Archive for ‘historical’ swimming baths

Tooting Lido

Posted in London Pools with tags , , , , , on August 13, 2010 by Rejoice & Be Cleansed

For me Tooting Lido is one of the most incredible places in the UK. Not only is it huge (the pool measures 100 x 33 yards – a staggering 30,000 square feet of water), but swimming in the middle of one of London’s most beautiful commons, surrounded by trees, blackberry bushes, the multicoloured changing rooms (which are apparently listed) and the sound of bird song (as well as the clatter of the occasional train), is a joy to behold.

According to SLSC, it is is one of Britain’s oldest lidos: it was built in just four months in the spring of 1906. It did not become a ‘lido’ until the thirties – when the term became widely used – it was originally known as Tooting Bathing-Lake.The pool, at the eastern end of Tooting Common in south-west London, opened to the public on Saturday 28 July 1906. It was intended partly as a communal bath as very few homes in 1906 had their own bathrooms. It is now the biggest open-air pool in the country.

Back in 1906, the Rev. Anderson, the man behind the pool being built, said he hoped it would be ‘a benefit to the public for a long time to come.’ He can hardly have imagined that a hundred years later, people from south London and beyond, would still be swimming in his bathing-lake and delighting in it.

Anyway, although it is lovely when there are lots of people enjoying the vast expanse of water, it is at its best at about 7.00am in the morning, when the sun is out, and only a handful of people are taking the plunge. Here’s some shots at exactly that time of day. They are also taken before some b**tards stole the safety rail that used to surround the pool. Who would have thought that the recession and swimming could have collided in such a sad way?

A couple of hours later …

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Marshall Street Baths

Posted in London Pools with tags , , , , , on August 12, 2010 by Rejoice & Be Cleansed

This morning I had the absolute pleasure of my first swim at the Marshall Street Baths in the heart of London’s Soho. It was shut down over a decade ago, in 1997, for health and safety reasons after it fell into a state of crumbling disrepair. In fact the last time swimmers took the dip in this architectural gem Elton John’s Candle In The Wind topped the charts, John Major was still in power, and Princess Diana was still alive. Although, it first opened in 1932 there have been public baths on the site since 1852.

Well, the Grade II listed building famous for its stunning barrel-vaulted roof and Sicillian marble-lined pool has just reopened as part of a £25million refurbishment job. The rest of the project includes a gym, sauna and exercise studios as well as 52 apartments, 15 of which will be part of an affordable housing scheme. So that’s nice.

I got there at about 7.30am, and to my complete surprise there was only about 6 people in the pool. The first thing that grabs you, apart from the amazing paint job, are the green Swedish marble walls and glimmering white marble lined pool. I have never seen anything like it, it is what I imagine a swimming pool in one of the royal palaces might look like (are the any?).

The next thing is the original bronze fountain depicting a merchild and two dolphins, designed by the sculptor Walter Gilbert, watching over the lucky swimmers. Everything has been so lovingly restored. It makes every stroke and every turn a joy as something new catches the eye. But all of this comes at a price., in fact £5.25 which is a lot for most people. But as they say, you’re worth it. Every penny of it.