Stirchley Baths has led something of a double life. Since 2016 it has operated as a lively community hub, but the building is full of reminders of its former years as a public swimming baths and wash house. Our heritage tours take you back to 1911 and earlier when the Baths were built to serve a fast-growing local community. There’s also an opportunity to go into the former pool and the tunnels – the only time when this is possible.
Love at the Baths was inspired by the large photograph in the reception corridor which shows a dance taking place on the boarded-over pool during the war years. It made Lois Murray, who leads the Stirchley Pop-Up Choir, wonder about romances that might have begun at those events. Her researches and musical knowledge led to the concert on Saturday 16 February with love as its theme. Audience guests included Gerald and Jean Lyndon who remembered those dancing years, and Alan Jones, son of bandleader Den whose music kept those feet dancing all those years ago.
While narrator Clare Fleck brought the history of Stirchley Baths – and some thoughts about love – to life through her readings, the music of the era was brilliantly performed by singer Lois and piano accompanist Trevor Hughes. Cole Porter’s “Let’s Misbehave” provided a commentary on the introduction of mixed bathing in 1927! The music of Irving Berlin, Glenn Miller and – in the second half – George Gershwin evoked the spirit of the age. If the beautifully-restored Edwardian era Stirchley Baths could speak, surely these are the kinds of things it would want to say.
All the profits from the performance went to the Memory Café which helps people with memory loss to reconnect with their past and enjoy the present. Thank you Lois, Trevor and Clare for helping us all to do that through this performance.
Stirchley History Group invites you to help shape our future! At our next meeting on Wednesday 7 December we plan to become a formally constituted organisation so that we can operate our own finances, join national networks, apply for external funding and plan for the long term.
The group began 18 months ago as a heritage project of Stirchley Baths, and we intend to continue that close relationship. We produced a history leaflet and acted as tour guides when the building opened, and have taken part in other events such as Splash Back In Time and the Fun Palace day. Stirchley Baths is an everyday reminder of the connection between past, present and future, and that’s something worth celebrating.
Through excellent guest speakers we’ve learned about the history of swimming and washing baths and how to research the history of our own houses, and have become more observant of “ghost signs” – the relics of adverts painted on walls around the area. We’ve established a social media presence and collected material for some local walking tour leaflets… and we want to do so much more to discover and promote an awareness of our past.
Everyone is welcome to come along on 7 December and be part of our continuing journey.