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Newnham Swimming Baths Goldington

Newnham Baths about 1900 showing the former miller's cottage [Z1130/9/7/163]
Newnham Baths about 1900 showing the former miller's cottage [Z1130/9/7/163]

Newnham Baths were created in on the site of the old Newnham Priory Mill. A commemoration booklet from 1960 [BorBJ2/31] states: “The original swimming pool was formed from the old mill pool and contained approximately 900,000 gallons of river water”. An earlier commemorative booklet [BorBJ2/64] states: “The cottage which still stands on the west side of the baths [see below] is shown in an old print dated 1850, at which time it was joined to the other mill buildings, which have since been demolished”. Judging by photographs this cottage was the former miller’s house.

“The Corporation purchased the Estate in 1885 for £6,500. On July 1st 1896, eleven years after the purchase of the Mill, Newnham baths were first opened to the public … During the Great War, the Baths were handed over to the authorities for use as military baths, and during this time as many as 1,000 men were known to arrive together for bathing” This would be a full battalion of troops. “Mixed Bathing was first permitted in 1922”.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. The valuer visiting the baths [DV1/C237/60] found them owned by Bedford Corporation and built on 0.817 of an acre. Gross receipts for the previous year had been £77/0/9 and expenditure £416/5/18.

The baths contained 52 changing boxes as well as shelters and slides, an attendant’s office and a coal barn. There were three diving boards, four diving platforms and two high dive boards. On Sundays there was free entrance for mixed bathing from 7 am to 10 am. Every other day saw: free swimming from 6 to 9 am; lady subscribers from 10 am to 12.45 pm; men only, free entrance between 1 and 3 pm; mixed subscribers from 3 to 6 pm. On Mondays and Fridays girls could bathe free between 6 and 8 pm and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays free mixed bathing took place between the same hours. The old plaster and tiled house noted in the first paragraph, formerly the miller’s house, was in occupation of H Perry which comprised a parlour, a kitchen, a lumber room and three bedrooms.

Front entrabce and car park in 1936 [BorBJ2/64]
Front entrabce and car park in 1936 [BorBJ2/64]

Improvements were proposed in 1935 [BorBEP5] and there was an official opening on 1st June 1936 [BorBJ2/64]. The booklet states: “With the exception of the construction of the footbridge on the east side of the Baths and the dressing boxes on the north, the Baths were practically unchanged until after the close of last season … The reconstruction work which was undertaken during last winter has changed the whole character of the Baths and very little remains of the old surroundings”. The footbridge was the only way of crossing the river at this point before construction of Longholme Bridge.

 Diving stage, entrance block and footbridge in 1936 [BorBJ2/64]
Diving stage, entrance block and footbridge in 1936 [BorBJ2/64]

More improvements were planned in 1958 [BorBTP/LA58/294] and completed in 1960 after which a gala was held in celebration [BorBJ2/31]. The gala commemoration booklet states: “The reconstruction scheme has made use of the original pool area by constructing within it two new swimming pools”.

 The main pool in 1960 [BorBJ2/31]
The main pool in 1960 [BorBJ2/31]

“The two pools are filled with water from the town’s supply, the main pool containing 393,000 gallons and the children’s pool 52,500 gallons. The water is continuously filtered and chemically treated … The water is continuously and automatically treated with chlorine, and the acidity of the water is automatically controlled by the latest and most up-to-date apparatus. The filtration, pumping and chemical plant is capable of turning over the water in both pools every four hours”.

 The children's pool in 1960 [BorBJ2/31]
The children's pool in 1960 [BorBJ2/31]

“The total cost of the works described above was approximately £59,000”.

In October 1981 the baths were finally closed. Bedford Marina now occupies the site.