Photo above taken in 2002 AGJ
Kings Meadow Ladies Open Air Baths – Reading – 1902
NEARLY LOST and in line for the bulldozers. Under severe threat – 2002.
Kings Meadow Ladies Open Air Baths are situated just along the bank of the river on the Kings Meadow Recreational Field, Napier Road, Reading. History on …
Kings Meadow Ladies Open Air Baths opened in 1903 by the Mayoress Mrs Holland Bull on May 27th. The opening saw many high officers and notable VIPs for the opening ceremony.
The Kings Meadow field was given to the people of Reading in the late 19th century, by George Palmer of Huntley and Palmer Biscuits, and was mean’t purely for recreational purposes. In fact in the earlier years was used for horse racing.
The pool is canopied all around – anti Peeping Tom Style (from the prying eyes from the Mens Bath on the opposite corner!) There is info on this Bath below.
Once the very discreet Ladies Bath – half covered – had been built, many children were frog marched from school to learn to swim here and at the start it was “Ladies only.” Once a year the male swimmers from across the road (see below) were allowed in for the annual Inter-School Gala!
Many families during the 50s and 60s have very memorable days out at the pool and the more recent Inter Schools Galas took place here leading up to its closure 1974.
Up until 1952 the pool was river fed and then became filtered and purified, calling in pumps from Pulsometer of Reading. It remained unheated however.
The pool was unused since 1974. It closed for new filtration units to be installed but never opened again and had lain neglected until 2002.
A Campaign committee was formed and King Meadow Campaigners got together with a plan of restoration in 2002.
Many highs and lows
Highs and lows had been experienced during since 2002 – one of the “highs” in 2004 was the campaigners being able to stave off the bulldozers for the building of high rise hotel and multi storey car park by securing a GRADE II listing for the building from English Heritage.
There are very notable iron columns with the pre 1952 Reading Crest – 4 Maidens and a Queen cast by a local family iron foundry “Allens of Reading” which were just along the river.
Reading Sub-Aqua Dive club rented the building from RBC for a peppercorn rent for a few years up until 2006. They literally used it for storing their equipment and holding meetings. The pool was slowly decaying.
Once the divers left, the Baths became in the unofficial hands of the Campaigners, clearing the pool out of 35 years of rubbish, securing help for good clean ups and holding open days, events and table top sales to raise money. Also attaching themselves to the local CAMRA Beer Festival each year. All helping to halt further decay of the building and acts of vandalism.
It has been a bit of a roller coaster to raise funds given the countries financial climate and recession, but awareness weekends continued.
More information is found on my other website – containing a comprehensive history, architecture and memories. Plus Galleries.
Incuded are videos – a small slice of community feeling.
A special video shows the time the doors were opened to the public for the first time in 35 years, many of whom had no idea what was behind the brown door and the engineered bricked walls.
OUTCOME After some Campaigners had “minded” the Baths for 12 years, during 2013 the Council decided to market the Baths hoping to find a partner sympathetic to its Heritage status and features.
Not enough funding has been gained in a faster enough time. The country also was in a deep recession. The Council “had no money” to assist the Campaigners. In fact were not happy that it had been Heritage Listed. Campaigners were left very much alone in their efforts to save the baths – one of the very few remaining sites of past heritage left in the town.
In view of its Heritage Listing the eventual status of “An Asset of Community Value” was achieved by the Campaigners so that the Baths could NOT be demolished but could be restored under a private Developer.
6 months moratorium
Not quite the original plans of the Campaigners – which was to save it for the people of Reading and thus the project being a Community enterprise, however… the Baths/Building will be restored.
After a 6 month Moratorium, granted to the Campaigners, ending July 31st 2013, the Baths were open to the best BIDDER .
The Bristol Team (Arne Ringner & Team) was the chosen bidder out of 5, in view of their wide and very successful experiences in the restoration of “The Lido” in Bristol.
Some Campaigners remain in close association with Arne and his Team.
A new company has been set up for the restoration Thames Lido Ltd
Arne’s interim proposal for KMB
Keep up to date – **The Baths HAVE BEEN SAVED**
The Mens Open Air Bath – across the road
The Men’s Bath also lived alongside the river Thames on Kings Meadow in Reading. These were situated on the direct opposite corner to the Ladies Baths and were well used before the latter were built.
This bath admitted male bathers only. Everyone said it was very cold and slippery. The bath was fed by the water from the river. Here is a quote from Mr. A C. from Reading,-1994
”The men’s open air bath was much bigger than the Ladies – King’s Meadow. Boys were tested here for swimming certificates. There was a covered part where one could leave one’s clothes, but no place for spectators, such as existed at the Ladies bath.
I used this with my son and his friend, a boy Sainsbury, the nephew of the Miss Sainsbury – headmistress of Palmer Junior School at one time, just after the war 1946-47…”
OUTCOME: The bath closed around 1955. It was filled in and used as a builders yard for 20 years.
1975 onwards – Apartments now occupy the site.
Early 20th Century
See a selection of the thousands of comments from the local people in the bid to Save Kings Meadow Baths. Plus filmed comments on my other website www.kingsmeadowbaths.org.uk (agj)
After 12 years of passion, the bulldozers were sent on their way for good!