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Coventry Central Baths (original part including sunbathing terraces), part of Coventry Sports and Leisure Centre

A Grade II Listed Building in Coventry, Coventry

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.4091 / 52°24'32"N

Longitude: -1.5045 / 1°30'16"W

OS Eastings: 433801

OS Northings: 279130

OS Grid: SP338791

Mapcode National: GBR HGM.HD

Mapcode Global: VHBWY.VQZ0

Entry Name: Coventry Central Baths (original part including sunbathing terraces), part of Coventry Sports and Leisure Centre

Listing Date: 2 December 1997

Last Amended: 13 August 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021930

English Heritage Legacy ID: 466553

Location: Coventry, CV1

County: Coventry

Electoral Ward/Division: St Michael's

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Coventry

Traditional County: Warwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Midlands

Church of England Parish: Coventry Holy Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Coventry

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Summary

Swimming Baths with attached sunbathing terraces. Designed in 1956, built 1962-6 by Coventry City Architect's Department, under Arthur Ling and Terence Gregory; Michael McLellan principal architect, Paul Beney assistant in charge. The 1970s dry sports centre to the east, the glazed link bridge and the linking external stairs are excluded from the listing.

Description

Swimming Baths with attached sunbathing terraces. Designed in 1956, built 1962-6 by Coventry City Architect's Department, under Arthur Ling and Terence Gregory; Michael McLellan principal architect, Paul Beney assistant in charge. The 1970s dry sports centre to the east, the glazed link bridge and the linking external stairs are excluded from the listing.

MATERIALS: steel frame, supported on four main stanchions set outside the building envelope with much use of cantilevers, clad in brick with large areas of glazing. At the upper levels mosaic finishes of expressed trusses replaced in powder coated metal that is sympathetic to the original intentions.
PLAN: set on a tight site, an enfilade of three pools set in a single hall, the largest pool 'T'-shaped to include a diving area that projects south.
EXTERIOR: the south elevation is particularly impressive, with full glazing round five sides. This has strong internal mullions, while externally the mullions and transoms form an even grid.
INTERIOR: the interior is particularly impressive. The main pool hall, with seating for 1,174 spectators, has an 165' pool with diving area in the projecting 'T'. A small teaching pool is set in low-ceilinged space under a projecting cafe and viewing area, with a small pool beyond. These retain the original brick and tile finishes.

History

Wartime bombing destroyed four of Coventry's five swimming baths. By 1956 the city decided that its needs would best be met by a very large central complex. Coventry and Hampstead were the only complexes of the period to be constructed with three pools, and at Coventry all three remain in use. The use of a steel frame and the longitudinal plan are also unusual features. Coventry is important as amongst the most ambitious baths built anywhere in Britain in the short period 1960-66 when large swimming complexes were encouraged. It is also one of the few buildings in the rebuilt Coventry centre to be a pure modern design: 'Coventry has been provided with one of the finest swimming pools in the world. It has probably no equal in Europe, and local pride has reason to be satisfied. ... The site for the Swimming Baths was constricted and the requirements complicated. Yet the result is undoubtedly an architectural success. The enormous bird-like form has an imaginative and dramatic elegance which outclasses any of the other recently erected buildings in central Coventry.' (Coventry New Architecture). The elaborate facilities of the main pool were designed to meet international competition standards, and the pool became the regional competitive centre for the Midlands - a recognition of the impressive facilities provided rather than an original aim.

Reasons for Listing

The Coventry Central Baths (the original part including the sunbathing terraces), Coventry Sports and Leisure Centre, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: it is a striking winged design that utilises an unusual longitudinal plan and an impressive full height glazed south wall;
* Historic interest: it is amongst the most ambitious baths built anywhere in Britain in the short period between 1960-66 when large swimming complexes were encouraged;
* Innovation: the extensive provision of facilities (three pools including the main T–shaped pool which was the first of its kind to be planned), led to it being designated a centre for training and staging international events in the Midlands;
* Association: it is designed by the Coventry City Architects Department (the principal architect Michael McLellan under Arthur Ling and Terence Gregory), a team who were responsible for a number of important Post-War buildings in the city centre, including the Belgrade Theatre (1956-8, Grade II).

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