Architects Opinion on Kings Meadow Ladies Baths in Reading
Architects describe the structure
Extracts from D.R. Bowdler, Inspector – National Heritage Listing 1st April 2004.
Architects report: “Kings Meadow was built in response to the 1846 Baths and Washouse Act, which permitted public expenditure from the rates on such provisions. This movement reflected the democratic aspect of the Victorian Social Conscience, which earnestly believed in providing access to water for all. 1902 is emphatically stated above the main entrance and appears homonogeous throughout. This is thus an Edwardian open-air riverside pool, on a site rather with rather longer association with public bathing. Assessment This must now be a relatively rare example of an Edwardian riverside open-air pool. Architecturally it is hard to make great claims
to it however. There were to be no frills at Reading – Kings Meadow pool was never heated then, and the buildings surrounding the pool are very restrained examples of Edwardian municipal design. This is realised in a fairly old fashioned vernacular revival style. The pool reflects the typical lay-out of the period i.e. a narrow pool with changing facilities along the sides, and a relative ornate roof structure – in this case, partly open.
The cast iron iron brackets supporting the barge boarded roof constitute the only non utilitarian decorative element to the design.
\Although it is quite difficult without further research to give Kings Meadow Swimming Pool greater National context, our current understanding of this type of pool is less than complete and this example has claims to some interest as an early example of an outdoor pool.” Professional View “On inspection of the iron columns I found a label. It appeared to me that the tag had been added after the column had been made and not molded with it The one I was able to read was Allens * Reading Reading.”
The dot (*) between Allen and Reading appeared to be a screw or rivet and not a blurred ampersand. Replace picture
Ref. Kelly’s Directory 1903 – Ref Reading Directory 1903 P. 371 by courtesy of Sidney Gould.
“…this building has fine features, and could, and should be preserved and utilisedas an amenity facility for local people, as intended when it was built. Not necessarily a pool….”
Roof Structure Inside the Octagon
Professional Opinion of the Outside Structure.
J.W. Ridgett B.A. – Architect 2004.
“I would like to offer my support for the preservation of the King’s Meadow Public Swimming Pool, and to put a plea on behalf of the existing fabric of this building which has many features of real architecture. The building has been well ducumented over the past hundred years or so.
It is a well-built municipal building for utilitarian use, constructed I would imagine with local bricks, tiles and timber. The brickwork is extremely fine for its type in traditional pattern brickwork, traditional to the Reading street scene, no doubt due to the local brick and tile works at Tilehurst. The swimming pool fabric is, in the main built in red brickwork with deep frieze band of yellow brickwork. The windows have stone dressing and fine rubbed flat arches with paper thin joints between the voussoirs. The band of yellow brickwork forming the frieze sits upon a molded header string course. (Unfortunately several metres of this string course has been crudely hacked off.)
Above the frieze a cornice is formed by a band of timber dentile molding which gives support for a cast iron box section ogee over-sailing the main brickwork face to give support to the clay machine made clay tile mono pitch roof with its bold sweeping sprocketed eaves. ( Once again vandalism has smashed or removed sections of the gutter and timber eaves detail exposing the eaves and top of the brickwork to the ingress of water. However, a cheap restoration had been carried out some years ago when corrugated iron was fitted over the rear arcos of the roofing, but this is completely out of character and should be replaced with matching clay tiles. A feature of the roofline over the entrance has been formed by the inclusion of a timber clock turret with tiled roof apex. Unfortunately no clock.”
The building sits on projecting blue Staffordshire brick plinth which circles the whole of the building. An extension has been added some thirty years ago in the form of a single storey flat roof with well built double oak doors with fine molded panels and framing. Although it is well built, it is not in character with the main building. Furthermore, I feel the preservation of this building is doubly advantageous. Firstly you will provide a much needed leisure activity for there appears very little in the area of Reading for the younger generation, and secondly, retain a good example of Edwardian local architecture.