Auction of historic spa postponed for community talks

Residents with the Friends of Birley Spa
Residents with the Friends of Birley Spa

Campaigners are celebrating after Sheffield Council announced it will postpone the auction of a historic spa to discuss its future fully with the community. 

The Grade II-listed Birley Spa Bath House, in Hackenthorpe, was set to go to auction on Tuesday, September 4, with a guide price of £70,000 to £100,000 after the council said it would cost too much to renovate.

But a campaign, lead by the recently formed Friends of Birley Spa, to keep the site in the communtiy's hands gathered hundreds of supporters including residents, councillors and MP Clive Betts.

A petition to postpone the auction gathered 966 signatures and a crowd fund to buy the spa at auction received £530 in donations.

Abby Beckett-Smith, leader of the Friends of Birley Spa, said: “We are all extremely pleased with the news and want to thank everyone for the overwhelming support that we have received from people and organisations across the city.

“We are hoping to find a future for Birley Spa, preferably in community hands, that is both viable and sustainable.

“Birley Spa really is a hidden gem that needs to be seen by the wider public. It is in a rather sad and sorry state at the moment but if the spa and grounds were restored, it could look beautiful once again.”

Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East, said: “I am absolutely delighted the council are choosing not to have a row with the local community but are now working together with everyone to find the best solution.

“There are a number of possible ways forward. The local community have formed an action group and want to raise funds to buy the spa from the council - which is a challenge.

“Another way would be if some sort of trust got involved that has the funds to support the community.

“Or, if it’s a private sale, some conditions are put in place to keep it available for community use.”

Mr Betts added it was a site with a rich heritage that needed to be kept.

He said: “It’s perfectly reasonable that the council want money for the site. But we wouldn’t want to lose the plunge pool - it’s the only one in this area and it’s part of Sheffield history.

“People used to go from the surrounding homes to the pool on holiday - it shouldn’t be locked away or demolished - it’s an important part of Sheffield’s working class history.”

The bath house is the only remaining Victorian spa still set in its original grounds in South Yorkshire and over its 176 years has been the venue for community meetings, bathing, wedding receptions, a pleasure ground for children and historical tours.

In 1998 the council were given a large grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to renovate the site but, after a short-lived revival, it fell back into rack and ruin.

Before the postponement, the council put the spa up for auction under the condition the buyer would repair the site within two years but had no guarentee the community could use it again.

John Mothersole, chief executive of Sheffield Council, said: "The delay is to allow more time for work with the community to make sure all options for the building have been fully looked at."

No date has yet been set for the auction but it is expected to not be for another couple of months.