Introducing…Historic Pools of Britain

Lovers of lidos - rejoice! A new guide is being launched this weekend, highlighting our outstanding outdoor pools. As I have fond childhood memories of splashing about in my local lido (now sadly one of the lost ones) I was delighted to learn of its publication and asked Laura Sullivan of Historic Pools of Britain to tell us more. 

Ray Marshall taking the plunge at Broomhill Pool © N/A

It’s exciting times for Historic Pools of Britain as we celebrate the launch of The Lido Guide (available from 13 June).  This will be the first publication to give swimmers details of every one of the nation’s operating lidos and, with all the information needed to plan a visit, then a lido road trip certainly becomes something to add to the bucket list!

Broomhil Pool reimagined / © Dave Thompson

The Lido Guide is a project that we’ve been proud to support – celebrating pools, placing them on the map and reflecting how vital they are to communities is of core importance to Historic Pools of Britain.  The greater the awareness of pools and acknowledgement of their community role, then the greater the protection for them; this is vital because across the country we’ve seen a number of closures in recent years of both indoor and outdoor pools.  Amongst those lost are some real treasures to their communities and to architecture.

An interesting reflection

Despite a trend towards city living, there has been a trend away from the provision of public outdoor pools.  For example, in 1939 there were 5 public outdoor pools in Birmingham, 2 in Cardiff, 3 in Leeds, 6 in Liverpool, 2 in Manchester and 2 in Sheffield.  There are now no public outdoor pools in any of these cities and, between 1939 and 2016, London went from having 67 to 12.

Thankfully communities are responding quite spectacularly, forced to take the responsibility of saving historic gems and much-loved pools themselves.  This is where Historic Pools of Britain was born from and now operates as a membership organisation to help support and give a voice to all historic pools (generally those pre-1945, but also those postwar pools that are notable for the significance of their architecture).  It’s a passion shared by The Lido Guide authors Emma Pusill and Janet Wilkinson.

The Lido Guide

Cleveland Pools in 1901 / © Bath Records Office

Lovers of lidos (and those yet to discover their joys) will find The Lido Guide a thing of beauty in its own right.  Emma and Janet have travelled the length and breadth of Britain to capture every lido and encapsulate everything you could ever need to know before planning a visit – well and truly putting lidos on the map!  Readers will also discover more about Historic Pools of Britain and the work that we are doing and the vision we have for championing this unique part of our sporting and cultural heritage.

Taking the plunge

Although they've been closed for many years, Cleveland Pools still look stunning today / © Tony McNichol Photography

Amongst the pools opening for Heritage Open Days in 2019 are two lidos whose community campaigners have not only been busy saving their pools and carrying out successful fundraising, they have also supported from the very beginning the creation of Historic Pools of Britain.

  • Opening on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 September, 10am to 4pm, will be Broomhill Open Air Swimming Pool in Ipswich, a Modern style pool that takes its place as one of Britain’s 17 listed lidos.  The pool, which opened in 1938, has been closed since 2002.  Almost immediately upon its closure a group of friends responded and formed what would eventually become Broomhill Pool Trust.  Tireless and painstaking work and lobbying with Ipswich Borough Council and Fusion Lifestyle has taken them to the point whereby the funding (£7.25 million) has been secured to carry out the restoration and reopening of the pool, which it is hoped will take place in 2021.  Heritage Open Days is the perfect time to find out more about the journey that’s been followed and the dedication that it has taken.  Details are being finalised, so put the date in your diary and keep an eye on their website for further information.
  • The opening of Cleveland Pools in Bath will also be special as this is the last chance to see Britain’s oldest outdoor pool before it closes for a multimillion pound restoration.  The time, work, expertise and resources that its community has invested in reaching this point is truly phenomenal.  Sitting alongside the River Avon you also won’t find a prettier spot.  So join them on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 September (from 2pm to 5pm) for tours, heritage games, refreshments, stalls and more, plus the chance to reflect upon the next chapter in the history of this pool that first opened its doors in 1815.
  • And for those who cannot wait, happening a little earlier, but in the spirit of Heritage Open Days, Victoria Baths will be hosting a special Swim for Restoration event on 7 and 8 September.  This is a rare chance to swim in Manchester’s spectacular Grade II* listed Water Palace, which was closed for swimming in 1993 and is raising funds towards its restoration. 

Find out more

Cleveland Pools reimagined

About Laura Sullivan

Laura has played an instrumental role in the establishment of Historic Pools of Britain and leads all communications, managing the press office and planning forward features.