agreed the general limits of the scheme. Subsequently the Corporation approved the plans and proposals of the Borough Engineer and Architect, Mr. Philip Brown, M.Inst.M. and Cy.E., M.R.San.I, M.I. Struct.E., who has been responsible for the design and the supervision of the whole work.

In the following year the Ministry of Health held a public inquiry into the proposals, and after lengthy negotiations concerning the details of the scheme, the approval of the Ministry was received in 1937.

The New Baths

Erected at a cost of about £17,000 the new baths were opened by the Rt. Hon. The Earl of Feversham. J.P.. in March last.

The front of the building faces due east and the maximum amount of sunlight will be obtained through the glazing along the south side. Great care was taken in the selection of the site; as the town is developing southwards and eastwards; the site is admirably situated for the convenience of the residents in both the old and the new areas of the borough.

The centrally situated main entrance to the building is reached by a short flight of steps, the doors open into the crush hull, on the left of which is situated the manager’s office, and on the right the staff room, and immediately in front is the booking office containing two “Mysticum” ticket printing and issuing machines.

Dressing Accommodation

On either side of the booking office there are situated the rooms for the storage of bathers’ clothes; each room accommodates 125 ” Hyg­gard-all ” clothes hangers for adults and 25 tray baskets for juvenile bathers. The dressing rooms comprise 80 “Flexometal” cubicles, 40 for each sex: one group is situated along the north side of the building and the other group on the south. The cubicles are in 3/8. galvanised steel both sides “Flexometal” and fixing is effected by means of galvanised mild steel angle cleats.

Separate shower baths and foot baths are provided for each sex, and these are placed in such positions as to render it compulsory for the bathers to enter them before proceeding to the swimming bath.

There are two means of access to the bath hall for each sex, one for spectators and the other through the footbaths for the bathers.

Swimming Bath Hall

The swimming bath is 100 ft. by 35 ft. and the depth varies from 3 ft. 9 ft. with the maximum depth at a distance of 15 ft. from the deep end. It is constructed of reinforced concrete lined with 24 in. by 12 in. glazed faience tiles coved between sides, ends and bottom and at vertical angles. To avoid any projection into the swim­ming area of the bath, all steps tire recessed into the walls; one set is provided at each side of the shallow and deep ends. and one set midway on each side, and a flush type scum channel is fixed at water level with the same object in view.

The underwater floodlighting units, 14 in number, are arranged to accommodate alternative types of reflectors, embracing both a concentrated beam type of lighting, capable of penetrating the water to the full width of the bath for use on gala nights, etc., and a diffused type for normal purposes. The units consist of a cylindrical cast iron box with special sealing fins built into the concrete wall of the bath and provided with a solid machined bronze flanged rim accommodating; armour plate glass and sealing rings and a chromium plated finish outer cover ring to make up to the tile face. The units can easily be dismantled for examination. Colour screens can be used if desired.

The handrails to the bath steps consist of solid drawn steel tube covered in permanent colour plastics, which, it is stated, have been found highly satisfactory for chlorinated water. These are made detachable and can be removed at any time.

The diving stage is of the “Stanley” design manufactured to suit the width of the bath surrounds. This special design includes for a series of three fixed boards at graded heights from 1 m. to 2 m., in addition to a 3 m. spring board with an adjustable fulcrum, a 10 ft, high water chute having a mirror polished non-corrosive metal lining and a 4 m. firm board. The equip­ment also included a standard 1 m. spring board with a portable type fulcrum.

The bath surrounds, 3 ft. 6 in. wide, are laid with a slight fall from the bath to drainage channels at the rear. The channels comprise (6 in. by 3 in. cream glazed tiles. The surrounds are in 4 in. by 4 in. by 2in. gripfoot grey speckled floor tiles with a margin of black. The gripfoot surface which perhaps is more commonly described as pinhead, is, it is claimed, absolutely non-slip even under wet conditions. The tiling is finished at the edge of the bath with a 4 in. by 4 in. by 4 in. gripfoot nosing in black. Four of the step ladders leading into the bath are tiled with white earthenware glazed tiles and combina­tion angles together with 4 in, by 4 in. by 4 in. white gripfoot nosing. Treads to the shallow end steps, footbaths, floor and step treads are in 4 in. by 4 in. grey speckled floor tiles and nosings, all gripfoot non-slip surface. The step and riser behind the surrounds are in a 6 in. by 4 in. ribbed step tread in black.

