Campaigners put closed Halifax swimming pool building and mosaics on group’s top ten ‘at risk’ list

An architectural campaign group has placed a Calderdale building which has been controversially closed in its 2021 top ten “Buildings At Risk” list.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 10:38 am
Updated Friday, 7th May 2021, 10:41 am
The mosaic by Kenneth Barden at Halifax Swimming Pool. Picture by Andrew Caveney courtesy of the Pevsner Architectural Guides/Yale University Press

Calderdale Council announced earlier this year that Halifax Swimming Pool was closing permanently, with a new pool ultimately to be provided at a new state-of-the-art leisure centre which is to be built on the site of the existing one at North Bridge, Halifax.

The decision has proved controversial with users of the pool, but the council says it is necessary because issues with the Skircoat Road building had been worsening for years and rapidly recently and after careful consideration deemed “complex and costly” repairs which would have been necessary were not viable in light of the budget challenges it faces.

But the building and a mosaic it houses is high up the list of concerns the Twentieth Century Society (C20) – which campaigns to save under threat buildings and design that have shaped the British landscape since 1914.

Last year C20 submitted an application to have the building listed – the process is to apply to the secretary of state – but this was turned down.

The society says it feels reasons given for the decision were “inadequate and unconvincing” and is calling for a review of the decision.

When the application was rejected last autumn, the society’s senior caseworker Grace Etherington said: “We are naturally disappointed that our listing application was turned down.

“In most cases we accept the decisions made by Historic England’s listing teams, although we do not always agree with their conclusions.

“This case is an exception as we feel that the building deserves a more thorough assessment, as the reasons for refusal are inadequate and unconvincing.

“The murals in particular have been dismissed without any explanation, which is not acceptable for an artwork of this size and intricacy.

“As a prominent piece by an artist mentioned in Historic England’s guidance on post-war public art, and as the subject of a photograph in the Pevsner Architectural Guide for Yorkshire’s West Riding, we expect more than an unsubstantiated dismissal.”

The 1960s building houses ceramic murals including “British Pond Life”, a mid-1960s ceramic mural by Kenneth Barden, described by the society as “amazing.”

Both the pool building and murals now appear on the society’s just-published list of Top 10 Buildings At Risk list for 2021, alongside others including the Bull Yard Shopping Centre at Coventry and Derby Assembly Rooms.