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Tudor Grange Pool - Solihull

Not content with trying to save Moseley Road baths, Steve Beauchampe celebrates the history of the old Tudor Grange Pool in Solihull which closes for the final time next Monday.

Ever fancied swimming in Solihull's Tudor Grange baths? Fancy leaping off the 5m diving board (the only public diving stage remaining open in the Birmingham area)? Never quite got round to it?

Well, you'd better get your skates on (though a swimming costume might be a better idea).

The baths - which opened on June 19th 1965 at a cost of £320,000 - close for the last time on the evening of Monday, January 28th, to be replaced the following morning by the new Tudor Grange Swimming Baths, located no more than a swimming pool's length away on the car park of Tudor Grange Leisure Centre (as the baths' complex became following later expansion).

Back in the Swinging Sixties, Tudor Grange baths were in the vanguard of swimming pool design. Gone was the decorative brick, stonework and tiling of the Victorian and Edwardian era or the slightly art deco and 'Moderne' building styles of the inter-war period.

Gone was the need for private 'slipper' baths (pretty much everyone, certainly in Solihull, had a bathroom in their home) and the segregation by class and sex which resulted in First and Second Class pools, male and female entrances.

Tudor Grange, in common with pools throughout Britain, but locally at Stechford, Newtown and Pool Meadow in Coventry, featured boxy, steel frames, large glazed curtain walls and a light and airy interior.

Solihull's first public indoor baths were perhaps a little late arriving, with the then fast expanding town previously offering swimmers only the summer pleasures of Malvern Park Lido.

But with the opening of Solihull Ice Rink in February of 1965 improving the range of the borough's sporting attractions, Tudor Grange served to emphasise civic pride in a decade when the town centre underwent seismic changes.

The main pool, 110ft x 42ft was the biggest in the Birmingham area (though proposals to emulate Pool Meadow's Olympic-standard 50m pond were quickly rejected on cost grounds), its 270,000 gallon tank taking four days to fill.

The diving stage (which extended out from the main pool to form an L-shape) featured 1m, 3m and 5m boards with a water depth of 12ft 6in and there was (and remains) a 500 seat spectator gallery.

Additional facilites included a seperate Teaching pool, a poolside restaurant, an underwater viewing point (long since closed), a room for 'youths' (now a fitness gym) and a two bedroom flat for the pool manager.

Placed inside Tudor Grange Park and alongside its lake, the baths actually sit above ground level, supported by steel columns driven to a depth of 28ft (the ground was considered too soft to take the building's full weight without the threat of subsidence).

There was a sun terrace (also closed) and later, three rather gaudy water slides leading to a small pool known as Paradise Falls.

Back at 2:45pm on June 19th 1965 Lord Mayor Baker unveiled a travertine marble plaque in the foyer to launch a two hour opening ceremony.

First in the water (from the 3m diving board) was the Lord Mayor's son, Donald, followed by displays from international swimmers and London's Highgate Diving Club, competitions involving local schools (during which one youngster needed rescuing by a lifeguard) and a water polo match between Sparkhill and Solihull following.

Yet like many pools of similar vintage, Tudor Grange has not weathered well and it's later leisure centre extensions, being very much of the 'crinkly tin' variety, will be no loss architecturally.

So not quite 43 years after it opened, the building will be demolished to be replaced by a new £12m sports complex featuring a more standard eight lane 25m pool, Teaching pool, diving pool (with adjustable floor) indoor tennis courts, a sports hall and fitness and health suites.

The new building plays a safer game, both lacking the glazed visual aesthetic of the old, and making little of it's lakeside location. Financed through a PFI and with some funding coming from the sale of a parcel of Tudor Grange Park's land for housing ex-servicemen.

However, new sports facilities are rare enough, and Tudor Grange is the first new public swimming pool in the Birmingham area for over two decades.

And here's one more thought... Silhillians still mourn the loss of their lido in the early 1980s. Given the new pool's proximity to the lake, is it too much to hope that one day a new lido might be constructed as an extension to the baths?

After all, the changing rooms, showers, ticket office and much of the general infrastructure required is already in place.

What are your favourite and least favourite pools to swim in across the West Midlands? Leave a comment on The Stirrer Forum.

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