Stoke-on-Trent – Smallthorne Open Air Swimming Baths

Plans for a new open air baths at the top of Moorland Road were announced in ‘The Sentinel’ 15th August 1935[i].


Open Air Swimming Pool at Smallthorne

A new open-air swimming pool is to be built at the top of Moorland-road, Burslem, by Sneyd Collieries, Ltd. The pool will be on a site alongside the Colliery, and will bel available to the public. It will complete with dressing accommodation and all necessary equipment. ln addition to providing for the needs of the swimmers in the district, the pool will act as a reserve supply of water for the colliery. The water will be heated to temperatures most favoured by bathers; and will flow from the pool to the boilers at the colliery. In this way a constant flow of clean fresh water will be available. We have felt the need for extra supplies of water at the colliery for some time (Mr. William Tellwright, Managing Director of the Sneyd Colliery, told a “Sentinel” reporter this afternoon. It seems to us that in obtaining this extra supply we might very usefully at the same time cater for swimmers in the district. Work of preparing the site has been put in hand, but the plans have not yet been prepared. The new pool will be a large one–certainly not smaller than the one at Trentham. First-class swimming pools in various parts of the country are being inspected before the plans are prepared. With this object in view, Mr. Tellwright has just paid a visit to the open-air pool at Wemblev, while various other pools are being inspected by Mr. Thomas Kent, the Surveyor at the colliery, who will prepare the plans. It is intended to complete the pool in time for next swimming season.

The building opened on Whit Monday, 6th June1938[ii]

Ernest Warrilow

Smallthorne Baths Mervyn Edwards Sentinel 4th February 2016

Smallthorne Open Air Baths was referred to in Ernest Warrilow’s Sociological History of the City of Stoke-on-Trent (Etruscan Publications 1960);

Particularly worthy of mention was the magnificent, tiled open-air swim­ming bath built by Burslem Recreations Ltd., a private company formed by the direc­tors of Sneyd Colliery Ltd., at the top of Moorland Road, Burslem and opened to the public on Whit Monday, June 6th, 1938.

The bath, a combined reservoir for the col­liery was the largest in the Midlands measuring 220 feet long by 92 feet wide. The depth at each end was 3′ 6″. and at the centre 9′ 6″. It was capable of holding 640,000 gallons of water which was heated to not less than 76 degrees.

There were two diving stages and two water chutes in addition to two childrens’ paddling pools.

The whole was lighted at dusk by overhead and under-water floodlighting, whilst a 12 feet glass screen protected the bathers and up to 5,000 spectators, accommodated on terraced or tiered seating.

The baths cost £25,000. Adults were admitted for 6d and children for 4d. It was so popular that Mr. Birchall, the secretary, recorded 3,000 bathers through the baths in one day.

Space was provided for parking 44 cars. Beneath the level of water was a restaurant with windows through which diners could watch the swimmers from observation chambers. The admission fee to the baths was 6d for adults and 4d for children. At night the pool was illuminated by overhead and underwater floodlighting.[iii]

Smallthorne Baths A Copyright Warrillow Collection Keele University Library

Mervyn Edwards writing for The Sentinel’s The Way We Were, February 4, 2016 quotes; Smallthorne-born Arthur Berry, as recalling the baths in his book, ‘A Three and Sevenpence Halfpenny Man’ (1996).

Arthur Berry described how he and family members joined the long queues on the opening day;

 ‘…bunting fluttering and ice cream carts doing a roaring trade’.

“Although we had seen pictures of the pool in the paper,” wrote Arthur, “none of us had any clear idea what it was going to be like, and when we got through the turnstiles we stood amazed”.

“It was like being at the seaside. The pool looked enormous. The diving boards were high in the sky. Everything was more than we could have imagined.

“The windows were round like portholes. There was a brass band then ribbon cutting by the Mayor, and the pool was officially opened.”

“After that, there seemed thousands swimming and splashing in the water. I sat up on some seats watching. I had never seen so many people nearly naked.”

