Smethwick Baths

Early morning swim at a fascinating historic pool famous for the Beatles and ghosts - before it's gone forever!

Another early morning in the sun! Up at 5:30 am and keen to visit the historic Smethwick Baths (more recently known as the Smethwick Swim Centre) before they pull the plug and mothball the Grade II listed building in a few weeks.

Constructed in 1933, the Smethwick Baths were Britain’s first truly modern art deco baths. Designed by Chester Button and Roland Fletcher, the building resembles the Royal Horticultural Hall in London. The pool features underground tunnels which served as an air raid shelter and morgue for bombing victims during the Second World War.

Once a dual-purpose venue, the pool was filled during the summer months for swimming and then drained and covered with a sprung maple dance floor during the winter to host boxing, exhibitions and concerts - with everyone from The Beatles and The Who to Glen Miller and Tommy Copper playing the venue over the years.

The pool hosted several international swimming competitions broadcast live on the BBC with notable galas, including the British swimming team vs West Germany, Sweden and France.

Swimming pool by day, ghost hunting by night!

During construction, engineers discovered 300 bodies in a medieval plague pit 10 feet below where the front reception now stands! The bodies were left in place, and construction continued!

Ghost sightings are a regular occurrence! The subway tunnels below the pool once used for storage of the seasonal maple dance floor, attract ghost hunters, paranormal tours and TV production companies alike, all in search of the boy covered in white powder, the 8-year-old hand-holding whispering girl and the man in a boiler suit with whom people have held lengthy conversations! Odd going-on extends to the changing rooms with wet footprints across the floor in the morning and plant equipment shut down overnight.

One final claim to fame, the pool featured the first ‘Pool rules sign’ (Think no heavy petting!) that became standard at swimming pools throughout the UK.

So, the swim. It’s now 6:30 am, and the pool is full of early morning swimmers - and the most friendly bunch of swimmers I’ve yet to meet! Check the length with the lifeguard and plug 30 metres into the swim watch. The water is clear and just the right temperature.

It’s great to swim in a pool with an interesting bottom! Swimmers get bored staring at the same old blue tiles and black lines; this pool flows from a shallow end with artistic dings adorning the tiles to a 2.6m deep end with sides sloping down to a single central drain point. I wish I had my GoPro for an underwater photo! I then drifted off designing a kickboard float with a GoPro mount on the underside to add an ‘in-pool’ video to these posts!

Complete an enjoyable 2km swim; I didn’t even mind the rope lanes!

The building is spectacular, inside and out. The pool is surrounded by a high-level seating gallery and the flooded with light from the enormous windows and skylights. The white arching ceiling, classic tiles and art deco style give this place a striking look and feel, something you won’t find in modern pools. It’s a shame they’ve added the central ventilation pipework, but it is (was) a small price for keeping the pool open and mostly true to its 1930 art deco design.

I’m looking forward to finally getting a swim in the new Olympic pool when it opens in a few weeks just down the road (they have posters everywhere advertising the new facility - and membership!), but sorry to see such a legendary pool disappear; and whilst I have another 1km to complete for my current daily 3km target, I’ve got a second pool lined up just 8 minutes away, from old to new, the brand new West Bromwich Leisure Centre - up next!

Swim Stats

  • 2040 meters total swim
  • 1:33 pace / 100m
  • Garmin Swim 2 Watch



This historic pool is well-worn and shows its age, but who cares? This place has history and lots of it! - and still holds water for another eight weeks! The £4.90 entry is very reasonable, and lane swim sessions are well provided in the timetable - but you'll have to get down there before July 20th 2023, when they pull the plug and close the doors forever!

Pool Details

  • Length 30 meters
  • 6-lane pool
  • Indoor

Smethwick Baths
Thimblemill Road, Smethwick B67 5QT, UK

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