Diving into the past at Derby Street baths

Karl Peacock and Ian Gardener take a rest as they make the most of their last day at Derby Street baths before it closed in 1993.
Karl Peacock and Ian Gardener take a rest as they make the most of their last day at Derby Street baths before it closed in 1993.

Mention of the old Derby Street baths, in South Shields, made quite a splash when we featured a photo of its last day in August 1993 on Facebook.

For it reached more than 18,000 people and prompted scores of you to post your memories online.

Today we feature the first of a two-day look-back at the much-loved baths.

Gillian Makepeace-Nunn posted: “So many happy memories there. My dad teaching me how to swim. Mr Mordew, the swimming teacher, and doing the survival skills like skulling water in our pyjamas to gain the medals. Conquering the six-foot six diving board. Putting 20p in the handheld stainless steel clothes holder (not a locker) and just having fun, and walking there from Coston Drive which seemed like miles away and going there with school. Very happy memories of Derby Street baths!”

Gaye Young also remembered: “Using those daft baskets to put your clothes in, and the changing room was so cold you rushed to get your clothes on and struggled because you were still wet! Remember Oxo, from the vending machine, to try and warm up! Happy days.”

Nigel Banks recalled: “trying to avoid the disinfectant dip that you had to go through to disinfect your feet before you went into the pool then kicking it up so your mates behind you got a good soaking of disinfectant which was always bloomin’ freezing!”

Carol Robinson told how she: “Loved going here, was so sad when they closed it, both Temple Park and Haven Point pools are not a patch on Derby Street.”

Duncan At Equine Evolution emailed: “I learned to swim in that pool, then I used to do the school galas there, and finally learned to play canoe polo there. It was all ways very cold. Oh, and remember the oxtail soup from the vending machine, mmm!”

Jason Helmy speaks of “breaking my arm two days before the six-weeks holidays and going to my bedroom and hacking the chalk off the first day of the holidays coz my mates were going ... dived in the shallow end caught my arm on the bottom and ended up getting another cast on.”

Bob Sawicki said: “I came to Shields in 1963 from Vancouver, Canada. The flat I was living in did not have a shower or a tub. I asked a friend of mine where I could go to get a shower or a bath. The Slipper baths, he said. What the hell are Slipper baths? I asked. Anyhow, the following day I was in the Slipper baths, six inches or so of boiling water to cool till you liked it. After a good scrub I lay there a bit wondering just how many other people had been in this tub and did I really want to know. Needless to say the next place I lived had a tub with shower attachment.”

Pamela Sharp reminded Gillian Wilkinson how: “We were there every day of the holidays with mmmm, so we would have been there on the last day. Such a shame it’s gone I loved it. I also remember my Dumper (gran) teaching me to dive from the middle steps and very roughly brushing my hair when I got out lol.”

Terry Wall posted: “Went there all the time and helped with the baskets of clothes so that I could stay in session after session. Great memories, mam used to tell me if I went out with my hair wet it would get to my brain and I’d die lol.”

Susan Sinclair told how she “always went on a Thursday ladies night, not too packed. It was freezing when you got out, hated it when sometimes you got there only to find there was a swimming gala on so you couldn’t go in. Happy days though!”

Dave Elliott took to Facebook to say: “Nailed my first roll in a kayak at Derby Street, and getting shouted at by the lifeguards for doing back flips off the splash board.”

l Tomorrow: Readers remember the “dreaded disinfectant pool” and hear how one reader’s great grandad officially opened Derby Street baths.