Provision is made for spectators at the rear of the surrounds, the space is 5 ft. 6 in. wide, and can be separated when necessary by a suitable barrier. Accommodation is available for about 130 spectators seating and 278 spectators standing. The former number can be increased considerably if the necessity arises. The whole of the spectators’ walk is covered with 6 in. by 6 in. by ½ in. plain buff floor tiles.

“Leftex” texture bricks in light blue and grey colour are used for the bath hall. These bricks have not been on the market a great length of time but have been exceptionally well received as a variation from the flat colouring of the ordinary brick.

Design of the hall is in such a way as to utilise the daylight to the best advantage; ample artificial lighting is provided.

In connection with the ventilation of the hall, fresh air is admitted at points behind radiators and each inlet comprises an air grate on the external wall. On the inner face is fixed control­lable gear by which it is possible to regulate the amount of air passing, and to change the air in the hall three times per hour if necessary.

Filtration Plant

The plant for the continuous circulation and filtration of the swimming bath water is capable of dealing with 31,000 gal. per hour, giving a complete circulation of the whole of the contents of the bath once every four hours. It comprises Three 8 ft. diameter “Bell” “CA” air scoured filters, strainer box, chemical apparatus, flow indicators, chlorinator and ammoniator, heater, aerator, motor and compressor.

The cycle of operation of the plant is as follows; The pumps draw the water from the deep end of the bath, and it first of all passes through the strainer box. The necessary chemicals are then added to the water by means of the chemical apparatus provided. The coagulation consists of hydrated alumina and soda.

Before being returned to the shallow end of the bath the water is sterilised by the chlorinator and ammoniator and is also passed through the heater which maintains the temperature.

Washing of the filter is carried out by a reverse flow of water, and the breaking up of the filter bed by compressed air.

Heating Plant

This consists of two cast iron sectional low pressure steam boilers, having a combined emission of 1,856,000, connected to a common steam header. These are fired by two “Coinbustioneer” automatic stokers. One  of  these (No. 15) is capable of burning up to 150 lb. of coal an hour and the other (No. 71/2) is capable of burning up to 75 lb. of coal an hour. The machines are fitted with larger capacity hoppers than standard to reduce the attention required to a minimum, and the stokers themselves are of standard design. For controlling this equipment the control box which embodies overload and no volt the stokers in the event of dangerously low water in either of the boilers. The equipment renders the installation practically fully automatic and, therefore, reduces the attention required to the stoking units to a few minutes a day for cleaning the fires and filling of the hoppers.

The condensate is returned to the boilers by means of an electrically-operated automatic condense return pump.

The whole of the heating is of direct convection type, a small part of it being low-pressure steam and the bulk of it low-pressure hot water served from a steam heated calorifier. An electrically driven accelerator is provided on the hot water heating system but in practice this works satisfactorily by gravity and the accelerator is only there for boosting purposes.

Generally the system provides for radiators in recesses with fresh air inlet arrangements and specially – designed combined baffles and grilles on the front.

The hot water supply system is in copper served from a steam heated calorifier and the services are run to the shower baths and foot­baths, and other draw-off points.

The calorifier for the swimming bath water heating is served from the plant with low pressure steam.

The heating plant is sufficiently large to main­tain the bath water at any desired temperature between 75 deg. and 80 deg. Fahr. plus, and the temperature of the building at 70 deg. Fahr. plus, according to the external atmospheric tempera­ture.

The main pipe-lines from the whole of the plant are laid in the ducts which are formed under the bath surrounds and spectators’ walks.


The flat roof of the filter and boiler houses, an area of 1,323 sq. ft., is utilised for a sun­bathing deck and a suitable protection railing is erected to make the area safe.

Sunbathing mattresses and chairs are provided. A car park is also included in the scheme. Mr. J. Farrington, M.N.A.B.S., is the baths manager.

Constructional Details

The all welded steel rigid frame structure for the baths is the first of its kind to be erected on Teesside. This type of design provides a maxi­mum amount of space from floor to roof by the elimination of all angle trusses, framing, etc.

The building has a total length of 121 ft., and a span of 54 ft. Ten frames are employed, composed of 10 in. by 41/2 in. by 25 lb. R.S.J. sections welded together, each frame forming a solid arch. Each frame was delivered to the site in three pieces and welded after erection to form a com­plete unit. All the necessary side framing is supplied by two 6 in. by 3 in. by 12 lb. R.S.J. sections on each side of the building. Roof purlins for the most part arc joists 3 in. deep, spaced at 4 ft. 6 in. centres. A joist 5 in. deep connects the two topmost joints of each frame. By the use of this form of structure, an uninterrupted headroom of more than 30 ft. is obtained, this headroom is about 7 ft. more than is obtained with normal roof and stanchion construction for the same over-all height. All welding was carried out by the electric process.

