White tiling and hard scratchy towels

Swimmers at North Road Baths, 9 May 1978
Image reproduced with permission from Brighton History Centre

In the early 1950/60s, North Road Baths were both swimming baths and public baths. The swimming baths were certainly used by the Downs Primary School – I gained my 10 and 25 yards proficiency certificates there. Everything consisted of white tiling and the changing cubicles were around the side of the pool. Everyone had their own cubicle for changing in.

I also remember when we first moved into a house in Dyke Road Drive (number 7) in the late 1950s, it had no bathroom and, until this was built, all the family used the public baths in North Road. These baths were huge, all located in separate cubicles, green-painted with green lino floors. Hard scratchy towels were provided. Every now and then you would hear someone shout “More hot water in number 3, please”! I also seem to recall that there were separate session times for men and ladies.

Comments about this page

  • This is where I learnt to swim and yes it looks exact.

    By Bridget (02/03/2006)
  • Wonderful photo. I also went swimming here in the 50s with St Mary Magdelene School. If you had no trunks, if you spoke nicely to the attendant, then he would lend you a pair that someone else would have left behind.

    By Terry McCormack (02/04/2006)
  • Middle Street Primary School also used North Road Baths for swimming lessons and I also got my 10 yards and 25 yards there. Years later, as a University student, I had a summer job with the Corporation, part of which involved shovelling some sort of clinker out of a huge metal tank in the basement that was something to do with the filtration system. Being a pool man at Black Rock Pool, which is where we were sent after we had emptied the tank (we were never asked to fill it up again, for some reason) – was far better.

    By Adrian Baron (27/12/2007)
  • Like both Adrian and Ruth, I went to both Middle Street and Downs schools as a child in the late 50s/60s. I lived in Cannon Place at the time before Churchill square was built. I remember many happy days in North Road baths but I took my 10 yards certificate at St Lukes pool having to swim in a diagonal route across the pool as it was not 10 yds wide. In the North Road baths I also remember the communial changing rooms at the shallow end and the unforgettable smell of chlorine. There was also a diving board at the deep end but it was very rarely open due to health and safety (even in those days). Later years I joined BSClub and enjoyed many galas and water polo matches at North Road. It was nice to see the polo net hanging in the photo. The changing cubicles were boys on the right side looking towards the shallow end and girls on the left. I also remember when it was cold outside the heat of the water caused steam so as at times we couldn’t see the deep end from the shallow end. Nightmare for lifeguards if we had them then. Happy days!

    By Dave (09/08/2008)
  • I learnt to swim in the late 1960s at the North Road Baths with my best friend Richard Payne when we were about 7 years old. Our fathers used to take turns to drive us from Hassocks to the North Road Baths for the weekly swimming lesson. Afterwards we always had chips to aleviate the hunger from the effort expelled. I eventually managed to conquer the front crawl so the effort paid off. It’s great to see some old photos, they really take me back.

    By Richard (07/06/2009)
  • Happy days. I too learnt to swim there back in the 1945-6. We used to walk from Ditchling Road school and back for swimming lessons. Seems like yesterday looking at the photo. I remember the foot bath was always freezing but not long after the war had ended it was really great to have that facility as spartan as it was.

    By Garry Lockwood (06/01/2012)
  • I too was a pupil at St Mary Magdalen’s school and learnt to swim at these baths. The school had a temporary home in the old victorian school in Church Street from 1967 -1968, so it was a short walk! I remember always running to get changed in cubicle no 8! I managed to get my 10 yards certificate after many attempts! Still hate swimming to this day!

    By Maggie Williams (nee Doogan) (11/06/2012)
  • I remember using these baths. It was where I learnt to swim, I went to Fairlight Junior School, just off the Lewes Road near the Arches and the old Gaiety Cinema.

    By Gary Hawkes (23/11/2013)
  • Like many, I learned to swim at North Road Baths in 1955/6 when I was about 11 years old. I can still remember the exhilaration of those first few strokes without sinking. I still have my 10 and 25 yards certificates. I remember the swish of the heavy sailcloth type curtains along the rods in the cubicles – pale green I think or was it orange –a long time ago. I don’t recall any communal changing areas in those days. We too used to warm up with a 3d bag of chips from Bardsley’s in North Road and maybe a 1d onion. If funds were really low you could have a bag of batter ‘scraps’ for 1d. then, on to the number 13 bus to Coldean – great memories.

    By Elaine (24/11/2013)
  • I went to Central School in Jubilee Street just round the corner from North Rd Baths so only five minutes walk. I lived above a bakers shop in Gardner Street also just a few minutes away. I too took my 10 yards and 25 yards swimming certificates there and still have them stored away. l spent many hours at the baths both after school and Saturday mornings. Great memories brought back by all the lovely comments above ??



    By Paula (29/10/2015)
  • From 1960 to 1965 I attended Portslade County School for Boys. Every year during that time the school’s inter-house swimming events were held at the North Road Baths in Brighton.

    By Alan Phillips (24/02/2020)

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