Cleaning up the act: Kent St. public baths, plans and accounts


Kent St. Bath & Washhouses c. 1855 ©BirminghamCityCouncil

Birmingham Corporation opened its first public baths at Kent Street on May 12th, 1851. It was among the first major civic building projects undertaken by the town’s earliest elected council, along with the prison and asylum at Winson Green. There were other public baths in the town from very early in the nineteenth century, but Kent Street was the first paid for from the local public purse. At a meeting of the town council in October 1848, the ‘Gaol and Building Committee’ presented the first plans for the building:

The plans now submitted will if carried out afford the following accommodation viz. one swimming bath 84 feet by 36 feet – two plunging baths 15 feet by 17 feet and 13 feet by 18 feet – one for males and one for females – 51 private baths 5 feet 9 inches square, being 36 for males and 15 for females with vapour and shower baths – 25 stalls each 3 feet 6 inches wide for washing – room for centrifugal drying machine, drying closet, laundry with mangles – 6 private drying closets with water closets for each division. Residences for superintendents and matron, committee and waiting rooms. The Police House will be placed under the drying closet and the shaft from the boiler flue will also serve as an extraction shaft to assist in ventilating the whole of the buildings, but will economise fuel. The arrangement of the plans is such as to admit of future extension should it be required.’

There was clearly a good deal of thought put into ensuring that the building could offer the best value to the rate payer as well as allowing for future extension if the baths proved popular. By January 1852 the council had appointed a dedicated ‘Baths and Washhouses Committee’, who reported that there had been a decrease in the number of people using the swimming baths, suggesting that this was a seasonal drop and that some of the attendants had been ‘dispensed with’. The baths had been closed for several days during December for maintenance, including repairs to the boilers and flues. The committee also presented the following accounts. The list shows the name of tradesman, goods/services procured and the cost in pounds, shillings and pence:

John Wilson & Co. –  check books – £10,,19,, 4

Harriman – thermometers –  £  1,,14,, 4

H. Bishop –  chairs – £  3,, 6,, 0

Mr Hutchins – baskets – £  0  ,, 7,,

Rawlings, – brushes – £ 5,,17,, 5

Edward Simons – soap – £24,,19,, 8

Allen & Son –  printing –  £  2,,15,, 6

Stokes – coals –  £93,, 5,, 3

Holliday – cocoa nut matting –  £15,,18,, 9

C. Aston –  ironmongery –  £  1,, 7,, 4

Brassington – tubs etc. –  £10,,17,, 3

Holliday – flannel – £   0 ,,11,, 5

John Hanks – coals –  £  0  ,,18,, 8

Superintendents  – incidental expenses  – £  1,,15,, 5

the information here is taken from the minutes of Birmingham Town Council, BCC 1/AA/1/1/2 , Birmingham Archives, Heritage and Photography, at the Library of Birmingham Please support our local archives



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s