Wales Empire Pool

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Wales Empire Pool
Wales Empire Pool.jpg
General information
TypeSwimming Pool building
AddressWood Street
Town or cityCardiff
Coordinates51°28′36″N 3°10′53″W / 51.4767°N 3.1815°W / 51.4767; -3.1815Coordinates: 51°28′36″N 3°10′53″W / 51.4767°N 3.1815°W / 51.4767; -3.1815
Construction startedJanuary 1956
Opened18 April 1958
DemolishedJune 1998
ClientCardiff City Council
Technical details
Structural systemReinforced concrete on steel frame[1]
Design and construction
ArchitectD.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.

The building was acclaimed as the first example of modernist architecture in Cardiff, and was similar in design to the Royal Festival Hall in London.[3] It 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 structural engineer was Oscar Faber,[3] who was known for his work with reinforced concrete.

Work on the new pool 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.[5] 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".[5] The total cost of construction was £650,000[2] and the 1958 Empire Games went on to achieve a financial surplus of £37,000.[5]


The main attraction of the Empire Pool was the international standard swimming pool, which measured 55 by 20 yards (50.3 m × 18.3 m) with a depth of between 3 and 16 feet (0.91 and 4.88 m), with diving boards. For spectators there were 1,722 permanent seats.[6] In addition to the main pool, there was an aerotone therapeutic bath, Turkish baths, physiotherapy rooms, hot showers, a restaurant and a large reception area.[6]

In 1970 the main pool was shortened to 50 metres, meeting new international standards.[6]

In 1973 a teaching pool was created for school children, opened by Winifred Mathias, Lord Mayor of Cardiff.[6]


Plaque commemorating the pool

The Empire Pool was demolished in 1998 to make space for the Millennium Stadium, leading to a severe lack of swimming facilities in the South Wales area.[7] In 2003 a new Wales National Pool was opened in Swansea[8] while Cardiff received the £32 million Cardiff International Pool, which opened in Cardiff Bay in February 2008.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Walker, Ed. "Cardiff memories: The Empire Pool". YourCardiff. WalesOnline. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. 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 "Wales Empire Pool, site of". Engineering Timelines. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  4. ^ "Wales Empire Pool, Cardiff". RIBA. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  5. ^ 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.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ a b c d Lee, Brian (1999). Central Cardiff: The Second Selection. Tempus Publishing. pp. 57–63. ISBN 0-7524-1654-5.
  7. ^ "Fears for Cardiff swimming pool". BBC Wales News. 13 December 2001. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  8. ^ Turner, Robin (5 August 2003). "Swansea fears pool 'takeover'". Western Mail. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  9. ^ James, David (27 February 2008). "Record opening for new city pool". South Wales Echo. Retrieved 5 April 2013.