Great lengths: the historic indoor swimming pools of Britain

Plan of Marshall Street Baths, 1931. Image property of Westminster City Archives

Plan of Marshall Street Baths, 1931. Image property of Westminster City Archives

The re-opening of the Marshall Street Baths in Soho on Monday [see press release] was as much an event for architecture buffs as for sporting enthusiasts, as one of the country’s most spectacular swimming pools was returned to its 1930s glory. The Baths are a real jewel in Westminster’s crown, boasting a white Sicilian marble-lined pool, green Swedish marble walls and a stunning barrel-vaulted roof: a real treat for fans of art deco design.

Boys' swimming class at Great Smith Street Baths, 1916. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Boys’ swimming class at Great Smith Street Baths, 1916. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

In English Heritage’s Great Lengths, you can find out more about Britain’s iconic indoor pools. This lavishly-illustrated nostalgia-fest for the golden age of leisure centres celebrates our lasting love-affair with our historic pools. Marshall Street Baths, Porchester Centre and Seymour Place all feature for their breathtaking opulence, technical innovations and the key roles they have played in Britain’s swimming history.

Laying the foundation stone of the Kensal Road Baths, 1896. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Laying the foundation stone of the Kensal Road Baths, 1896. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

If Great Lengths leaves you keen for more swimming history sleuthing, you can delve deeper into the past of Westminster’s pools at Westminster Archives Centre. We have a wealth of records, from souvenir opening programmes to original plans and historic images. You can also share your memories of the Marshall Street Baths on our new interactive community history site, Soho Memories. What are you waiting for? Dive in!

Great Lengths: the historic indoor swimming pools of Britain, by Dr Ian Gordon and Simon Inglis  (Swindon: English Heritage, 2009) is currently featuring in our ‘Book of the Month’ display at Westminster Archives Centre.

The main swimming pool at the Seymour Place Public Baths under construction, 1936. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

The main swimming pool at the Seymour Place Public Baths under construction, 1936. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

[Judith]

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3 responses to “Great lengths: the historic indoor swimming pools of Britain

  1. Pingback: Back in the swim! | Books & the City

  2. Pingback: Into the next millennium | Books & the City

  3. Pingback: Diving lessons with a difference | Books & the City

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