Open every summer for 155 years without exception, the Pells Pool is the oldest outdoor freshwater swimming pool in the UK.
Located in the town of Lewes in East Sussex, the pool has become a much-loved institution within the community, serving the surrounding villages and nearby towns. A spring-fed pool, Pells still draws its water from the same source as when it was created in 1860.
The pool was built to Imperial measurements and is 50 yards long, 25 yards wide, 3ft deep at the shallow end gently slopes to 6ft at the deep end. Like many large traditional lidos, such as Brockwell and Tooting Bec, the Pells Pool is unheated. At the start of the season the pool is around 15-16°C and rises to 22-24°C in the height of the summer.
“The season runs from mid-May to mid-September, during which we are open every day, come rain or shine,” reveals Phil Ransley, pool manager.
“The season is extended if the weather is good enough – in 2014 we remained open for an additional two weeks.”
Pells maintains a simple and straightforward offering of a large pool plus a small paddling pool, with a lawn to relax on and a sun terrace for sunbathing.
An estimated 25,000 visit the pool each year and the management team has recently extended the opening hours to keep up with demand.
Phil comments: “On the hottest days the pool is packed and can get so full we have to limit entry to one in, one out, letting newcomers in only when people leave. On other, thankfully rarer days, it can be just one or two people enjoying a swim in the rain.
“As well as selling day tickets, we have around 500 season ticket holders and the pool is also hired for parties and private events in the evening and morning.”
The Pells was originally built as the Lewes Swimming Baths, with two open air pools next to each other – one that people paid to use and the other was free for local people to swim and wash. The free bath closed in the 1930s and is now the lawn which is set alongside the Pells Pool. An active ‘Save the Pells Pool Campaign’ was mounted by local people to maintain the facility when closure threatened in the 1990s. The pool is now held in trust by Lewes Town Council and managed by a community group, the Pells Pool Community Association.
The Pells Pool
Tel. +44 (0)1273 472334