Inspired by a Beautiful Building

Withington Baths & Leisure Centre, Withington, Manchester

The Withington Baths building

I guess in the professional sense, I’ve been a very remiss blogger this last few weeks. After Interiors UK in Birmingham, I posted a initial flurry of gorgeous design shots, then out of the blue came a post about campaigning, then silence. Life eh, that thing that comes along to smack you in the face just when you’re getting organised! I’d resolved so much for January / February 2013, to get my accounts in on time, to not take on any work so I could get ‘office-straight’, to plan the year ahead, to write consistent blog posts….

The problem is that when I left Manchester Uni in 1993 I fell a little in love with the building above, Withington Baths. To me, who at that time had no knowledge of building, property or interiors, the Baths were handsome, solid and somehow grounded into the centre of where I’d chosen to make my home. I’d pass it every day on Burton Road as I walked from my first rented studio flat to the bus stop and would call in for a swim or to use the then tiny gym at weekends, mostly because I couldn’t drive and it was on my doorstep, affordable and friendly.

Withington Baths & Leisure Centre, Withington, Manchester

The pool room

A couple of years later I bought my first apartment directly opposite the Baths. By then I was driving and my weary twenty-something-burning-the-candle-at-both-ends eyes would just about be open by the time I drove around Brigadier Close and stopped at the Wilmslow Road junction. The building was the first thing I saw every morning, in the early sun, the Manchester rain or the snow, always busy with people scurrying in and out and school children lined up outside. The interior balance changed at that time, one of the pools was closed down and turned into a gym but the exterior and use for the community stayed pretty much the same. Without my knowing it, the building was weaving its way into my life as, I’ve found out in the last two and a half weeks, it’s done for over a hundred years with seemingly every other local resident. Over the following 15 years I’ve built my life and business in the immediate area and watched with some sadness as whilst the West Didsbury end of Burton Rd has flourished into a thriving centre of independent businesses, the Withington end and Village have gradually declined. Many mistakes have been made, in planning, lack of correct investment, poor overall management, housing and all have contributed to an overall feeling by many that Withington and the Old Moat didn’t benefit in any way from the ‘boom years’.

Luckily it still had the Baths, pulling together the community and acting as the sole remaining social and sporting hub, despite the lack of care and investment from above.

Entrance at Withington Baths

But, you see, the problem is that although WE all love old buildings and the way they reach into our hearts and take a firm and everlasting grip, most city councils don’t. They don’t like the old tiles which need care and attention, timber doors wanting varnish and love, mazes of rooms and corridors, the traditional ceilings, glass roofs or brick exteriors. Too complicated you see, too much like hard work. City councils like shiny new glass and metal, big boxes which are thrown up cheap and don’t require upkeep, investment and maintenance. Buildings which don’t need ‘keeping’. Mostly they seem to want to spend our money on big boys toys and impressive ‘iconic’ tat. Structures more akin to penis extensions than community hubs.

So it was announced in mid-January that the whole building was to be closed at the end of March 2013, just weeks away. This building which has taught thousands to swim, which is still going strong after a century, which welcomes hundreds every week through its doors to this day, which is relied upon by those in our community with no car, which is a place children can safely walk to and play, which saw tea dances in the emptied pool in the war, which is claimed by so many to be the place that has healed them mentally and physically, which is a hub for people of all ages to meet and mix, which is part of the fabric of our local area and upon which so many rely…. would simply close its doors forever with no local alternative.

Couldn’t not get involved really could I? Sometimes things are more important than getting blog posts out about this season’s colour or what’s the best 2013 choice in sofas. Besides, the Moregeous blog is about interiors, property and buildings…. and sometimes, buildings need people to save them.

The campaign group have had a petition going for just under a fortnight now, one of the methods employed to show Manchester City Council the huge mistake it’s proposing to make. We want a proper Olympic Legacy, we want our community to survive and flourish, we want better than short term cost savings which will have hugely detrimental long term implications.

It’s the big count tonight as we’ve aimed for four thousand signatures in under two weeks – that’s a LOT of names and a HUGE ask. Watch this space : SaveWithyBaths

Original tiles

2 thoughts on “Inspired by a Beautiful Building

  1. Sian, I wished I had read this last week!! Even though I live nowhere near Manchester I would have added my signature. I will now keep up with this site to see if your determination and persistance will win the day and pursuade city council to realize what an asset they would be condemning… I read an article by you in Professinal Builder mag and it was a joy to hear of a woman ‘developer’ with a passion. I have just finished my second property renovation with much hard work and exreme pleasure Katie Francis

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