Southampton Central Swimming Baths- private postcard collection agj - image

Southampton Central Baths – 1962. Built on reclaimed land

Southampton Central Baths above – (“Valentine’s”  image) Postcard collection agj


Southampton Central Baths - image

Southampton Central Baths Harbour Road

Southampton Central Baths.

Any swimmer, diver, spectator on entering these fine swimming baths would have been in their own wonderland.

They would have been faced with a fantastic giant “aquarium” containing human forms ducking , diving and splashing down through the water from the 10 metres high diving platform.

Built on reclaimed land the finely built swimming baths were  in Harbour Road, slightly similar to Wembley Empire Pool,  and fulfilled National and International requirements at that time.  It was built not far from the open-air Lido.

Southampton Central Baths - image

Wembley Empire Pool for comparison. Kind of similar in shape.

These remarkable facilities boasted the finest in the country. The best of both worlds proudly hugging the Western Esplanade.

This Southampton Olympic Pool helped train some of the foremost swimmers and divers in the country. Because of the facility second to none – competitors travelled from over the country to train for 2 or three hours at a time.

The bath was 110 feet long, its 48 feet width often roped off to form lanes for carrying out swimming teaching and training – leaving the diving area free for somersaulting and twisting from the springboards and highboards.[…]

Southampton Central Baths was built where the sea used to be!  See Southampton Esplanade Lido. From Southampton Water edge to becoming an inland Lido.

…The sleek diving tower contained 1m, 3m, 5m, 7.5m and 10m heights and divers plunged into the 16 feet 6 ins. depths of brackish water which was filtered in and purified from the estuary.

Spectators (902 tip up seats) sat comfortably in the air conditioned atmosphere, enjoying the thrilling aqua displays, often complemented by illuminated waters as a bonus.


Southampton Central Baths Children's Pool - image

Light airy Children’s Pool – click image to enlarge

There was also a learner pool for young babies and toddlers above.

OUTCOME: These fine baths lived on for forty years or so, but new regulatory standards came into force e.g seperate diving pool, plus high maintenance requirement. The baths were pulled down to make way for the Eddie Read Swimming and Diving complex – “The Quays.”

Because of Southampton Central Baths requiring much drilling down for the foundations being erected on an area that were previously mudflats and sea, much expense was spared by using moreorless the same foundations. As to Southampton tradition,”The Quays” the Eddie Read Complex is built to International standards including a separate diving pool, plus many other training and leisure facilities.

Predecessor to the Central Baths were the Old Central Baths behind the Lido which were demolished early 20th Century,  but before this…

Excerpt from Elsie Mandell (filed Southampton Libraries 1962 …)

“We shall never know who was the first brave man to swim the waters of Southampton…floundering about,  probably in the “Test” or the “Itchin”…a matter of trial and error in those prehistoric days.

But we do know that the Romans had a bath here at Clausentum.  This small, stone, almost square four roomed bath-house with part of it’s walls and stone floor there was a plunge pool with an outlet to the Itchen…

The discovery was made during the excavations of the Clausentum under the direction of  Mrs Alwyn Cotton and Mr Gathercole and the little building was dated as circa AD 170-180.”

Southampton Central Baths Predecessor. Lunch is Served in the Old Indoor Baths

Southampton Central Baths Predecessor. Lunch is Served in the Old Indoor Baths – click image to enlarg


Predeccessor to the Central Baths ?1892

Demolished 1964 – two years after the new Central Baths opened.

More to see on Lidos and Baths