Twickenham Lido Exterior – Embankment 1981. Kind permission of Richmond upon Thames Local Studies & Archives
Twickenham Lido – Opened in King George V Silver Jubilee Year 4th May 1935
Twickenham Lido site lies along the River Thames – opposite Eel Pie Island and was originally bought by Twickenham Council in 1934, for the purpose of public grounds and gardens and remained so until the building and the official opening of the swimming pool took place 1935.
Prior to this period and what was to become a swimming pool, the site housed “Richmond House” which had lain derelict for many years being owned by George Gordon Mackintosh by 1872. The house lay within a striking area of land being ” 2 Acres, 1 Rood and 38 Perch’s in size! Richmond House started its life in the latter half of the 17th century. It was the residence of Francis Newport Earl of Bradford during Charles 11 reign. Generations after generations owned or rented the house. The last owner Sir Edward Blakeney lived in the house which subsequently he took on a lease which he surrendered in 1867 to George Gordon Mackintosh Esq. J.P. During its derelict period into the 20th century the mansion house came up for sale in 1923. Twickenham Council eventually became the owner and it was considered for use by Scouting organisations. It was not to be. They studied the feasibility of a swimming pool. Twickenham residents were asked for their input to help the decision.
After much planning, together with studying economical aspects, it was finally decided to build an open air Lido 165 feet long by 55 feet wide. It was the ” age “for Lidos, swimming in the healthy open air. Many were being built around that period. The Lido would be 3 feet at both ends with a 10 feet diving area in the centre to take diving boards between 1 Metre and 5 Metres high . The pool would have filtration, and be the first English Bath to have a “Rotatherm” air and water temperature gauge installed. There would be a café, sunbathing beaches, flower beds and floodlighting. Building estimate would be £1240. Richmond House was demolished and the pool was built.
There were Silver Jubilee Celebrations all over Twickenham but 1000 bathers and a full spectators gallery filled with many distinguished guests saw the Opening of the new Open Air Swimming Lido. Chains of Office glistened in the sunshine as the wearers witnessed a true Gala Spectacle. Mr W.R Emery throughout gave running commentaries to the many events held in the pool. These were followed by the Mayor of Twickenham pressing a button and setting in motion the pumping of gallons of water a minute through the filtration unit. The next minutes the Baths Superintendant Mr W.C Gammon entered the water proving they’d got the right man for the job!. Swimming and diving exhibitions proved a spectacle to all, coming from the Amateur Swimming Association and Southern Counties sector. Sounds from nearby events such as the pealing of bells, fireworks lighting up the sky just all added to the atmosphere and the feelings of jubilation. Twickenham had got a Lido!…and what a beautiful situation being on the Embankment.
From as early as 1947 the lido had been considered for turning into an indoor pool. R.B. Marshall
The pool was patronised by the thousands. There were a lot of happy swimmers for 30 years or more, and there were some wonderful summers spent in the water! The pool was maintained well but by 1969 there were more serious defects creeping in. Also the nearby Teddington pool was in line for major refurbishment. Economically wise the council were beginning to think about closing the pool.
There was unrest and the lovely pool lived on borrowed time until 1977. The threats created uproar and many protesters set to work. The previous summer season had seen 60,000 patrons. Many petitions were signed including the weekend shoppers in town. The pool was a very popular amenity during its seasons May to September. There was every effort to keep the pool open for another season. At the beginning of 1978 £27,000 was need to repair structural damage resulting in a leaking pool, plus further investment for the toilets. Financial investment was required also for Teddington Pool transforming into an indoor pool. The lovely lido was closed in 1980. It was not being used economically.
It was a tragedy
There were many considerations for the pool. By 1982 the Lido was falling into dereliction.
Considerations for Twickenham Lido
A Hotel with leisure pool, opening it up for public access, with some housing was considered for the site.
A couple came up with plans to reopen the pool with a domed roof for all year round swimming.
Reopening Twickenham Lido into a leisure complex was still being considered by 1986/7 using group schemes, partnerships. The then M.P Toby Jessel (no relation) wanted plans unveiled for a community centre, also to re use existing buildings such as the former Baths Superintendants house and Loggia
By 1988 there was yet another scheme to re open for open air pool, health club, restaurant, YMCA community centre, but there were grumbles as nothing had happened and no dangling carrots had come to fruition.
Finally the decision was made not to re use or reopen as a pool. Residents were not happy. They were furious that their pool would not be rebuilt. Reasons why not being that demand would not justify the cost.There have been costly ongoing market research but in the end nothing. Their pool by now was very derelict.
1989 saw many other ideas and plans. Concert Hall, an M&S food store, a shopping centre with basement car park and perimeter housing, a cinema complex but at the end of 1989 the message for Twickenham Lido site was…
Above… my own words gleaned from Richmond upon Thames Local Studies and Archives
There were other thoughts about the site but nothing materialised. Eventually everything was demolished in 2005.
Testament and tribute
The site was to kept as a public space. As testament to the pool the site was cleared but some very poignant features were left. The pool surround, 2 slabs engraved “shallow end” and”deep end” and one diving board with memorial plaque.
Lovely gardens were planted and the lawns featured stripes depicting the lanes on the floor of the pool basin. The gardens are for the PUBLIC and named the Diamond Jubilee Gardens (2014), very aptly after our present Queen… and very aptly, when one considers the pool opened on the day of Her Majesty’s… Grandfather’s Silver Jubilee (1935).
A Contribution by Mr R. B. Marshall
Quotes from “Thames Valley Grammer School 1964 – 1971” which was sent to me by the author Mr R. B. Marshall. The book was published Spring 2015.
Needless to say the school frequented Twickenham Pool escaping lessons during a morning. Overlooking Eel Pie Island the turnstiles were busy within the impressive structure, from which there were views overlooking the riverside, and over Twickenham.
The shimmering blue of the chlorinated water created a unique atmosphere as pupils filed in to enjoy the day. Echoes of tannoy announcements, sounds of splashes and response from the crowd would bounce off the gaunt walls of the building and resound beyond to the pleasant riverside vicinity. Business was brisk in the tuck shop for confectionery and crisps, much needed to sustain the animated shouting at the swimmers daring to outperform their competitors amongst the sea of pupils. Happy days!
Does this Lido spark your memories?