Woolton residents working together to try to re-open swimming pool

PUBLISHED: 21:34 31 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:16 20 February 2013

Woolton residents working together to try to re-open swimming pool

Woolton residents working together to try to re-open swimming pool

Woolton residents are working togther to try to re-open the swimming pool which was sunk by government cuts, as Paul Mackenzie reports

Woolton Baths is a genuine little treasure and, for me, forms an integral part of the areas village feel and ambience. So wrote architectural historian Simon Inglis in his latest book about Britains traditional swimming baths. But while pools across the country are benefiting from the Olympic effect, with more and more people hoping to follow in the wake of Rebecca Adlington, the doors of Woolton Baths remain firmly padlocked.

Ingliss book, Great Lengths, goes on: So many baths from the late 19th century are closing or being demolished that I feel we are in real danger of losing an important part of our cultural heritage. Here was a genuine hub of the community, and one that still has much to offer.

Woolton Baths where John Lennon learned to swim were closed just over two years ago as costly problems with a filter tank coincided with the first round of government spending cuts. There was talk of selling the building but the Save Woolton Pool group successfully appealed for a stay of execution and they have now put forward plans which could transform the place into an important centre of the community once again.

The fine red brick building was opened in 1893 by the industrialist Holbrook Gaskell for the benefit of his employees and generations of Woolton residents learned to swim there. Now local campaigners want to re-open the pool and to create a local history centre featuring local residents memories of the building.

Bill Deputy has memories to contribute he was banned from the baths three times as a child for jumping into the water from the balcony. Bill, who lives across the road from the building, went on to be a lifeguard at the baths and is now a member of the Save Woolton Pool board.

He said: This could be one of the best baths in the country when all the work is done and its back open again.

When the baths were closed a lot of people were upset and because of the sort of place Woolton is everyone knows everyone else and theres a real sense of community we stuck together to try to find a way to re-open the baths.

It has not been easy because the wheels turn very slowly when youre applying for grants and we have to make sure we do everything in the correct order theres no point getting all the tiles re-done then ripping them all out to sort out the pipework.

The group has applied for lottery funding to help meet the costs of restoring the baths which could total almost 1m , although much of the work would be carried out by volunteers.

They have had one major success already, in successfully appealing for the building to be given Grade II listed status and they are fortunate that many of the original features such as the ornate roof and beautiful Minton tiles are still in place.

But swimming teacher Simon Smith laments the fact that Woolton, which produced Olympic swimmer Steve Parry, is missing out on the post-Games boost. Other places are reaping the rewards of the Olympics, he said. Hopefully even though the pool here is closed we will see a surge in interest in swimming and that could help with the whole campaign to save the baths.

We have a lot of tourists coming because of the Beatles connection and it would be great if they had another reason to visit here.

There are already plenty of reasons to visit Woolton, which has retained a village feel in spite of its proximity to Liverpools city centre. There is a range of small independent shops and restaurants and a healthy number of community groups working to retain and develop the areas charm.

Wooltons warmth comes not just from its welcoming and friendly locals, but also from the deep red of the stone quarried here which is much in evidence around the village, and more famously was used to build Liverpools Anglican Cathedral.

One other key point on the tourist trail in Woolton is the churchyard of St Peters, the resting place of legendary Liverpool manager Bob Paisley.

With him at the helm, the club won at least one trophy in eight of the nine years he was in charge. He won six league titles, three European Cups and six Manager of the Year awards. The FA Cup was the only major trophy he didnt win. He retired in 1983 after 44 years at the club, as player, physio, coach and manager, but continued as a director until he was diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease in 1992. He died in four years later, aged 77, and is remembered at Anfield with the Paisley Gates.

Bob was a director at the club at the time of Heysel Stadium disaster when 39 fans died at the European Cup Final between Liverpool and Juventus and in 1989 when 96 supporters lost their lives at an FA Cup semi final at Hillsborough.

The report published in September this year exonerated Liverpool fans of blame for the tragedy and revealed the level of conspiracy to cover-up the truth.

Bobs son Graeme, who is the verger at St Peters Church, said: It has been a very difficult time for everyone connected with Liverpool. I was not at Hillsborough that day, but I was at Heysel and I know how hard it has been for the families for the last 23 years. There is a sense of shock at the scale of the revelations.

For cheese a jolly good fellow

Vickie Anderson is doing her bit to safeguard the future of Wooltons small independent shops. At her Liverpool Cheese Company shop on Woolton Street she tries to encourage younger shoppers to support local businesses.

Vickie opened the shop almost seven years ago and earlier this year she launched a second shop in Southports newly refurbished indoor market.

The future of shops like this depend on younger people not being content to buy everything from a supermarket, she said. It can be intimidating to go into a traditional shop and to have to ask for things by weight but we are doing what we can to help people get over that and to make it a more pleasant experience.

Were in a fortunate position here because Liverpudlians are eternally curious and want to try new things.

Vickie, who opened the shop after a career in housing management, now stocks around 200 cheeses, most of them British, as well as breads, teas and local beers. And she also provides a range of unconventional wedding cakes made out of wheels of cheese.

She added: I always thought Liverpool should have a specialist cheese shop and since no-one else had started one I thought Id do it myself. These are tough times but in spite of the recession people still want to eat well and to treat themselves from time to time.

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