Your memories of visits to Sunderland swimming baths

The changing cubicles at Newcastle Road baths.
The changing cubicles at Newcastle Road baths.
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It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

When we originally featured the story of the Sunderland swimming baths, it prompted a wave of interest from Echo readers.

The Thorney Close swimming team in around 1960.

The Thorney Close swimming team in around 1960.

We thank them for their memories and for some more interesting facts.

Alan Minnican emailed us to remember the Newcastle Road baths and said: “Was taught to swim there in the 60s by a guy called Ivor Macey from a swimming club ran by Bristol Aero Engines before they became Rolls Royce.”

Rita Willey lives in Saffron Waldon in Essex now but still remembers her days on Wearside where she was born and brought up.

“We visit family and friends about twice a year and my brother-in-law saves me some Echoes before I come,” said Rita.

Always spent bus fare home on hot chocolate from the vending machine, so hot it scalded your mouth, chips from a shop nearby and always a Triffic bar. Walked home to Millfield., Took ages! Grand day out

Karen Pennock

“I was born in 1945 and spent my young life in Roker not far from the old football ground where I used to go quite often with my dad. He used to pass me down over the heads to sit on the straw around the edge of the ground.

“If I stayed with him he would admonish anyone swearing because ‘there’s a bairn here!’.

“We only had to walk to the bottom of Sea View Gardens where we lived, through Roker Park and onto the beach where we spent most of the summers.”

But summers can be relatively short on Wearside – and the baths were a great alternative, said Rita.

The High Street Bath baroque entrance.

The High Street Bath baroque entrance.

“If it was raining then we would go to Newcastle Road Baths. My Grandma lived right opposite.

“I first attended Redby infants and junior school and when I attended Fulwell Secondary Modern school we went to Newcastle Road Baths in our uniform and beret. If we forgot the beret we couldn’t go!

“We walked from school and back again. I enjoyed swimming but yes the water was cold so I looked forward to a cup of hot oxo and cream cracker afterwards.”

Rita’s wonderful memories also included the day she married at the Grand Hotel, another of our feature topics recently.

“I was married in 1965 and our reception was at the beautiful Grand Hotel. My dad was presented with the bill at the end which was the grand total of £120 for 50 guests.

“We were married in December and it was so cold they couldn’t leave the doors open so we couldn’t have the red carpet laid out.”

Bill Hawkins was another to get in touch.

“Lots of happy memories’ of the High Street baths,” he admitted. “It was a bit daunting going with the school at first, I was a non swimmer to start with. Needless to say all the lads who could swim well you were in their sights for a couple of days.

“But things settled down and got better as confidence began to gather, and eventually I was far happier in the deep end than the shallow end. Saturday morning trips to High St baths were a regular thing with my mates now that I had the confidence to swim.”

Bill remembered the changing lockers being “very close to the pool, and when people dived in – or bombed in as we called it – well water was everywhere and your clothes were soaked sometimes.

“But of course there was always the end of visit treat, if you had any spare money it was straight round to Cawthorns for a savoury dip – lovely.”

More than 42,000 people were reached when we posted photographs of the baths on social media.

Among them was Karen Pennock, who said: “Always spent bus fare home on hot chocolate from the vending machine, so hot it scalded your mouth, chips from a shop nearby and always a Triffic bar. Walked home to Millfield. Took ages! Grand day out.”

Valerie Crossley commented: “Loved this swimming baths, cold as the water was.

“Got yourself all rubbed down and warm. Then, on the way out, a drink of hot Bovril to warm the cockles of your heart.

“Then walk through Thompson Park on the way home, They were the days x.”

Deborah McIlduff posted: “Went with my nana for women’s only Wednesday afternoons. Then a Croziers chip butty afters.”

And while others also loved their trip to the baths, Becca Old wasn’t on her own in remembering: “Don’t miss standing in that manky orange disinfectant.”

Thank you to everyone who came up with wonderful memories.

If you have a topic from Wearside’s past that you would like us to look into, email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk