How Leeds Edwardian wonder Bramley Baths managed to stay afloat in a difficult year

It is an Edwardian gem that has provided its proud patrons with health and happiness for more than a century.

Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 6:00 am
Jennie Ashton is pictured swimming in the baths at Bramley, which reopens today. Picture by Simon Hulme.

But Bramley Baths, the community-led Grade II-listed fitness attraction in west Leeds, has had to fight for survival in recent years.

Now those who run the service have praised locals for their loyalty after seeing it through another rocky year - as it reopens today.

During the pandemic the community has rallied by joining the Friends of Bramley Baths scheme, buying T-shirts, supporting staff fundraisers, continuing to pay memberships and donating unused swimming lessons.

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Bramley Baths. Picture: Simon Hulme.

Meanwhile, the Baths has also managed to secure a number of grants to help support it from organisations such as Power to Change, Sport England, Leeds City Council, National Lottery, European Social Fund and the Bramley and Stanningley councillors.

Chairman John Battle, former Leeds West MP for Labour, at an annual meeting said: “I’d like to thank the whole Baths team – our staff, trustees and supporters – who have made sure that the Baths is still going through the worst of the pandemic. We can look to the future with confidence.

“Sadly we have seen other organisations going to the wall during this pandemic but we are still standing.

“Since the Baths became community led in 2013, Bramley’s community have proved that they can save and successfully run a major service and come through the worst epidemic to hit Britain in 100 years.

“We are currently on with remedial repairs and redecorating the building, as well as planning how we can be a key centre in Bramley post-Covid.”

Built on the site of a foundry, Bramley Baths first opened as a pool and public bath house in 1904, enabling people to wash, swim and use the new Russian Steam Baths – fashionable with the Edwardians as a healthy past-time.

The foundry chimney, built with 8,000 Kirkstall bricks, still towers over the building and can be seen from across Leeds.

After a threat to its future, on January 1 2013, the doors opened to a different era, with a new management team in place running the baths as a social enterprise after an asset transfer of the building from Leeds City Council.

It is now managed by Bramley Baths & Community Ltd on a 50-year lease.

Mr Battle also paid tribute to the work of new chief executive David Wilford, who joined the Baths in July.

“David came in at a time of intense pressure on our organisation and he has brought us much-needed stability,” said Mr Battle.

Mr Wilford said: “I’d like to thank our staff for their support during these difficult times and also everyone who has supported us by becoming Friends or continuing to pay their memberships. It shows how important this lifeline facility is to the people of Bramley.”

Bramley Baths is a community-led, not-for-profit centre for fitness, health and fun, which houses a public gym, swimming pool, steam room and space for community events, meetings and fitness classes.

Between re-opening in August and the current lockdown, more than 8,500 people have safely passed through our doors.

Friends of Bramley Baths is a scheme which sees supporters pay £4.65 a month and get to have a say in its future.