Smallthorne Open Air Swimming Baths

Plans for a new open air baths at the top of Moorland Road were announced in ‘The Sentinel’ in 1935. The pool was built by the colliery employees of the Burslem Recreations Ltd, a private company formed by the directors of the Sneyd Colliery Ltd at a cost of £25,000.

The pool was to have a dual purpose. It was to provide a reserve supply of water for the pit as well as offering a facility for public swimming.

In preparation for the construction of the facility representatives from the colliery had visited other swimming pools around the country, including one open-air bath at Wembley.

The open air swimming opened on Whit Monday, 6th June1938. It was then the largest open air pool in the Midlands. It measured 220ft long by 92ft wide and could accommodate 1,200 swimmers at any one time. The depth at each end was 3ft 6in and at the centre, 9ft 6in. The pool held 640,000 gallons of water and was heated.

There were two diving stages, two water chutes and two paddling pools for children. In addition there was terraced seating for up to 5,000 spectators and a twelve feet high glass screen protected bathers from cold winds. 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

Smallthorne-born Arthur Berry, recalled the baths in his book, ‘A Three and Sevenpence Halfpenny Man’. 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.”

In September 1939, with the outbreak of World War II, the baths was closed.
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.

Later in 1939, the pool was taken over by the National Fire Service for an emergency water supply. Large pieces of timber were placed on the water to cover the reflection of the moon in the water which may have been used as a directional marker by enemy aircraft.

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. An old ironstone shaft on the site of what would become the baths is indicated on the 1878 Ordnance Survey map, showing the unpromising nature of the site which the bath was built. The baths were demolished in the 1960s.

Sources;
Arthur Berry – A Three and Sevenpence Halfpenny Man’
Smallthorne OpenAir Swimming Baths
Mervyn Edwards Smallthorne Swimming Baths – ‘Local Edition’ Issue 13: December 7 – 20, 2007 &: Smallthorne Open Air Swimming Pool

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