Championship Bath – The Derby Baths Blackpool
The most famous of championship indoor swimming pools of its era in Europe. An aquatic theatre hosting famous International Swimming events. These were International Diving, Olympic, European and Commonwealth Trials 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 of dramatic breaking of multi records. Inside this championship bath were emotional swings between pure joy and sadness. Television took all the excitement into the nations homes. Deep in the depths of the building was a BBC broadcasting station. This regularly brought the sport of swimming into peoples living rooms. This majestic building produced many stars, the 1,800 seats filled to capacity.
Everyone throughout Europe had heard unofficially it had opened to the public in 1939. The official opening of the championship bath was to come later. 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 this awesome championship pool. The yellow tiled facade “Art Deco” style championship baths attracted 1,200 swimmers the first day and 75 per cent of them were visitors! Countless thousands learned to swim in the championship sea water filled baths. The championship baths later on were to give way to fresh water swimming. The building offered a Turkish and remedial section, the sauna facilities being out of this world.
The Baths in Construction
As time went on, for cost effectiveness, there were discussions about flooring the bath over during winter. This was to provide indoor bowling. This didn’t materialise as it was too costly laying the floor down. It would then have to be taken up again for swimming purposes. Discussions were taking place on how to bring the championship baths 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 the championship bath saw patronage plummet. Fun pools and splash slides were the flavour of the time. By 1988 the championship Derby Baths 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.
In 1990 hearts were heavy in Blackpool. The Championship Derby Baths were stripped bare, and amidst sadness and uproar finally razed to the ground. Developers wanted to to build a plush 12 Million South Sea Island Complex.
The memories remain. To this day it remains an empty grassland, and no redevelopment (2015)
From Greatness to Nothing