Death of the swimming pool, is this the end of another great British institution?


The tradition of going to public baths goes back centuries. The Roman Baths served as a model for the public baths that emerged in Britain from the 17th century. As our cities developed during the Industrial Revolution, local swimming pools were seen as vital to public health, to provide sanitation, and to reduce epidemics such as cholera.

At the turn of the 20th century it was decided that every house in the city of Bristol should be within a mile of a swimming pool. Thus, between 1922 and 1937, six swimming pools, including Jubilee Pool, were built by the Bristol City Corporation.

Today all of these pools have been demolished with the exception of the Grade II listed Jubilee Pool and Bristol South Baths. Its architect, CFW Dening, who helped create a number of Bristol’s new garden suburbs, also designed Jubilee, and activists therefore applied for the same listed status; however their attempts were rejected.

Jules Laming, president of Friends of Jubilee Pool, explains that they are now launching another, slightly more daring offer: to take control of the council’s pool and run it as a community non-profit business.

Next week they plan to file a formal expression of interest with council to take the building on a 35-year lease and start dealing with the backlog of repairs, which is estimated at over £ 300,000. If the offer is accepted, they have until the end of March to submit a detailed business plan, otherwise the pool will close.

“A combination of Covid and not being able to exercise or socialize for two years, plus the injustice of the swimming pool closing, has caused the community to come together and try to save them,” Laming said.

Since the launch of the campaign, membership has almost doubled from 320 to 620 (each pays a monthly subscription of around £ 20). Currently, she says, around 2,400 people use the pool each month.

Laming, 50, works full-time for a planning consultancy and says her two children, who are 12 and 9, have been swimming here since they were young. However, she insists that Jubilee Pool is much more than a children’s play pool or a place to just keep fit.

The unusually high water temperature of 30 ° C makes it ideal for people with certain medical conditions. Patients from a nearby NHS pain clinic are referred here to swim in hot water to help soothe their symptoms, and a session is held every Friday for adults with disabilities, who otherwise would have zero share nearby to swim.

About Richard Chandler

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