Birmingham Heritage week was a little different this year, with many of the events being online due to Covid restrictions. As someone who spends a lot of time online for work purposes, these didn’t really appeal to me, but I was able to find at least one actual event, a tour of The Doug Ellis Woodcock Sports Centre, based in Aston, and boasting a fully working Edwardian Swimming Pool dating from 1902.
I had stumbled upon this absolute gem earlier in the year, and had photographed the outside for my Instagram, but didn’t really know anything of the building, or the fact that it contained a truly beautiful Edwardian Pool, complete with poolside changing cubicles, that had been restored to its original state and was actually open for business, being enjoyed by a new generation. A second pool also remained in the building, although this had now been covered over for use as a sports hall.
The Sports Centre is owned and controlled by Aston University, and I believe it was bought from Birmingham council for a nominal fee sometime in the 1980s, when it was in a pretty shabby state. Since then, the University has lovingly restored areas and made them into an incredible space, keeping as many period features as it was safe to do so, including some pretty impressive windows that have an art deco style to them.
Everywhere you look there are impressive period features, from the vents and the windows in the swimming area, to signs of bricked up rooms and doorways. The entrance hall and ticket office date from 1925 and still have the glorious green tiles and the dark wood doors and panels that are truly beautiful and striking.
I feel privileged to have been able to see all the features at close range, the whole centre is just beautiful, and shows what careful restoration and real love can mean to our heritage.