The oldest surviving open-air swimming baths in the UK are set to be fully restored and reopened to the public, thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The Grade II* listed Cleveland Pools, a 200-year-old Georgian lido in the historic city of Bath, has secured earmarked funding of £4.1million including a development grant of £366,200, it was announced today.
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.”
Heritage regeneration specialists, The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, provided the Trust with expert advice and guidance on making the application to the HLF. Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, said:
“We’re absolutely delighted with this news. It’s a momentous step forward for Cleveland Pools after years of hard work by everyone involved. In the current hot weather the cooling waters of the Cleveland Pools would be a popular and attractive asset for everyone in Bath. We are now finally close to making that happen.
Meanwhile, Cllr David Bellotti (LibDem, Lyncombe), B&NES Cabinet Member for Community Resources, said: “This is excellent news. The Council had previously earmarked £200,000 to match fund the restoration of the Cleveland Pools – we will now meet with the Trust to discuss the next steps.”
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 it is believed that the Cleveland Pools could be the oldest swimming baths of its type 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.
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. Expert advice has been provided by English Heritage and the Prince’s Regeneration Trust.
When complete, the site will include a 25-metre swimming pool, children’s splash area, pavilion and café. The pools will be naturally treated and heated using the latest technology.
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.’
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 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Huge thanks go to the Prince’s Regeneration Trust for their expert advice and support in helping make this happen.”
The HLF grant will cover 85% of the total costs. The Trust are now looking to secure the remaining money and are hoping that people will be moved to donate to make the project a reality.
Ann told the Virtual Museum that they had recently discovered some amazing history about the characters and events which have taken place over the Pools long history and that – along with its unique architecture, the tranquil setting and the soon-to-be-reinstated river pontoon allowing people to arrive by boat – they at last felt they were really on to an all-round winner.
“The HLF grant is, of course, the icing on the cake and we feel so proud that they have finally shown their faith in us.
We cannot be complacent about what happens next and we shall begin straight away to activate our working groups and to approach businesses, foundations and philanthropists for sponsorship so that we can get stuck into the development stage.
We will be interviewing for a Project Director in September to get the ball rolling on governance during this process.
We all hope you will continue your support in whatever way you can so that we finally realise the dream of bringing open-air swimming back to everyone in Bath and beyond.”