Historic Ladywell Baths and the recollections of people who have passed through its doors over the past century will be commemorated in a new film Memories of Ladywell Baths, to be shown at Curzon Goldsmiths this month.
Film-maker David Stock, in collaboration with charity Lewisham Building Preservation Trust, has produced a short film which has uncovered the stories of people who lived, worked and played in the grade II listed building, now known as Ladywell Playtower, pictured.
Built in 1884, Ladywell Baths became one of the first public swimming pools in the country.
It attracted thousands of local people, including athlete Eric Liddell, whose gold medal win in the 400m at the 1924 Olympic Games inspired the film Chariots of Fire.
In 2004 Ladywell Playtower was closed, and, following a serious fire in 2006, the Victorian building fell into disrepair.
In 2017, after many years of campaigning by residents and Lewisham Building Preservation Trust to bring the derelict building back into use, Lewisham Council put proposals for its restoration out to tender.
In November 2017, the council made the decision to award the redevelopment of the building to Curzon Cinema in conjunction with developers Guildmore.
Mr Stock moved into Ladywell’s old Coroner’s Court, next-door to Ladywell Playtower, in 2015.
He became intrigued by the neighbouring bath house and felt drawn to delve into the lived experience and human stories of the building.
Spurred on by the realisation that much of the history etched into the fabric of Ladywell Playtower would disappear through its redevelopment, he sought to immortalise the memories of the building before it became a three-screen cinema with café, bar and restaurant.
He said: “I saw the coin holes on the front, the burned out remains to the rear and the graffiti inside and out. But, rather than destructive, I recognised these marks as traces of human activity.
“For me, this building felt lived-in. These were scars from a well-lived life and I wanted to know more.”
With the support of Lewisham Building Preservation Trust, Mr Stock began researching the building’s history, making contact with people who had been connected with it during its long history.
From dance parties to boxing rings, midnight swims and floods, not to mention a few ghosts, their stories have made their way into this film.
Scenes in the film include the recollections of Carole Elliot, who grew up in the building; memories from Joyce Snipp, now 90, sharing what the public baths were like during wartime Britain; and a retelling of the horrors of the life-threatening inferno that almost destroyed the entire building, by firefighter Peter Macdonald-Smith.
Memories of Ladywell Baths, Curzon Goldsmiths, New Cross; Sunday, July 8, 2pm. The film will be followed by a Q&A with director David Stock and some of the film’s participants.
For tickets visit www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/FIEIJG
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.