John Battle leaves Bramley Baths presidency after more than a decade of causing a stir

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Words: John Baron, Editor

One of the leaders of the successful campaign to save Bramley Baths from closure more than a decade ago has retired as chairman of the organization.

Last night’s AGM saw Mr Battle, 70, sign on as chairman after successfully leading the community-run organization since taking over management of the historic facilities from Leeds City Council on January 1, 2013.

He had previously chaired the two-year campaign to save the thermal baths and convince the council to let the community run it.

John Battle last led the Bramley Baths AGM last night. Photo courtesy of Bramley Baths.

Talk to West Leeds ExpeditionFormer Leeds West MP Mr Battle said he was “really moved” by sending staff, supporters and customers, who presented him with a painting of the Grade II listed building by the local artist and bathhouse regular, Linda Roberts.

Les Thermes also announced a new lifesaving competition in honor of Mr. Battle and also named him Honorary President.

John Battle received a painting by Bramley Baths as a thank you for his hard work. Photo: Jordan Keighley / Bramley Baths

Mr. Battle said:

“I have been privileged to be involved with Les Bains since – it must be almost 11 years now. When we took over I was reluctant, after 23 years as an MP, to accept a full-time volunteer job as head of the Bains, but I learned a lot, made even easier by the brilliant teamwork of volunteer administrators and professional staff. .

“I have been in government around the Cabinet table and worked with other local groups, but the model that has worked the best has been Bramley Baths, in terms of everyone working as a team. His strength is his foundation, and he has been brilliant.

“If you take out the last two letters of ‘trustee’ and you have the word ‘trust’ left, and that has always inspired me over the years. The confidence I had in my fellow administrators and in the staff who work here.

Mr. Battle also paid tribute to the support of the Bramley community over the years. He said:

“When we took control, some told us we would never be successful. Sadly, we have seen other organizations fall into the wall during this pandemic, but we are still standing. Since the Baths became community run in 2013, the community of Bramley has proven they can successfully save and run a major service and weather the worst epidemic to hit Britain in 100 years.

“We have shown that Bramley will not just support people who come into a community and take money out of it, we will do something and take responsibility for it.”

But Mr Battle, who is still heavily involved in a number of community initiatives across the city, including the New Wortley Community Center, said the baths were strongly out of Covid lockdowns and were perfectly placed to help to lead Bramley’s recovery.

“It feels good to say that we are still here, we are still strong despite the closures and our staff are still going strong,” he added. “Les Bains’ offer in terms of health and well-being is more necessary than ever. We are here to help rebuild the health of the community, both physical and well-being after Covid.

“We have a strong team, staff and administrators to take us into the future, and now is a good time for me to take a step back and let someone else try. “

John Battle receiving his painting from the administrator of the baths Cllr Caroline Gruen. Photo: Jordan Keighley / Bramley Baths

Mr. Battle will be replaced as President by Nicholas Quin, who had been Treasurer of the Baths. He paid tribute to his predecessor and looked forward to a positive future adding:

“John has been the driving force behind Les Bains for over 10 years. His drive, passion and idealism kept this crucial building running and kept Bramley healthy. We are proud to continue John’s work and will continue to teach children and adults to swim, as well as work to be Britain’s friendliest baths.

“We are now back to full capacity after COVID and we are delighted to welcome people back to Les Bains. We have big plans to support people’s recovery from COVID and make sure the building is ready for a long future in the heart of our community. ”

Bramley Baths Managing Director David Wilford also paid tribute to Mr. Battle’s tireless work. He added:

“It was a privilege and incredible to work with him. He exudes a passion for the thermal baths and always inspires those around him with new ideas and his positivity. He will be missed but we are happy that he is still connected as Honorary President.

Bramley’s crown jewel: Bramley Baths. Photo: Jo Fiddes

Anyone who thinks this will be the last time they see John Battle at the Grade II listed thermal baths will be surprised. The 70-year-old is slowly rebuilding his strength after Long Covid and is eager to begin his rehabilitation with gym sessions on Tuesday morning with instructor Nathan.

“I am going back to being a user and I am personally grateful that we still have such fantastic facilities and knowledgeable, friendly staff,” added Mr. Battle.

bramley baths exhibition
Earlier this year, John Battle cut the ribbon for an exhibit that chronicles Bramley Baths’ past. Photo: Simon Cullingworth

Built on the site of a foundry, Bramley Baths opened as a swimming pool and public bath in 1904, allowing people to bathe, swim and use the new Russian steam baths – all the rage among the Edwardians as a healthy pastime.

It was one of many council-run facilities built at the time to help those who did not have running water in their own homes and to improve hygiene during a time of cholera.

The foundry chimney, built with 8,000 Kirkstall bricks, still dominates the building and can be seen across Leeds.


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