History of lidos in the United Kingdom

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Jubilee Pool, Penzance—a saltwater lido

The golden age of lidos in the United Kingdom was in the 1930s, when outdoor swimming became popular, and 169 were built across the UK as recreational facilities by local councils.[1][2][3] Many lidos closed when foreign holidays became less expensive, but those that remain have a dedicated following.[4]


The first open air swimming pool that was officially called a lido was "The Edmonton Lido" in Houndsfield Road, Edmonton following reopening after refurbishment on 27 July 1935. The newly built "Tottenham Lido", opened on 5 June 1937, and the "West Ham Municipal Lido", opened on 30 August 1937 also in London, were officially called lidos from the outset. Elsewhere, the Woodford Times reported on 13 May 1932 on the new "Lido" being constructed at Whipps Cross. The Kentish Times on 9 June 1933 similarly carried the headline: "Lagoon 'Lido' Opened on Bank Holiday". Neither of these two pools was officially called a "lido" at that time, however. The term "lido" was also applied to several private sector swimming facilities, including Ruislip Lido (part of a reservoir) opened in May 1936 and Rush Green Lido in old gravel pits in Romford, Essex, in September 1935.[5][unreliable source?][6]

Closures, rescues and new creations[edit]

Tooting Bec Lido, the largest swimming pool in England, is 100 yards long and 33 yards wide; it was rescued from closure in the 1990s.

Notable examples of open lidos are Brockwell Lido in Herne Hill, Parliament Hill Lido at Gospel Oak in Hampstead Heath, Tooting Bec Lido in South London, Jesus Green Swimming Pool in Cambridge and Sandford Parks Lido in Cheltenham. There were numerous lidos (particularly in London and the south-west), but hundreds have closed in the UK in recent years.[when?]

In 2005 English Heritage published Liquid Assets - the lidos and open air pools of Britain, by Janet Smith, produced as part of the Played in Britain series. The author had spent years researching (and swimming in) lidos around the country and her book explores the past, present and future of open air pools. It led to two major conferences in 2006: "Reviving Lidos" and "Making a Splash".[7]

Although there have been many setbacks, long-running campaigns have resulted in some important successes. In October 2006 the London Fields Lido re-opened in Hackney after a campaign lasting nearly 20 years; Droitwich Spa Lido also re-opened after a six-year battle by the group SALT (Save a Lido Today); Brockwell Lido celebrated its 70th birthday on 10 July 2007; Clifton Lido reopened in 2008;[8] Wood Green Pool in Banbury reopened in 2009;[9] and Charlton Lido reopened in 2012.[10]

The campaign to save the Grade II* listed Saltdean Lido in East Sussex which closed in 2010 won significant funding, including over £2m from the Coastal Communities Fund, and a new community interest company started work on the pool in 2015, which reopened in 2017.[11][12] The Edwardian King's Meadow swimming pool in Reading is being restored by the same group which rescued and re-opened the Clifton Lido in Bristol. The derelict Ynysangharad Lido in Pontypridd is also being restored as part of the local council's redevelopment plans.[13] Woburn Lido in Bedfordshire which opened in 1911 faced closure in 2013, but was saved from closure through the work of local residents.[14][15][16]

Other ongoing campaigns include reopening Broomhill Pool in Ipswich, Peckham Rye Lido in South East London, the Cleveland Pools at Hampton Row in Bath (where the historic Grade II* listed baths, which date back to 1815, are believed to be the oldest surviving public outdoor swimming pools in the country) and Grange-over-Sands (another Grade II listed baths and the only Art Deco lido in the north of England).[17][18]

Arundel Lido is situated in the picturesque town of Arundel within the South Downs National Park. It has heated pools, and grass areas surrounding the pools suitable for sunbathing and picnics.[19] Planning permission was granted in 2018 for the Lido Extended Activities Plan - Project LEAP to develop a all-year-round facility with heated changing facilities, a Gym, Community Hall and Cafe.[20]date=November 2018}}

Tinside Lido has repeatedly featured in the top 10 best outdoor pools in Europe since it reopened in 2005.

