The knitted bathing suit
Written by Julia on 24/03/2021
My role in the Brine Memories project is to discover and record stories about the Droitwich brine baths. For a week now I’ve spent several hours chatting to people who used to go there or work there, stretching across a period from the late 1930s to 2008. I’ve been astonished by the clarity of people’s memories and the importance they attach to their time in the brine. I can hear the delight in their voices as they describe the sensation of entering the pool, whether it was one of the St Andrew’s baths or the smaller BMI pool in later years. All manner of descriptions follow; the mild panic of not being able to force your legs down, the feeling of being enveloped in the glorious warmth, the thrill of bobbing weightlessly in the water and the unique smell of the brine, “There really is nothing else like it”, I’ve been told.
I’ve been surprised how many times the topic of swimwear has come up in my initial conversations. Back in the day, visitors to the brine baths borrowed costumes. By all accounts they were black shapeless ones handed to you by an attendant, who looked you up and down and selected a roughly appropriate size. There wasn’t much choice for children. One lady who went to St Andrews every weekend in the 1950s told me only one costume fitted her - a small green one which she wore every Saturday. At least this wasn’t as bad as the knitted swimming costume made by the mother of another visitor. This homemade woolen garment got saturated in salty water and billowed and sagged, to this lady’s utter embarrassment. 60 years later I can still hear the horror in her voice as she recalls floating on her back with the heavy wool costume floating around her! Her father was a physio working in Droitwich in the 1950s and 60s. He used to go in the pool with his clients who came from all over the world to receive brine treatments. This lady can’t remember much of what he did but she vividly recalls his memorable black trunks!