Back stroke into history for Brinscall Baths’ centenary

Brinscall Baths - Flashback baths
Brinscall Baths - Flashback baths
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Chorley villagers will dive back in history this month when they celebrate the 100th anniversary of Brinscall Baths.

Writer, Alec Price takes a look back at it’s long history and the man responsible for its creation, on the eve of the celebrations.

June in Brinscall usually sees strong crowds turn out for the Village Sports Festival.

This June, however, will be a bit different.

There will be two celebrations of sporting excellence for residents to enjoy, as it is also the 100th anniversary of the opening of Brinscall Baths.

The landmark now proudly boasts to be the third oldest public swimming pool in daily use in the country.

It was officially opened in November 1911 by the man who built and paid for it, Mr Herbert T Parke.

He was a local entrepreneur and mill owner, who lived in Withnell Fold.

As well as being the benefactor of the baths, he also provided the playing fields and the village hospital.

He was a man who was very interested in literacy, and went on to create the village reading room and library for the people of Withnell Fold.

He was also responsible for building Chorley Library, and was a truly a decent man who cared for the community.

The foundation stone in the foyer of Brinscall Baths states that it was given to Withnell Urban District Council by Mr Parke on June 22, 1911.

On the day of the opening he was handed a golden key by the contractors.

He opened the door and allowed everyone inside.

As well as the dignitaries there was a large crowd of village residents present. Also present was Brinscall Prize Band.

In his opening speech, Mr Parke said he believed there was a great need for baths to be built in the local community because there was nowhere for gentlemen to bathe and certainly nowhere for the ladies.

An article in the local Weekly News (The Chorley Guardian of the day) on November 25, 1911 gave a wonderful description of the baths.

It said that there were ‘changing boxes’ that were situated all along the poolside and at the far end and went on to describe the ornate enamelled brick work, features which are still there today. Indeed, very little has changed in those 100 years.

After the speeches were over, Herbert T Parke emerged from one of the changing boxes, and to huge cheers he declared the pool open before diving fully clothed into what he had called the ‘Swimming Pond’ and swam the first length.

Brinscall Prize Band played “For he’s a jolly good fellow.”

Over the years hundreds of thousands of children and adults have learned to swim at Brinscall Baths.

In fact, there are very few people you speak to in the area who haven’t had a dip in the wonderful old pool at some time in their lives, and the regulars often speak of their experiences over the years.

Also worth a mention is Withnell Amateur Swimming Club, which has been going for many years.

Now a registered charity, they have taught countless children to swim. Brinscall Baths is now managed by Active Nation UK, who run the facility on behalf of Chorley Council.

In a bid to keep the baths going, they have recently spent in excess of £190,000 on repairs and improvements.

It is hoped the investment will help to secure the baths future for the next 20 years or more.

The staff at the baths will hold a fun day on Saturday, June 25 to celebrate the centenary.

Brinscall can be very proud of this jewel in its crown.

Very few villages have such a facility and long may it continue.