A splashing new town era

IT'S GOING SWIMMINGLY: There will be a lot of faces on this picture which will be instantly recognised, especially by people who used to go to Dewsbury Sports Centre, when it was simply known as Dewsbury's new swimming baths. It shows staff who were there in 1981, and here they are raising a glass to one of their colleagues, Bill, the man seated, who was retiring. The picture was kindly loaned by Joe Connolly, whose sister, Winnie Pleasant, was a baths attendant. Winnie is the lady with the black hair, wearing a white uniform, on the back row. Joe doesn't know the names of anyone else pictured.
IT'S GOING SWIMMINGLY: There will be a lot of faces on this picture which will be instantly recognised, especially by people who used to go to Dewsbury Sports Centre, when it was simply known as Dewsbury's new swimming baths. It shows staff who were there in 1981, and here they are raising a glass to one of their colleagues, Bill, the man seated, who was retiring. The picture was kindly loaned by Joe Connolly, whose sister, Winnie Pleasant, was a baths attendant. Winnie is the lady with the black hair, wearing a white uniform, on the back row. Joe doesn't know the names of anyone else pictured.

THESE days there are many photographs landing on my desk which at first sight appear to be relatively recent ones.

On closer inspection, they turn out to be quite old, and it makes me realise just how quickly time is passing by.

If someone had asked me how old Dewsbury Sports Centre was I wouldn’t have hesitated to say 15 or 20 years.

If they’d asked when the old swimming baths had closed down, I’d have said the same.

But the sports centre was built around 40 years ago, and the old baths in Old Westgate closed not long after.

There are many people in Dewsbury of my generation who still refer to the sports centre as Dewsbury’s ‘new’ swimming baths.

They also refer to the ‘new’ bus station, the ‘new’ fire station and the ‘new’ police station.

And, there are people who still refer to houses on council estates in Dewsbury as ‘new’ houses when in fact they were built 50 years ago.

For all these ‘new’ buildings were being built in the 1960s when Dewsbury was at its peak and before it was submerged into Kirklees.

Thousands of houses were being built in the town, and new schools were opening in almost every village.

It is difficult to imagine the vast amount of improvements taking place in Dewsbury at that time as part of the town’s ambitious 20-year plan for Dewsbury.

The council was intent on transforming Dewsbury and making it the envy of all the towns surrounding, but I will be writing more about this in later articles.

THESE days it is difficult to know what is nostalgia and what isn’t, what is old and what is new.

I see a colour photograph and think it cannot possibly be old because it isn’t in black and white.

Yet the recent colour photographs published on this page of the old bus station were taken 50 years ago.

Although I prefer black and white ones, I’m glad these were colour because they gave us a chance to see the old red Yorkshire Woollen buses of our childhood.

This week I am delighted to be able to show a photograph taken in 1981 in what was once Dewsbury’s ‘new’ swimming baths.

The picture was sent in by Joe Connolly, whose late sister, Winnie Pleasants, worked there when it was first opened.

“She was a baths attendant, even though she couldn’t swim”, said Joe, “But they weren’t as strict on health and safety rules then as they are today.”

THE sports centre was built at a time when many important changes were taking place in Dewsbury.

Kirklees was not yet formed and Dewsbury was doing very well for itself, thank you very much.

It was the premier shopping town of the Heavy Woollen District and there were big plans afoot for transforming the town centre.

A new bus station had already been built, also a new police station and fire station, a new Technical School, and the town had just acquired its first new supermarket – Leo’s.

It had been built by Dewsbury Co-operative Society who had just vacated its premises in Northgate, and it was the Co-op which built the new sports centre.

It gave it as a gift to the people of Dewsbury, whom they had served for 100 years.

Sadly, Leo’s wasn’t with us for very long, and was taken over by another supermarket, which wasn’t with us for long either.

The ‘new’ swimming baths was run by the council’s public baths department, whose manager was Mr F Whitham.

It provided one large pool and one teaching pool, eight private showers, three private baths and a sauna.

The old public baths in Old Westgate, continued for a while longer, with its two swimming pools, but only for schools and swimming clubs, and also the very popular sauna baths, but this was never mixed. Here were days set aside for men only and women only.

l Do you have any memories and photographs of Dewsbury that you would like to share?

Email Margaret Watson at tresham3@gmail.com or call into the Reporter office in Wellington Road, Dewsbury, WF13 1HQ.