New lease of life for Leeds building with golden heritage

GOLDEN GIRL: Doris Storey with her medals in 1996.
GOLDEN GIRL: Doris Storey with her medals in 1996.
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She was the working class girl from Leeds who made a global splash with her sporting exploits during the 1930s.

Champion swimmer Doris Storey was just 19 when she won two gold medals in Sydney at the Empire Games of 1938.

Her talent and determination was famously honed during gruelling training sessions at the old York Road baths in east Leeds.

And yesterday Doris’s son, Ron Quarmby, 71, was among the guests as the historic building reopened as a gym and fitness centre after years of disuse and neglect.

Ron, from Barwick in Elmet, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “This place was a big part of my mum’s life so it is a very proud moment for the family to have it back in use.

“It was very sad to see what had happened to it. There was no roof on, there were pigeons inside.

“The way the renovation has been done is really nice, they have kept many of the old features. My mum would be overwhelmed if she saw it.”

The Grade II listed building, which was home to a library as well as a 23-metre pool, originally opened in 1903.

Shopkeeper’s daughter Doris trained there three times a day, fitting in sessions around her job as a machinist at the Burton’s factory on nearby Hudson Road. She represented her country at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin then struck gold two years later at the Empire Games, the forerunner to today’s Commonwealth Games.

The York Road building’s baths closed in the late 1970s, with its library going the same way during the 1980s.

Now, though, the building has been refurbished and brought back into use by Leeds-based property company Rushbond.

Operated by The Gym Group, the new fitness centre boasts around 170 pieces of kit, offers more than 30 classes a week and is open 24 hours a day.

REACTION

Yesterday’s reopening ceremony was attended by Coun Graham Latty, the Lord Mayor of Leeds.

He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “To preserve a building like this and bring it back into use, to me that is exactly what ought to be happening. I can’t speak highly enough of efforts to preserve lovely buildings of this nature, from the days when Leeds said ‘look at us, we are a proud city, we have got things like this’.”