Oasis Swimming Pools
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The centre has two pools, a 27.5 x 10 m heated outdoor pool and a 25 x 9 m indoor pool, a gym, sauna, squash courts and cafeteria.
The site has a long history of being an early public swimming pool. The pool was first built c.1728 as the "Bagnio", a Turkish Bath. In 1840 the Turkish bath closed and the site was eventually reopened by local parishes as the "Bloomsbury Baths and Washhouses" in 1852. At that time there were two indoor swimming baths.
Between 1900 and 1902 the baths were rebuilt and reopened as "Holborn Baths". This had two covered pools.
The site was modernized in the 1930s and after an architectural competition the "Swimstad" plan was approved. Peter Stechman has the original artist impression of the Swimstadt plan. Building work started in 1937 but halted at the start of the war. After the war cash shortages lead to the complex not being completed and was converted to an outdoor swimming pool, opening in June 1946 using wartime gas decomtamination rooms as changing facilities. Much of the work to reopen the outdoor pool was carried out by staff using discarded war materials.
The Australian actor Nick Tate and film director Peter Wier worked as lifeguards at the pool in the 1960s. It was often frequented by many film and stage stars and champion boxer Gus Lesnavitch. Tipster Prince Monolulu was a regular visitor who sold horse racing tips to the sunbathing crowds shouting "I gotta horse"
In 1960, the outdoor pool size was reduced to 27.5 by 9.5 metres and a 25 x 9 metre indoor pool was added to the site with all plant materials and pool sizes made to metric specifications with the Becco sand filters being rubber lined. There is also a child's paddling pool termed 'Kiddies Corner'. The upper sun terrace was designed to give a 'ship's deck' atmosphere. The rebuilding works were funded by a planning benefit arranged by Stanley Thomas, Chair of Holborn BC Leisure with the Hammersons group. It included the 10 storey office block, Berkshire House, as a facade and front entrance from High Holborn plus sun bathing terraces built above the indoor pool and the rear underground car park area.
In 1972 the first Local Authority run Sauna Cabins was opened with hand massage on a marble slab. During the IRA campaign, a car bomb was placed outside the front entrance to the office block in High Holborn, with the result that all 10 floor windows back and front were blown out, Security staff were injured but fortunately there were no fatalities. The pool opened the next day via a back entrance only 30 minutes later than its normal time.
In 1983 the Endell Street former entrance building was demolished and offices, a new public and establishment laundry plus warm baths and shower facilities were installed on the ground floor with 3 floors of sheltered accommodation for elderly people housed above and Dudley Court occupied the ground of the demolished Workhouse at the rear. Skeletons were found in the workhouse earth basements of the former workhouse inmates, which stopped work for a while. In 1989, the installation of a good quality full width Glatz Pioneer heat retention cover enabled Peter Stechman, Sports Centre Manager to run the heated outdoor pool all year round. This practice was later copied by other London pool operators, Hampton and London Fields Lido. On 1 May 1985 a dry sports area consisting of two multi use activity halls and 3 glass backed squash courts were added. At the time Sports Centre Manager Peter Stechman was one of the best London Pool Managers for his outstanding development work at the Oasis.
From 1986 to 1987 the indoor pool was closed for refurbishment the pool surround was waterproofed and the Esavian sliding ships doors were removed and replaced with a permanent brick and glass partition while the outdoor pool stayed open. In the mid 1990s the main sports hall was converted to a multi exercise equipment gym and the sauna was relocated to the previous warm baths and shower area to provide a dance studio. The public laundry that had served the Holborn and Covent Garden area for decades was shut down. In the mid nineties Peter Stechman went on to become Camden's Parks Manager with responsibility for the boroughs 70 Parks and Open Spaces. His security team were the first on the scene at the Tavistock Square Garden bus bomb.
The Oasis pool is currently managed by Greenwich Leisure Limited.
- The Letters of Charles Dickens: 1850-1852. 6. Oxford University Press. 2002. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-19-812617-1.
- Joseph Lockwood (Jan 17, 1845). "Letters to the Editor: Baths And Washhouses For The Working Classes". The Times. p. 6.
It [the spring feeding the baths] was once the favourite 'bagnio' of Queen Anne, whose name it still bears to this day.