Wales Empire Pool

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Wales Empire Pool
General information
Type Swimming Pool building
Address Wood Street
Town or city Cardiff
Country Wales
Coordinates 51°28′36″N 3°10′53″W / 51.4767°N 3.1815°W / 51.4767; -3.1815
Construction started January 1956
Opening 18 April 1958
Demolished June 1998
Cost £650,000
Client Cardiff City Council
Technical details
Structural system Reinforced concrete on steel frame[1]
Design and construction
Architect D.M.Davies/J. Dryburgh

The Wales Empire Pool, known locally as the Empire Pool, was an international standard swimming pool building, located in Cardiff, Wales from 1958 until it was demolished in 1998. It was a centrepiece for the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.


A site on Wood Street in the centre of the Cardiff had been identified in the 1930s as a good location for a new swimming baths.[2] However, the construction of a new pool was not realised until Cardiff was chosen as the hosts of the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. The pool's site was immediately next to the Cardiff Arms Park, which was the main stadium for the Games.

Work on the new pools began in January 1956[2] and the completed building was opened by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, J. H. Morgan, on 18 April 1958,[2] two months before the Empire Games started.[3] The City Council were initially reluctant to finance the new pool, but agreed to do so when confronted with the ultimatum of "No Pool – No Games".[3] The total cost of construction was £650,000[2] and the 1958 Empire Games went on to achieve a financial surplus of £37,000.[3]

The building was designed by D. M. Davies, believed to be influenced by Peter Behrens' 1910 AEG turbine factory.[1] The Royal Institute of British Architects differs in opinion, attributing the design to John Dryburgh,[4] the City Architect 1957–74.


The main attraction of the Empire Pool was the international standard swimming pool, which measured 55 yards by 20 yards with a depth of between 3 feet and 16 feet. For spectators there were 1,722 permanent seats.[5] In addition to the main pool, there was an aerotone therapeutic bath, Turkish baths, physiotherapy rooms, hot showers, a first class restaurant and a large reception area.[5]

In 1970 the main pool was shortened to 50 metres, meeting new international standards.[5]

In 1973 a teaching pool was created, for school children. It was opened on 18 April 1973 by Winifred Mathias, Mayor of Cardiff.[5]


The Empire Pool was demolished in 1998 to make space for the Millennium Stadium, but leading to a severe lack of swimming facilities in the South Wales area.[6] In 2003 a new Wales National Pool was opened in Swansea[7] while Cardiff received a £32 million Cardiff International Pool, which opened in Cardiff Bay in February 2008.[8]


  1. ^ a b Walker, Ed. "Cardiff memories: The Empire Pool". YourCardiff. WalesOnline. Retrieved 5 April 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Empire Pool". Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. Retrieved 5 April 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Williams (Ed.), Stewart (1973). "Chapter 2: J.H.Morgan reviews fifty years of sport in Cardiff". The Cardiff Book: Volume I. Stewart Williams Publishers. pp. 35–36. ISBN 0-900807-05-9. 
  4. ^ "Wales Empire Pool, Cardiff". RIBA. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d Lee, Brian (1999). Central Cardiff: The Second Selection. Tempus Publishing. pp. 57–63. ISBN 0-7524-1654-5. 
  6. ^ "Fears for Cardiff swimming pool". BBC Wales News. 13 December 2001. Retrieved 5 April 2013. 
  7. ^ Turner, Robin (5 August 2003). "Swansea fears pool 'takeover'". Western Mail. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  8. ^ James, David (27 February 2008). "Record opening for new city pool". South Wales Echo. Retrieved 5 April 2013.