“Turnall” Trafford tiles, metal reinforced, were used for roofing work, the colour being maroon. The tiles are light in weight and the special metal reinforcement which consists of a hexagonal wire mesh embedded in the sheet during manufacture gives added strength and resistance to impact.

A mottled cream shade faience is employed for the exterior of the baths, relieved by black plinth, lettering and vertical bands.

The front entrance steps are in 41/4in. by 41/4 in. grey speckled floor tiles together with 41/4 in. by 41/4, in. ribbed nosing, also in grey speckled body.

Messrs. Moorhouse and Barker, Ltd., of Thornaby-on-Tees, were the main building contractors, and the following were amongst the sub-contractors: -Underwater light units and handrails to bath steps-M. Aynsley and Sons, Ltd., Newcastle-on-Tyne; filtration plant-Bell Bros. (Manchester 1927), Ltd. ; ticket printing and issuing machines-Dapag, Ltd., London: ” Flexometal ” dressing cubicles-Flexo Plywood Industries, Ltd., London; structural steelwork-­ Head.-Wrightson and Co., Ltd., Thornaby-on­ Tees; diving equipment- H. Hunt and Son. Liverpool ; ” Leftex ” texture bricks-The Leeds Fireclay Co., Ltd., Wortley, Leeds; automatic stokers- ‘Mirrlees, Bickerton and Day, Ltd., Stockport ; floor tiling to bath surrounds and step ladders. footbaths, front entrance steps, etc.­Richards Tiles, Ltd., Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent; faience tiling to bath and exterior of building ­Shaws Glazed Brick Co., Ltd., Darwen; ” Hyg­yard-all “clothes hangers- James Siebe ; heating, ventilation and domestic hot water supply-Steel and Co., Ltd., Sunderland; metal reinforced roof tiling -Turners Asbestos Cement Co., Manchester.

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5 Responses to “Thornaby-on-Tees Swimming Baths”

  1. Stuart Highfield says:

    Hi boys I remember you both from the Arthur head secondary modern school I’m glad to hear that you are both well. I also remember going to the baths at Thornaby pool good times iwas taught to swim when my older brother started taking me to the baths with his friends when I was about four so by the time I was eight I was a very good swimmer. Nice to hear from you both

  2. Susan Cowell says:

    Tony hi. Although 5 years later this may reach you. I remember walking to Thornaby library ad you throwing maggots at me. You were an avid fishing fan. We were about 12. Susan Mallon as was. Good times.

  3. alan robinson says:

    i went to queen street school from about 1954 to 1960 then to arthur head. I remember thornaby baths with affection,After my brother eric taught me to swim by throwing me in and leaving me sink or swim was the cry. Then from the baths to the cafe next door if you didnt pick up a bird in the baths, if you did it was forget the cafe and down the corn field to the river for a fumble.AAAAAAAAAAAAAH good old days

  4. Richard Bland says:

    In 1958 I was to leave Queen Street Junior school to go to Arthur Head County Modern, kids being kids put fear into me by telling me of the horrible things that would happen when I got to the secondary school, one being how they would push you in, when the class went to swimming at Thornaby baths, if you couldn’t swim. That was not for me at all and so prior to moving up I started to make regular trips to the baths and by the time I was due to go to Arthur Head I was a self taught swimmer. My fears were unfounded and I enjoyed and improved my swimming at the weekly school swimming sessions.

    I remember with amusement one occasion as the class snaked back to school in pairs after a swimming class. A woman had been washing her house front with her bucket of water on the pavement, the person in front of me saw the bucket and without giving any warning smartly jumped over it, while I literally “kicked the bucket” the cry from Mr Curran, the teacher, I have always remembered, “you stupid oaf Bland”.
    How times have changed and not always necessarily for the better, these days people would be looking for compensation from a woman leaving trip hazards on the pavement.
    I have recently returned to Teesside after being away for 30 years and when I eventually retire later this year I’m looking forward to using the baths again and see how much it, like everything else around here has changed over the years.

    • Anthony Dawson says:

      Hello Richard,

      Glad to read your still around – We were in the same class at the Arthur Head School.

      You will remember me I was the smallest lad in the class – Tony Dawson but luckily I grew a bit after leaving School.

      I still reside in Thornaby – On – Tees, although most of my working career was elsewhere.

      I retired November 2013 at the age of 66.5 years.

      Hope you are keeping well.

      Best Regards,

      Tony Dawson.

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