Pool swims against tide to reach 50th milestone

Picture: John Bradshaw (left), Kath Burgess (Centre), and Terry Thompson (right), at Chapeltown Baths.
Picture: John Bradshaw (left), Kath Burgess (Centre), and Terry Thompson (right), at Chapeltown Baths.

AS Sheffield proclaims its top-class multi-million-pound leisure centres at Ponds Forge, Hillsborough and Concord, a pool in the north of the city has been quietly serving the community for almost 50 years.

Activities are being held from this month to celebrate the golden anniversary of Chapeltown Baths, which continues to swim against the financial tide.

“Keeping the baths running is no small feat,” said Kath Burgess, who has chaired the volunteer board of directors for ten years.

“Pools are expensive items and it’s housed in a 50-year-old building which needs a lot of maintenance. We are only here today by grace of the many many hours of time and effort the volunteers from the community continue to put in.”

Community action prevented the building from being closed in 1995 during a round of spending cuts by Sheffield City Council – long before the idea of the Big Society emerged, it is pointed out.

The baths are now run as a not-for-profit community business. Financial help comes from the city council and Ecclesfield Parish Council but there is always an annual shortfall to be addressed.

The survival strategy has seen the introduction of health-related activities including a gym, sauna, tanning booth, vibroplate and massage and beauty treatments.

Yet the pool, which opened on December 9, 1961, remains the focal point for leisure swimming and teaching, both privately and for 12 local schools to over 1,000 children a week. It has been home to Chapeltown Amateur Swimming Club since 1961, as well as the Chapeltown Sub-Aqua Club and South Yorkshire Diving Academy.

“Fifty years is a magnificent achievement and we felt we must mark the occasion with events that would recognise all aspects of the community we serve,” said Kath.

They start on Sunday, August 14 with an invitation to try a sub-aqua and a chance to have an underwater photo taken. A water-based It’s a Knockout will be held on Sunday, September 25 and a children’s swimming gala on Sunday, October 9.

Meanwhile, more improvements are planned to help the building move towards self-sustainability by widening the facilities it offers to the community. This is likely to include an extension and the installation of solar panels.

In particular, Kath pays tribute to Terry Thompson for his years of effort in maintaining the building, and John Bradshaw for his management of the tight finances over several years.

And she is hoping to create a memories board with people’s recollections of using the facilities over the 50 years.

“I’m often approached by people who share their fond memories of the baths and it would be wonderful to display these as part of the celebrations,” said Kath, who can be contacted through the baths on 2570354.