I've long been an advocate of lidos and am lucky to live close to arguably one of Britain's best: Sandford Parks Lido. A Grade II Listed Building with its 50 metre Olympic sized outdoor swimming pool, separate children's pool, excellent café and neatly manicured lawns calling out for the laying down of towels and picnic blankets, its a hidden gem on the edge of the Cotswold escarpment.
We're regular visitors throughout the summer months when its open as Husband and Monkeychild are keen swimmers. I would love to be able to tell you that you can find me there sunning myself and wearing my best Fifties cossie, but being a hopeless swimmer and not bothered whether I tan or not, you're more likely to find me writing whilst keeping an eye on Monkeychild.
We visited the lido today as it'll soon be closed for its hibernation and am so glad that we did as it was bathed in glorious sun.
I believe that lidos, as important recreational and cultural heritage places, are due for far more recognition than they currently get.
|The perfectly proportioned café pavilion it all its 1930s elegance|
Their truly golden age was in the Thirties when pools were either constructed or refurbished and to add a touch of cosmopolitan Rivera glamour, incorporated the word ‘lido’ (derived from the Italian for ‘beach’) in their names.
|Typical 1930s poolside wear - knitted natch!|
The lido craze caught on throughout Britain with new pools being built in many towns and cities. This craze provided architects with an excellent opportunity to exercise contemporary Art Deco and Streamline Moderne influences with their clean lines and sweeping curves. Buildings were sculpted in white-painted cement render that beautifully contrasted with reflective chromium rails, vitrolite tiled walls and shimmering blue pools - who could resist taking a dip in places such as these?
Cheltenham's lido was officially opened in 1935 and was advertised as the "Largest Open-Air Pool in the West Midlands, set in charming park-like surroundings. Temperature of constantly purified and aerated water, never under 70 degrees F". Admission 6d". Well, not much has changed - apart from the entrance fee and the water is slightly warmer.
However, lidos saw their fortunes shift after WWII due to the accessibility of foreign holidays and changes in recreational habits. Some struggled on with falling attendance numbers, whilst others became disused and subsequently derelict as local councils could not justify their renovation costs. Numerous lidos fell foul of urban redevelopment and were demolished to make way for new town centres and housing.
|The original turnstile at Sandford Parks Lido - still in the entrance|
Luckily many lidos - like Cheltenham's - had preservation groups set up comprising local people who had the foresight to realise that these facilities had not only public recreational value, but heritage value too. These groups battled against councils selling off 'their' lido to developers intent on demolishing them and redeveloping the land. Many groups fell by the wayside, but Cheltenham's continued through thick and thin, with a charitable trust being formed and later securing National Heritage Lottery funding.
Today Sandford Parks Lido is now recognised as a great asset for the town, being loved and appreciated by those who use it.
P.S. To finish off, I thought I'd include today's outfit in this post as its been a while since I last blogged about one:
1980s hand-knitted cardigan
1970s maxi skirt
Years old trusty retail wedges
1960s souvenir bracelet
Edwardian sovereign holder