Was it the end of the road for the High Street baths?

You had a splashing time at the High Street baths.

Tuesday, 18th September 2018, 11:00 am
The baths were facing an uncertain future in 1975.

But it looked like it was all going to come to an end in 1975 when council cutbacks kicked in. The baths were being considered for closure.

And that meant a tradition which had lasted more than 100 years was about to disappear.

Sunderlands High Street Baths which were being considered for closure in 1975.

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It was 43 years ago this month that the fate of the High Street Baths was under scrutiny at Sunderland Borough Council. If it went ahead, 2,500 Wearside schoolchildren would be affected as they went there for swimming lessons each week.

The Sunderland Echo report at the time said: “It would leave Newcastle Road baths as the town’s only public swimming pool. At present, 26,95 schoolchildren use the High Street pool each week.”

But news of the possible shutdown met with dismay in some quarters. Joseph Clarke, secretary of the Sunderland Amateur Swimming Association, said at the time: “Such a move would totally overwork Newcastle Road baths.”

He admited, though, that the High Street baths were fighting a losing battle to stay open.

Sunderland's High Street baths which were being considered for closure in 1975.

“I know that the apparatus is well past its best,” he said. “But to close it totally would cause a great number of problems. Perhaps the council would consider keeping it open just for schools without their own pools until the Crowtree Road complex opens.”

Mr Clarke added: “People have worked hard there over the past few years to keep the baths going although our training has often been upset by temporary closures at High Street for repairs.”

He said the building really needed re-equipping, but added: “We all know that is out of the question.”.

Sunderland’s director of recreation Robert Sutherland said he had recommended that the leisure sub-committee should have a good look at all the facts concerning the baths, and that until that had been done, there was little information available on the possible closure.

Few schools could boast their own swimming pools in decades gone by.

And that meant bus trips to public baths with whole classes going at a time.

and swimming lessons usually meant whole classes making a journey, often by bus, to one of the public baths in the town.

The High Street baths were usually used by school which were on the south side of the river. They were known partly because of the baroque doorway and clock at the entrance.

And another feature was the individual cubicles around the pool.

But both the High Street and Newcastle Road baths eventually closed and we would love to hear what you thought of them.

To jog your memory, here are a few more reminders of Sunderland in 1975.

It was quite the place to be for a social scene. Brotherhood of Man were on at the Black Cat Club and it had just been announced that Freddie ‘Parrot Face’ Davies had signed up to play Buttons in pantmomime at the Empire Theatre that winter.

It was a busy season for the Empire with Marianne Faithfull, Dora Bryan, Cliff Richard and Semprini all booked for shows.

It was 25 pence to get in to The Vestry, in Fawcett Street, and it was even cheaper at Zhivago. Entry was free as long as you were a member.

Over at La Strada, also in Fawcett Street, Jean Bennett was the midnight cabaret star at a venue where, as the advert said, ‘only smart people admitted’.

To get that smart look, why not try a trip to Sgt Pepper’s or Esquire – the male boutique where you could open a budget account for your autumn clothes, three-piece suits, jackets and trousers.

How about a night at the pictures? Paper Moon, starring Ryan and Tatum O’Neal was on at the Fairworld in Seaham, while Charlton Heston starred in Planet Of The Apes at the Fairworld in Horden.

Sean Connery and Candice Bergen were the headline names in The Wind and The Lion at the Sunderland Odeon, and the Eiger Sanction at the ABC in Sunderland starred Clint Eastwood and George Kennedy.

But what are your 1975 memories of Sunderland’s social scene?

Did you love a trip to the baths, the pictures or some other form of entertainment?

Email [email protected] and share the memories.