Accident Reported Staffordshire Sentinel – Monday 01 August 1938

Baths Incident Artificial Respiration had to be applied to a young boy who became in difficulties while bathing yesterday afternoon in the open-air swimming pool. Moorland Road Burslem.
The boy whose name and address was unknown, was bathing with companions near the deep section of the bath, when he suddenly started struggling and disappeared under the water. The baths superintendent, ex-Police-Sergeant Penny, and Police-Sergeant Amison, of Smallthorne – who chanced to be in the bath at the time of this incident – threw a life-buoy to the lad, who was brought to the side of the pool. Artificial respiration was successfully applied. The boy was in a distressed condition, but after recovering, he left the baths for his home.

Accident Reported Staffordshire Sentinel – Friday 09 June 1939

BATHER’S ACCIDENT AT BURSLEM A Liverpool man is in the Burslem Haywood and Tunstall War Memorial Hospital with facial injuries and slight concussion after falling 14 feet from the top diving board at the Sneyd Open-Air Baths, Smallthorne, to the concrete surround of the bath. He is George A. Peackthall, of 26, Devonshire-street, Sefton Park, Liverpool, 8, and he is understood to have slipped as he was preparing to dive. On inquiry at the hospital he was stated to be comfortable.

Second World War

Smallthorne Baths B Copyright Warrillow Collection Keele University Library

Ernest Warrilow later explains in his work; Sociological History of the City of Stoke-on-Trent (Etruscan Publications 1960);

‘On the outbreak of World War II, in September 1939, the bath was closed.

Later it was used by the A.F.S. (Auxiliary Fire Service) and baulks of timber were floated on the water to avoid reflec­tion of light from the moon by the water and white tiles which could have guided enemy aircraft.

During the war years mining subsidence, from the High Lane Fault, caused extensive cracks to appear in the bath and the water drained away. Today, black­ened and derelict, the bath is empty but for the flotsam and dirt and grime of the Potteries.’[iv]

The Fire Service garaged fire appliances in the main foyer.[v]

Mervyn Edwards explains the challenges of the site upon which the pool was built;’

If we look at the 1878 Ordnance Survey map, we see an old ironstone shaft on the area later occupied by the baths, showing the unpromising nature of the site.  Other old shafts are indicated on the 1924 map. During the War, subsidence from the High Lane fault as well as ongoing coalmining operations created severe cracks in the pool and loss of water.[vi]

Source Unknown

Smallthorne Baths C Copyright Warrillow Collection Keele University Library

It was later stocked with fish including roach. Mr. A. R. Morris, who was surface manager at Sneyd Colliery and baths superintendent, looked after the stock of fish. Unfortunately the fish were poached and the pool vandalised.





Local Historian Fed Hughes Writes in his Blog;

‘The empty baths survived the war and into the 1960s before it was demolished and replaced by the petrol filling station.’[vii]

Smallthorne Open Air Baths Source Smallthorne History 17th April 2017

[i] ‘The Sentinel’ (15th August 1935)

[ii] Ernest Warrilow’s Sociological History of the City of Stoke-on-Trent (Etruscan Publications (1960);

[iii] Edwards, Mervyn The Sentinel’s The Way We Were, (February 4, 2016)

[iv] Ernest Warrilow’s Sociological History of the City of Stoke-on-Trent (Etruscan Publications 1960);

[v] Bailey, Sid A Short History of Smallthorne and Ford Green (2001)

[vi] Edwards, Mervyn The Sentinel’s The Way We Were, (February 4, 2016)

[vii] Hughes, Fred fredhughsblog

Web Links

Burslem History Club Smallthorne Baths Mervyn Edwards Burslem History Club – Smallthorne Baths (

Smallthorne History Smallthorne Open Air Swimming Pool Smallthorne Open Air Swimming Pool | Smallthorne History (

Smallthorne History Smallthorne Open Air Swimming Pool 2nd August 2013 Smallthorne Open Air Swimming Pool | Smallthorne History (

Photo History of Stoke-on-Trent The Open Air Swimming Pool at Smallthorne The open air swimming pool at Smallthorne (

Fred Hughes Blog Remember When Smallthorne Swimming Baths Smallthorne « fredhughesblog (

Warrillow Collection Keele University  Warrillow Collection – Keele University

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