The oldest surviving open-air swimming baths in the UK are set to be fully restored and reopened to the public, after years of neglect. Campaigners for the Grade II listed Cleveland Pools, a 200-year old Georgian lido in the historic city of Bath, secured funding of £4.1 million, including a development grant of £366,200 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The restoration project, run by community group The Cleveland Pools Trust, will conserve the Georgian features and upgrade the facilities to allow for year-round swimming and other activities. When complete, the site will include a 25m swimming pool, children’s splash area, pavilion and café. Ann Dunlop, chairman of the Cleveland Pools Trust, said: “The trust and its many supporters will be over the moon that our campaign to keep the pools in the public eye, while developing a sustainable plan working with experts from both English Heritage and The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, has finally got the green light. The success of our bid is all the more remarkable given that we are all volunteers with no paid staff.”
The pools first opened in 1815 following the Bathwick Water Act which prohibited nude bathing in the river. Laid out in the shape of a miniature Georgian crescent, the site includes two bathing pools, the original changing rooms and a private ladies pool. They are one of only a small number of pre-Victorian sporting buildings to survive nationally and are thought to be the oldest swimming baths in Western Europe. The site closed to the public in 1978 and, after finally closing altogether in 1984, was briefly used as a trout farm. It has since deteriorated but although on English Heritage’s Heritage at Risk register, the main features remain remarkably intact.
Nerys Watts, head of HLF South West, said: “There’s nothing quite like swimming in the great outdoors, and it’s something which so many of us really enjoy, whatever our age. Cleveland Pools are believed to be the oldest surviving example of a public swimming pool in England. They have a fantastic story behind them that provides a glimpse into how our ancestors spent their leisure time, and we’re delighted to support this important project.” The Trust will now begin the first stage of the project which will include appointing a design team of architects, engineers and surveyors, and developing an activity plan to set out how the project will involve and serve the local community. Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies, who has been a long-time supporter and ambassador for the project, said: “This is such good news. After hard work and sheer perseverance by the trust and its advisers it’s looking like we will have a magnificent and unique pool in Bath that we can all enjoy for a proper outdoor swim.”
Cleveland Pools Trust