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White Rock Baths - above ground complex.

World-class BMX and skate facility on seafront

After 17 years lying vacant, a £1.17m funding package is now in place to renovate the White Rock Baths and convert it into a world class BMX and skateboarding facility. Hastings Borough Council (HBC) will soon start work to restore the huge but near-derelict old baths under the promenade to make the building usable, following which it will be fitted out by the instigators of the project, writes HOT’s Chris Cormack.

Photo by Brian Rybolt.

The White Rock Baths pre-date Sydney Little’s St Leonards Swimming Baths by 59 years. Originally built as two baths in 1874 under an extension of the promenade (which was only 10 feet wide prior to this), the bath furthest from the pier was originally intended as an aquarium, but became a small bath for novice swimmers with steps down into the bath. The Baths were transformed into the Baths Cinema in 1912  with seating for over 1,600 people, but extensively reconstructed in the 1930’s to incorporate main baths, spectator gallery and other leisure facilities. It became an ice-skating rink in the late 1970s, only to close it’s doors in 1997. history of the baths.

Scope for architectural salvage? Photo: Brian Rybolt.

The lowest area (basement) is considered unusable in the long term, but the Foreshore Trust, as freeholder of the site, has removed rubble and debris, dealt with asbestos issues and decorated the exterior of the building.  A small part of the usable area is now occupied by the Hastings Pier Charity. Further refurbishment of the building by the Foreshore Trust should cost well in excess of £800k, funded through borrowing and grant aid from HBC, Foreshore Trust and East Sussex County Council. The project sponsors will fit out and equip the facility through loans and pay a £38,000 pa rent to Foreshore Trust.

Earlier this year, a company from outside the area submitted a proposal to re-open the Baths as a music venue, entertainment centre, antiques fair and for other activities. However these sponsors were only able to offer a profit-sharing arrangement and, along with some capacity and fire safety issues, the proposals were rejected for lack of clarity and security on income, expenditure and means of funding.

The presently prefered project is sponsored by two Hastings-based businessmen, who competed in BMX competitions worldwide before setting up in 2003 the Source, a Braybrooke Terrace based BMX shop and e-commerce company, which now attracts accolades, buyers from across the region and worldwide web-based orders. In 2012, the company supplied all the BMX cycles and equipment to the London Olympic Velopark and the racing events attracted much attention and excitement.

Marc Moore, Marketing Director of The Source Hastings Ltd, said they were really looking forward to pulling together all the pieces to open an all-weather, world-class indoor facility in winter 2015. The facility should include:

  • A world class competition standard park available for users 7 days a week
  • A beginners’ skatepark with ramps under 1m for coaching and schools’ use
  • Outdoor ramps using a temporary airboard in the open courtyard
  • BMX/skateboarding accessories, clothing and equipment retail sales area
  • A modest drinks and snacks catering area
  • A media editing suite including training facility

HBC expects that four regional and one international event will be held each year and The Source is confident of attracting the world’s best riders to these.  The events should be relayed on a large screen on the pier and on the internet.  Similar events in Europe are said to have attracted more than a million online viewers.

Brian Rybolt, a photographer for over 45 years and Hastings resident,  is exhibiting a whole series of his photographs of the White Rock Baths at the Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, which continues until 15 September 2014. His exhibition, recently featured in HOT, highlights his interest in dilapidated, derelict and underground environments.

See also: Innovative Ideas

White Rock Baths: Photographs by Brian Rybolt
Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, Johns Place, Bohemia Road, Hastings, TN34 1ET
Until 15 September 2014                                                                                      
Tel: 01424 451052

White Rock Baths - lobby/reception area - photo: Brian Rybolt.

Posted 07:36 Wednesday, Sep 3, 2014 In: Home Ground

5 Comments

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  1. 118 118 Money

    Many thanks for this article! Great

    Comment by 118 118 Money — Tuesday, Nov 3, 2015 @ 09:34

  2. Matt

    I’m sure the new facilty will welcome all sports that use ramps.

    Comment by Matt — Sunday, Sep 7, 2014 @ 20:23

  3. Dan Short

    Brilliant news, no mention of scooters though, will it be available to the many young scooter riders in town? Or will it be exclusively bmx/skateboard?

    Comment by Dan Short — Thursday, Sep 4, 2014 @ 12:04

  4. Gwen WaffIII Marvel

    I’m over the moon that the old Baths/Ice rink are being brought back to life in a new venture! I hope that the Source will be able to or perhaps consider keeping a few of the original features?

    Comment by Gwen WaffIII Marvel — Wednesday, Sep 3, 2014 @ 16:29

  5. Jim Breeds

    Great to see it coming back to life. Good photos from Brian. The history of the baths link at the end of the first paragraph is broken though. Is this the link you intended? http://www.victorianturkishbath.org/6directory/atozestab/england/hastwhite/1HastWhiteSF.htm

    Editor: Thanks for that Jim, fixed now

    Comment by Jim Breeds — Wednesday, Sep 3, 2014 @ 13:39

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