The Foundation Stone, which can be seen on the left hand corner of the front of the building, was laid on the 9th July 1931, with full pomp and ceremony. The stone itself was laid by Councillor Arthur Cargill and the invited guests were brought up to the site for the ceremony then returned to Birkenhead Town Hall for refreshments.
At the time, the development of Birkenhead was divided into three areas: Birkenhead North, Birkenhead Central (sound familiar?) and Birkenhead South. Byrne Avenue was to be the site of the Birkenhead South Baths.
The following extract is taken from the Foundation Stone Laying Ceremony programme.
“The main frontage of the Baths will face Byrne Avenue South with entrances to the bathing establishments on each side of the Superintendent’s and Ticket Offices, which allows the swimming baths, slipper baths, children’s dressing rooms, etc. to be grouped in such a way that all these places may be reached with a minimum length of corridor; it also allows for the school children to be kept off the main traffic street before assembling and entering the baths and will provide a much safer exit for them when they are leaving in considerable numbers then would be obtained in Old Chester Road.”
This shows that the current entrance was not a later change but the way the building was always designed to function. So, why the grandly designed front entrance then, which now days seems pointless as it leads straight into the pool area? Again the programme explains.
“The large bath hall which can be used for galas in summer and concerts and dancing in winter, is placed parallel with the Old Chester Road frontage, and a separate entrance hall with staircases to the gallery is provided for that purpose.”
Originally the Baths was designed with two pools. The larger one was covered in the winter to form a sports hall and concert venue. But that isn’t the current sports hall, it’s the pool!
Details of the planned facilities are given in full.
“The accommodation to be provided consists of :— Large Bath Hall, 128’ 6” x 64′ 0”, containing swimming bath, 75′ long x 35′ wide, two club rooms, 19′ 0” x 14′ 6″, four foot baths, douches and lavatory accommodation for both sexes, and 109 dressing boxes.
This Hall will provide a floor space of 92′ 6″ x 49′ 0” clear of the dressing boxes when the temporary floor is laid, and in addition to this accommodation on the ground floor there is a gallery over giving seating accommodation for about 300 persons, and a certain amount of promenade and lounge space.
There will be seating accommodation for over 1,000 persons. Provision is also made for cinema displays.
Smaller Bath Hall, 126′ long x 58′ wide, containing swimming bath 75′ long x 30′ wide, two club rooms, 15′ 6″ x 14′ 0”, four foot baths, douches and lavatory accommodation for both sexes, and 129 dressing boxes.
There are 16 slipper baths separately arranged in groups of eight, on either side of the Byrne Avenue entrances, with a small waiting room to each.
There are two dressing rooms for school children to be furnished with changing room fittings, lavatory accommodation and footbaths.
The Superintendent’s and Ticket Offices are centrally placed between the swimming bath entrances. There is a spacious entrance ?hall with corridors leading therefrom to all parts of the building, and a staircase leading to the first floor on which are situated the Lounge, Refreshment Room, Kitchen and Service, Committee, and Cloak Rooms.”
Sadly, all the fixtures in the Smaller Bath Hall have long disappeared, presumably removed when the space was converted into the current Sports Hall. However the Slipper Baths remain and it is our intention to restore these and put them back into practical use.