Gala Baths – West Bromwich – originally 1874 and 1934
The Gala Baths was adjacent to the original baths which were destroyed by enemy action, and rebuilt as the Gala Baths. They were completed in 1934.
Gala Baths West Bromwich was an opulent building. I was always fascinated by the boarded windows and iron railings adjacent to the entrance of the Gala Baths. This of course was the original bath bombed during the war. I never saw inside, but my sisters had swum there regularly.
This was the very first swimming pool I saw when I was three years old. I remember it vividly today. This huge, huge bath almost “as big as the sea,” surrounded with high walls with people splashing about, and so very deep.
The baths were an opulent building. The Gala Baths had two entrances – one from Lombard Street being the main entrance, but the one that was used generally was through a side entrance in Edward Street leading to the ticket office. This entrance also led to a Gala Suite used for banquets and weddings. Also a cafe and committee rooms.
The Mens changing area were immediately to the left on entering the main bath hall. There were cubicles under the spectators gallery with stairs leading to more first floor cubicles. The Ladies approached the similar two tiered changing cubicles via a walk along the top end of the bath the opposite side.
One passed the wonderful tiling that formed a dado and surrounded a doorway leading to a long wide warm marble floored corridor (more like a hallway) that led to the Learners Pool.
As one walked down this corridor there was a doorway to the right (out of bounds) which if one ventured inside would lead to the bombed remains of the original bath – forbidden territory.
The Gala baths became part of school life, for Interschool Swimming Galas, plus once a week to learn Lifesaving skills and of course home to the successful West Bromwich Swimming Club winners of Midland Swimming Leagues. Galas audiences bulged the walls, and the Schools events were something else right over the top!
The Gala bath was 331/3 yards long by 3ft 6ins in the shallow end, and 9ft 6ins in the deep end. The diving stage went up to 4 metres high, with four diving boards leading up to the top. It didn’t have a springboard until later years. There was a foreboding drain under the top board.
The Baths were open for the summer season, but it was a different story for the winter season. The pool was covered over with a highly sprung dance floor, and the Gala Baths became The Gala Hall.
It looked very grand with the orchestra dais, and the hall bedecked with flowers and plants.
The Gala Hall attracted many famous symphony orchestras including the broadcasting of “Friday Night is Music Night”There were famous live dance bands and these were regularly broadcast on the “Light Wave”. George Melley and the Chris Barber Jazz Musicians were fun and dancing was wonderful.
One attended with friends on the promise of being home by 10.30pm. There were many gymnastic displays , indoor bowling, morris dancing, and schools events.
Complementary to the Baths/Hall were designed cubicles for therapeutic treatment, and two new suites including foam baths, brine baths and an areatone bath.
During the sixties the “Forbidden Territory” bombed original bath was removed and a modern extension 25 metre swimming pool was built and was opened all year round. It was used for leisure, schools and council swimming lessons.
Two noticeable features were the diving board and a dividing bridge designed by Mr A. W. Hall, Baths Manager of the Gala Baths.
Mr Hall had his own idea of the type of board that would best suit the modern surround. He gave his design to the architects who put them into operation. The springboard was made of aluminium – the first of its kind in the country. (The pool also had a firm board 3 metres in height.)
The dividing bridge was mobile and could easily divide the pool for swimmers and non swimmers by spanning the pool.
OUTCOME: Gradually as time went by the Gala Baths were used less frequently for swimming, and eventually became permanently floored over and used as an indoor sports hall. The former grandeur disappeared for good. The pool basin was never filled with water again.
The 60s pool gradually dwindled and became dilapidated, just as the Gala Hall, but remained in use until both were threatened with eventual demise. The public expressed dismay especially regarding The Gala Baths.
Both pools were demolished in 2010 and at the time there was no replacement pool. 2010 saw plans for a 13 £million ultra modern swimming baths, but has not yet transpired (2012)
My personal home Baths. Love to hear from any special (very) brummie/blackcountry person “ooo swum ‘ere.”
Great to hear that just about three miles away in the Londonderry area of Smethwick there’s going to be a grand top pool built for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The Gala Baths were on a par back in “them ouden daiyes.”