Liquid Assets

The lidos and open air swimming pools of Britain


By: Janet Smith
RRP: £15.99
Format: 188pp softback 210mm x 210mm
ISBN: 0 9547445 00
Published by English Heritage in July 2005
Foreword by Tracey Emin

In Liquid Assets, the third book of the Played in Britain series, journalist Janet Smith, author of a history of Tooting Bec Lido and herself a keen swimmer, traces the development of Britain's surprisingly rich stock of lidos, starting with their 18th and 19th century predecessors through their fashionable heyday in the Thirties, to their battle for survival today.

Lavishly illustrated with both archive and contemporary photographs, Liquid Assets highlights some of the nation's outstanding architectural examples; the columns and colonnades of Blackpool, the Art Deco water stadium at Portobello, Edinburgh (the first lido to have a wave machine in 1936), and the curvaceous, Le Corbusier-style chalets of the Cold Knap lido in Barry, South Wales.

Kenneth Cross, the distinguished architect of so many of Britain's swimming pools, believed that fresh air, sunlight, exercise and companionship were essential elements of a full life and that lidos were not a luxury but 'an urgent and ever insistent national need'. But if lidos were once to be found in virtually every town and city, since 1945 many have been closed, often despite the efforts of thousands of vociferous campaigners. Liquid Assets charts the best of these lost lidos, including one in Purley were the towering concrete and steel diving board now forms the curious centrepiece of a garden centre.

Liquid Assets also provides a unique listing of all lidos still open in Britain, with detailed case studies of the most impressive, including the Art Deco glories of the triangular-shaped Jubilee Pool, Penzance, Saltdean Lido, near Brighton and Tinside Lido, Plymouth, all opened in 1935 and recently renovated to popular acclaim. With our summers seemingly getting ever hotter, are we about to enter a second golden era for Britain's much loved lidos?

Never before has there been a comprehensive account of this, one of most popular forms of recreational architecture. Played in Britain invites readers to dip in and discover anew the best of the nation's Liquid Assets.

Liquid Assets is sponsored by S+P Architects, specialists in designing swimming pools and leisure centres. The company is currently engaged in the design of the London Aquatic Centre for the 2012 Olympics and the refurbishment of the Royal Commonwealth Pool, Edinburgh, and was also recently reponsible for the revamp of London Fields Lido.

Reviving Lidos Conference Report

In March 2006 Played in Britain organised a conference on the future of lidos in association with Pollard Thomas Edwards architects. Download the conference report here.

Sandford Parks Lido, Cheltenham

Sandford Parks Lido, Cheltenham

A steamy sunrise view from the main entrance with the lido's two playful dolphin litter bins framing the fountain.

From page 91 of Liquid Assets
(Photograph © Iain Barton.)

Broomhill Pool, Ipswich

Broomhill Pool, Ipswich

Back to nature in 2005, awaiting its fate. Local campaigners continue the fight to get the pool re-opened.

From page 145 of Liquid Assets
(Photograph © Darryl Chalkley.)

Liquid Assets contents

Chapter 1: Georgian and Victorian - 18th century beginnings • Serpentine, Hyde Park • Fellows' Pool, Cambridge • Peerless Pool, Finsbury • Cleveland Pools, Bath • Clifton Pool, Bristol • circular pool, Banbury • sea bathing pool, Southampton • Free Swimming Baths, Derby •

Chapter 2: 20th Century - popularisation of outdoor living • loosening of class and gender barriers • emblems of municipal modernity • health promotion • sun worship • 1930s building boom • wartime closures • gradual decline • growth of indoor leisure centres • effect of cheap foreign holidays • effect of 1980s Conservative government polices • health and safety restrictions • skin cancer concerns • 13 Grade II listed lidos •

Chapter 3: London - London County Council's building programme • Herbert Morrison's 'city of lidos' • Harry Rowbotham and TL Smithson • Millwall Open Air Pool • Southall Open Air Baths • Twickenham Open Air Pool • Victoria Park Lido • Charlton Lido •

Chapter 4: Design - Kenneth and Alfred Cross • Art Deco • urban beach • reinforced concrete • filtration systems • aerator fountains • diving boards •

Chapter 5: Lido Life - entertainment • fire diving • log-rolling • aqua shows • beauty pageants • massed spectators • winter swimming • pool maintenance • lifeguards •

Chapter 6: Case studies - Tooting Bec Lido, London • South Bay Bathing Pool, Scarborough • Open Air Baths, Blackpool • The Knap Bathing Pool, Barry • Margate Lido, Cliftonville • Sea Bathing Lake, Southport • Finchley Lido, London • St Leonard's Bathing Pool, Hastings • Guildford Lido • Open Air Pool, Stonehaven • The Bathing Pool, New Brighton • Sandford Parks Lido, Cheltenham • Jubilee Pool, Penzance • Purley Way Lido, Croydon • Hilsea Lido, Portsmouth • Uxbridge Lido • Tinside Lido, Plymouth • Victoria Park Lido, London • Peterborough Lido • Portobello Bathing Pool, Edinburgh • Super Swimming Stadium, Morecambe • Larkswood Pool, Chingford • Bathing Pool, Weston-Super-Mare • Brockwell Park Lido, London • Broomhill Pool, Ipswich • Saltdean Lido, Brighton • Parliament Hill Fields Lido, London •

Chapter 7: Community - Ingleton Swimming Pool, Yorkshire • Pells Pool, Lewes • Open Air Pool, Cirencester • Greenbank Swimming Pool, Street • Hampton Pool, Middlesex • Hathersage Open Air Pool, Derbyshire • Arundel Lido, West Sussex • Chagford Pool, Dartmoor • Eversholt Swimming Pool, Woburn • King's Meadow Swimming Pool, Reading • Droitwich Spa Lido •

Chapter 8: Future - closures • conservation • funding • London Fields Lido • Worthing Lido • Husborne Crawley, Bedfordshire • Derby Pool, Wallasey • Hampstead Heath swimming ponds • Wotton Pool, Stroud • Oasis Sports Centre, London •

Defunct lidos and open air pools - directory •

Operating lidos and open air pools - directory •