Warm weather in England has inspired many to take up outdoor swimming, but our love for lidos has existed for centuries.
All recreational swimming originally started outdoors, in rivers, lakes, ponds and canals and from the late 17th century, purpose-built establishments were offered for hygiene, relaxation and medicinal purposes.
One of the oldest surviving purpose-built outdoor pools is the Cleveland Baths just outside Bath, built in 1815. A block of changing rooms set out in a crescent is facing the pool.
The late 19th century saw a rise in public ponds used for swimming, including Highgate Ponds on Hampstead Heath and the lake at Victoria Park, Hackney, now used for boating.
Outdoor pools were developed, walled in with a lined pool tank, like Brockwell Lido in London, which opened in 1937.
Former Engineer Harry W. Smith designed the South Bay Bathing Pool in Scarborough. It was the first in Britain to include diving boards, water chutes, different depths, changing rooms and showers.
Margate in Kent was popular for sea bathing, and in 1937, the construction of an expansive concrete-walled Walpole Bay Tidal Pool at Cliftonville allowed hundreds of bathers to enjoy the waters at once.
The increasing concern regarding the purity and safety of pool water in the 1920s and 1930s inspired the creation of outdoor pools with concrete, tiled tanks and water filtration systems.
Due to the vibrant entrances, changing blocks, cafes and sunbathing areas, these outdoor pools became known as lidos, the Italian word for ‘beach’.
Tall diving boards were also once prominent, but most have been dismantled for health and safety reasons.
Only three outdoor inter-war concrete diving platforms are known to survive, two of which are protected: the Coate Water Diving Platform in Swindon, Wiltshire, and the Diving Stage at the former Purley Way Lido in Croydon, London.
Some of our best-loved lidos are on the coast. Tinside Lido in Plymouth and the Jubilee Pool in Penzance combine modernist design in a dramatic setting and are among the most representative building types of the 1930s.
There has recently been a rise in lido refurbishments. A notable example is the Uxbridge Lido in the London Borough of Hillingdon, built in 1935, closed in 1998 and reopened in 2010.
Among its listed structures by G Percy Trentham is a freestanding reinforced concrete grandstand.
So grab your cossie and head down to the pool, ‘cos nothing says British summertime quite like a lido!