Plymouth is home to the Tinside Lido, a 1935 Art Deco seawater pool built on the limestone shoreline at the base of Plymouth Hoe. The semi-circular lido also has three fountains and disabled access, and is open from May to September.[21]

A London-based organisation Thames Baths was created to develop plans for a new floating lido on the Thames at Embankment, seeking to crowd-fund the £10m cost of construction.[22] Thames Baths' design company Studio Octopi has also won a design competition for plans for the creation of a new lido at Peckham Rye, where one closed in 1987 and was demolished.[23] A new 40m bathing pond has already been created as part of King's Cross developments in North London.[24]

Clevedon's Marine Lake underwent a £850,000 renovation project that included de-silting the tidally topped up pool (about 16,000 tonnes of silt was removed), increasing access to the lake. The project was funded by Clevedon Town Council, Marlens (Marine Lake Enthusiasts), and North Somerset Council.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alexandra Buxton (26 July 2003). "Sea change". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  2. ^ "London Lido For Children Proposed Schemes For Parks, L.C.C. Programme". The Times. Dec 6, 1937. p. 18.
  3. ^ Samuel, Raphael (1999). Island stories: unravelling Britain. Verso. pp. 144–145. ISBN 978-1-85984-190-7.
  4. ^ Bathurst Bathing Belles – Ladies that Swim outdoorswimmingsociety.com, 7 December, 2017, accessed 9 November 2018
  5. ^ Andy Hoines (11 June 2005). "First use of word "lido"". Lidos History Society, groups.yahoo.com. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  6. ^ "Lido" (British/ mainly British, C20) collinsdictionary.com, accessed 9 November 2018
  7. ^ Lidos in the United Kingdom, June 2012[dead link]
  8. ^ "Suburb's Victorian lido reopens". BBC News. 24 November 2008. Retrieved 21 February 2018. The pool water is heated by solar panels on the roof. The Victorian Clifton Lido in Bristol has reopened after two decades and a £2m revamp.
  9. ^ Sam Mcgregor (4 August 2009). "Banbury Lido makes late comeback". oxfordmail.co.uk. Retrieved 21 February 2018. The £1.5m refurbishment included altering the depth levels, upgrading the water circulation system and improving the overall appearance of the pool.
  10. ^ "Charlton Lido celebrates 5000 visitors since last month's reopening". Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  11. ^ "Lido restoration plans wins £2.3m cash boost". Brighton Argus. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  12. ^ "Saltdean Lido: Swimming pool reopens after seven-year revamp". BBC. 17 June 2017. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  13. ^ "Picture reveals 'huge' progress on restoration of Pontypridd's famous Grade II listed Lido". Wales Online. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  14. ^ BBC 3 Counties Radio facebook.com[relevant? ]
  15. ^ woburnlido at facebook.com accessed 9 November 2018
  16. ^ Woburn Lido at woburnvillage.co.uk Accessed 21 February 2018
  17. ^ Kate Liddiard (1 September 2011). "Grange-over-sands lido at the centre of heritage battle". Westmorland Gazette. Retrieved 21 February 2018. English Heritage’s decision to classify the 1930s lido at Grange-over-Sands as a listed building has been described as ‘bonkers’ by a businessman who has vowed to fight the decision.
  18. ^ Helen Carter (28 June 2011). "Campaign to save Grange-over-sands lido". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2018. It's the last remaining lido in the north of England after the demolition and infilling of similar structures at Blackpool, Scarborough and Morecambe
  19. ^ Arundel Lido arundel-lido.com, accessed 29 November 2018
  20. ^ Project LEAP – Planning Permission Granted 2018 (...formally approved on 15th June 2018), arundel-lido.com, accessed 29 November 2018
  21. ^ BBC (2005). "Point 6 - Tinside Pool". Coast Walks. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  22. ^ Aisha Garni (25 January 2015). "Open-air swimming pool plans to launch in middle of Thames in London". The Guardian. Initial designs for the Thames Baths, which is to open next year on the Victoria Embankment if planning permission is granted, feature a 25-metre by 10-metre main pool, filtration system and pool-side decking. Accessed 27 June 2017
  23. ^ Laura Mark (10 April 2015). "Studio Octopi has won an invited competition to draw up plans for a new lido at Peckham Rye in South London". Architects Journal. The plans include a 50m heated pool surrounded by smaller natural pools that would draw water from the underground River Peck which runs directly beneath the site. Accessed 27 June 2017
  24. ^ Sally Goble (10 January 2015). "King's Cross Pond Club: outdoor swimming in the city". The Guardian. Nestled between several large building sites at the end of Cubitt Park, just north of Regent's Canal, the King's Cross Pond Club will be a new kind of hybrid swimming experience: a synthetic, unheated swimming pond, filtered by plants and surrounded by nature. Accessed 27 June 2017
  25. ^ Marine Lake re-opens to the public 20 October 2015, n-somerset.gov.uk, accessed 29 November 2018


  • Smith, Janet (2006). Liquid assets: the lidos and open air swimming pools of Britain. English Heritage. ISBN 0-9547445-0-0.

External links[edit]