The most famous of indoor swimming pools of its era. An aquatic theatre hosting famous International Swimming events, International Diving events, Olympic, European and Commonwealth Trial events. Home to the annual Amateur Swimming Association Centralised Championships, Water Polo, and Synchronised Swimming Champs.
Cheers of excitement, foot stamping, hand clapping and chanting were the sounds to the dramatic breaking of multi records. Emotional swings between pure joy and sadness. Television took all the excitement into the nations homes.
Everyone throughout Europe had heard unofficially, it had opened to the public in
1939 (official opening to come later). The yellow tiled facade “Art Deco” style baths attracted 1,200 swimmers the first day and 75 per cent of them were visitors!
War had interrupted the official opening in 1940, by Lord Derby, and it wasn’t until 1965 that his grandson the Earl of Derby conducted the honours! During the war, 5 million servicemen used the pool.
The majestic building produced many stars, the 1,800 seats filled to capacity. Deep in the depths of the building was a BBC broadcasting station regularly bringing the sport of swimming into peoples living rooms. Countless thousands learned to swim in the sea water filled baths, (the extra training pool), later on to give way to fresh water swimming.
The building offered a Turkish and remedial section, the sauna facilities being out of this world.
As time went on, for cost effectiveness, there were discussions about flooring the pool over during winter to provide indoor bowling. This didn’t materialise (too costly laying the floor down and then taking it up) but discussions were taking place to bring the pool up to a modern day image.
The Amateur Swimming Centralised Swimming Championships were now being staged in the South at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.
By 1986 and 87, patronage had plummeted.
Fun pools and splash slides were the flavour of the time. By 1988 the Derby began to live on borrowed time. Despite uproar and demonstrations there seemed no possible reprieve. There was a master-plan in progress to redevelop the growing shabbiness of this once wondrous pool. The North Shore landmark was doomed to disappear.
OUTCOME: In 1990 hearts were heavy in Blackpool. The Derby Baths were stripped bare, and amidst sadness and uproar, finally razed to the ground. The memories remain. To this day it remains an empty grassland. (2012)