London’s public swimming pools: bathing, sun terraces and cafes – archive, 1938


Fleet Street, Sunday
A fine swimming pool with wide terraces for sun-bathing, with changing-rooms, lockers (over a thousand of them), and cafe, was opened by the London County Council at Parliament Hill Fields yesterday. This “Lido” – the name is a memorial of Mr. George Lansbury at the Office of Works – is at the southernmost end of Hampstead Heath, easy to get at for the thousands of people packed into Gospel Oak, Kentish Town, Camden Town, and neighbouring districts. The surrounding wall suggests that inside is to be found the warmth and shelter that inhabit the kitchen gardens of country estates. Inside all is colour. The water looks as blue as the penguin pond at the Zoo.

The whole scheme has cost £34.000, but admission is free on three days of the week – two for men and one for women. On other days, when mixed bathing is allowed, the charge for adults is sixpence each. There seems to be only one defect, which was discovered inadvertently by Mr. SF Rags, secretary of the Football Association, who performed the opening ceremony. He hoped that there would be instructors to teach the inexpert how to use the pool. At present there is none, but the county council is watching an experimental scheme run by the Amateur Swimming Association at the Victoria Park pool.

This pool is the third that has been provided by the London County Council and will not be the last. The first was opened in Victoria Park, Hackney, and another has been built at Brockwell Park, Herne Hill. Work is now proceeding on a fourth at Charlton Park, Greenwich, and a site is wanted at Battersea. The Parks Committee also intends to provide Stoke Newington with a swimming-pool in Clissold Park. The whole programme is designed to give everybody the chance of swimming, sun-bathing, and taking the air in cheerful surroundings. The cafes, for example, that are part of the scheme are open to the public and have a good view of the water and easy access to it.

We have been much slower than some of the Continental countries in providing stimulating facilities for recreation. Germany, in particular, has many excellent and inexpensive bathing-places. But conditions are improving at last. One has only to compare the airiness and brightness of the cafe opened yesterday with, say, the large tearoom at Heaton Park, Manchester, to see at once the advance that is being made.

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