UK's oldest lido set to be restored to create 'unique swimming facility' in Bath

  • Watch Caron Bell's report

Work has begun on the restoration of the UK's oldest lido - Cleveland Pools in Bath.

The site has not been used since the 1980s but over the next year, as part of an £8million project, it will be restored back into a fully functional swimming complex.

Chairman of the board of trustees Paul Simons said: "The pools are a unique piece of Bath's heritage and nationally significant as well.

"What it was about was open air swimming - originally for men only, later for ladies as well.

"Today it's of real relevance because as well as being a heritage project that absolutely has to be saved, it's also going to be a unique swimming facility for families, young people and all the population and community of Bath."

A designer's impression of how the restored site will look. Credit: Cleveland Pools

The pool's history

The pool was built by the Georgians in response to a ban on nude bathing in the nearby River Avon, with parts of the site dating back to 1815.

It went on to become Bath's most popular swimming spots throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

But in the 1960s, the development of an indoor leisure centre in Bath city centre saw the pool's popularity decline and after a brief spell as a trout farm in the 1980s the lido fell into a state of disrepair.

Work to restore the site will take over a year. Credit: ITV West Country

A campaign to save it was born in 2003 after the council sparked local uproar when it announced a plan to develop the site.

Now, after 17 years of campaigning and fundraising, diggers have finally moved in to the site - albeit delayed by a year due to Covid-19.

With no road access to the site, all building equipment is having to be transported up and down the river on a barge, from a depot site at Avon Rugby Club.

Project manager Mark Tregelles said: "We've set up a distribution compound down at Avon Rugby Club. It's about a mile along the river, so everything's got to be lifted onto a pontoon using a crane and from there it sails down the river to us and is offloaded by a crane this side.

"It's certainly nothing we've done before in terms of getting materials to site."

The barge being used to transport all materials to and from the site. Credit: ITV West Country

The restored pools and their Grade II*-listed building are due to open next summer.

Users will have access to a 25m pool following the outline of the original crescent, as well as a warmer children's splash pool.

The emphasis will be on attracting local people, rather than tourists and managers hope it will be the start of new era for the pool.