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Lidos in Hertfordshire: 5 outdoor pools

PUBLISHED: 11:11 06 June 2018 | UPDATED: 11:11 06 June 2018

Kimpton Lido is the UK's only family owned, public membership open-air pool

Kimpton Lido is the UK's only family owned, public membership open-air pool


The boom in swimming and lidos in the 1930s left a legacy of beautiful open air pools in the county. Those that remain are now cherished as fun and healthy community assets. Bianca Wild dives into the wonderful world of lidos

In their heyday, lidos were the epitome of the British leisure experience. All the rage in the 1920s and ’30s, these open-air pools promoted freedom and community. Swimming was fashionable, boosted by American athlete Gertrude Ederle who conquered the English Channel in 1926, and medical advice of the time was to get out in the sun for a healthy dose of vitamin D. Combine this with reduced working hours and paid holidays for employees for the first time and it’s no wonder people chose to dive in to all lidos had to offer.

Testament to the spirit of inter-war Britain, they remained popular into the 1960s and ’70s, but the emergence of holidaying abroad and indoor pools open all year seemed to spell the end for lidos. Most fell into disrepair and were closed and eventually dug up. Splashlands Lido in Stanborough Lakes in Welwyn GC in the late 1990s and Hoddesdon Lido in 2008 were just two of the many closures up and down the country. However, gems still survive in Hertfordshire, just waiting to be rediscovered as the appetite for good old-fashioned British fun resurfaces.

Hemel Hempstead

Hemel Hempstead Outdoor Pool is now part of the town’s SportSpace project, but started off with the same humble beginnings as other lidos. The pool opened in 1936, and was closed six decades later to be reborn as part of the sports centre run by Dacorum Sports Trust.

Elise Hyslop, marketing and communications director for the trust said, ‘There has been huge growth in sports like triathlons, and while swimming in an outdoor pool is not the same as an open-water swim, you still get the “fresh air” feeling, you get to see the sky and you’re one step closer to nature.’

Hemel Hempstead Outdoor Pool Hemel Hempstead Outdoor Pool

• North Herts

North Herts has two open air pools, one in Letchworth on Norton Common, opened in 1935, and the other in Hitchin, on Butts Close since 1938, both of which are thriving.

North Herts District Council leader Lynda Needham said, ‘They are very, very popular, and you can imagine the warmer the summer the more popular they are. There have been hints in the past that financially they are too expensive to run but that’s when you see how loved they are, because then you are inundated with residents saying they’re a wonderful facility and they want them kept open.’

Heating was added to the pools in the 1960s, which brought an end to children splashing their legs to try to warm up during school outings, and meant swimmers were happy to come when the weather wasn’t so good.

Letchworth Outdoor Pool opened in 1953 Letchworth Outdoor Pool opened in 1953

• Ware

Ware Priory Lido is a prime example of the community spirit the open-air pool came to encapsulate. Opened in 1934 and built by members of the community, the pool has had its ups and downs but after a £500,000 investment by GlaxoSmithKline it was returned to its former glory and reopened this year.

Manager Steve Gershon said, ‘It’s a lovely pool and a real community project. On a hot and sunny day, people are queuing round the block to get in.’

Check the Ware Town Council website for more information.

Ware Priory Lido after refurbishment this year Ware Priory Lido after refurbishment this year

• Kimpton

Kimpton Pool Club is the last family-run lido in the UK. It opened in 1934 and is open to the membership-paying public. Current owners Mary and Mark bought the lido (which comes with their village home) in 2013.

Mary said, ‘We weren’t out looking for a lido, it was just so completely different and we thought it was quite quirky – it’s a little slice of history.

‘It’s just really nice old-fashioned fun and people still appreciate it. With indoor swimming, you don’t get the swallows or the butterflies flying over the pool so it’s a really special experience.’

The pool continues to attract members of all ages, with the oldest swimmers having used it for nearly 50 years.

Keep up to date on Kimpton Pool Club’s Twitter page


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