Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tamworth, Staffordshire


A breath of fresh air

I was slightly baffled when I came across this building. Approaching from what turned out to be the back, I found a low-slung, green-tiled structure around a courtyard, with some concrete detailing that seemed to date from the 1930s. It had clearly been altered quite a bit, but some of the original metal-framed windows were still there. And those green tiles. Weren't they reminiscent of white-walled thirties houses and big cafés on trunk roads? As the wind howled across the courtyard I made my way around the building.

I kicked myself when I got to the front and saw the large sign: ‘BATHS’. Of course. The courtyard was once filled with water, and Tamworthians swam to and fro, or tried not to drop their ice-creams in the pool. As Peter Ashley of Unmitigated England remarked to me recently, Tamworth is probably as far away from the sea as any place in England. So it deserved a lido as much as anywhere. But lidos were all the fashion everywhere between the world wars, when the people began to appreciate anew the health-giving properties of fresh air, exercise, and sunshine. While the enlightened middle classes longed for snow-white modernist houses with big windows, terraces, and ‘sleeping porches’, the rest of the population got more real, and headed down to the lido.

I’m not sure when Tamworth’s baths closed, but many towns, mindful of the English climate, built new indoor pools in the 1960s and 1970s, leading to the demise of many a lido. It’s a shame, but at least we have some bits of concrete decoration, a few Crittall windows, and cherished memories.

7 comments:

Thud said...

The lidos of new Brighton and southport featured quite strongly in my younger years...bracing is the word that springs to mind.

Philip Wilkinson said...

New Brighton I remember as a chilly place, because the only time I went there, there was a snowstorm. Bracing, indeed.

Peter Ashley said...

Funny how some buildings go around in disguise. If I'd only been shown the photograph I'd have hazarded a guess at Kentucky Racing Stables.

David B said...

There's quite a similar buiding - an old Lido way down the South Shore at Blackpool; again the pool long filled in.

Jon Dudley said...

Spot on Mr.A. in fact I visited such an establishment last summer, goodness knows why, and it looked exactly the same. A fine observation Philip.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

I grew up in Tamworth and used to swim in the "outdoor pool" (we never referred to it as the lido) up until the late 80s.

In a heat wave it was fantastic, every took picnics and stayed all day. I remember the pool being rammed with kids and every patch of grass covered in picnic rugs - it sounds so Enid Blyton now!

If I recall correctly, the outdoor pool stopped being opened - a couple of cold summers had seen it barely used - for a few years before the adjacent 1970s indoor baths were knocked down to have facilities rehoused in the Snowdome/ sports centre over the road. I think the original indoor pool had Strykers bowling alley built on it in around 1991/1992 but I hadn't realised the original outdoor pool building had been left standing!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Sarah: Many thanks for your comment. As you will realise, I come to most of the buildings I blog about as an outsider, and I really like it when I get comments from people who know them well.