Loughborough Swimming Baths, Queens Park

8 September 2014

Charnwood Museum in Queens Park, Loughborough, is set inside the original Loughborough swimming baths building.

The swimming baths were given to the town by Alderman Joseph Griggs who was the first Mayor of Loughborough. They were made to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 and were originally named the Queens Memorial Baths.

The baths cost £3,000-£4,000, a substantial amount of money at the time so it was a generous gift! They were opened on the 10th August, 1898 by the Marquis of Granby.

The building held a swimming pool, 4 first class baths, 5 second class baths and a laundry. The baths were extremely popular as most houses in Loughborough didn’t have indoor plumbing when the building opened its doors and bathing was comparatively cheap, (12 admission tickets cost 9d).

When the pool first opened it had to be emptied and re-filled by a team of men every day. It was therefore most expensive (2d) to swim in the morning when the water was cleanest. Children swam in the evening! In 1934 a chlorination and filtration system was fitted.

The pool was closed in 1975. There were increasing problems with maintenance, especially with the cleaning system and some days the pool had to be closed because the water was ‘muddy’. Also of course there was a new pool in the Charnwood Leisure Centre.

The old swimming baths were turned into a general function sports hall. A scheme was accepted and approved by the County Borough Council’s Estates and Recreations Committee on 7th February 1980. It took just 12 weeks to convert the Queen’s Memorial Baths to Queen’s Hall. The work involved laying seven steel beams across the pool and putting 35 tons of concrete on top while the original structure of the building remained the same. An informal opening ceremony was carried out on 15th July 1980.

The old pool structure is still under the floor of the Museum which opened in 1999. However the baths and laundry have left no trace. The outside of the building looks essentially the same but the main entrance is now in Queen’s Park instead of on Granby Street . The viewing gallery for the pool looks down on the temporary exhibition space. It is still reached by the original spiral stair case though now only by museum staff.

In January 2015 the Museum hosted a display based on the swimming baths. The exhibition featured items from Leicestershire County Council’s bathing costume collection. Members of the public loaned photographs, objects and memorabilia for the display and museum staff collected people’s memories of the swimming baths. These have been put together as a memory book which people can read at the museum.

Fiona Ure, Local Heritage Officer, Charnwood Museum