Southampton Lido, built on the Western Esplanade, didn’t have tiles on its pool bottom but… pebbles!
It was served then by unpolluted Southampton waters of the River Test. In its day right up to the 1930’s it was said to be one of the biggest and finest in the country.
The Southampton Lido had a prominent position on the sea front. Just immediately behind were the old indoor public Central Baths.
In 1929-31 the Southampton Lido was modernised and tiles replaced the pebbles! A filtration house was built due to the black plague of oil swirling around in the Southampton waters.1930 – The building of new Southampton Western Docks required the reclamation of 400 acres of mudflats between Western Esplanade and Millbrook shore. It was the largest reclamation scheme ever undertaken in the country at that time. A straight line of quays, measuring 800 ft was then constructed. The work started in 1928 and was completed by 1934.
For 80 years, the Southampton pool welcomed high numbers of sun worshippers, and during one summer alone, saw 197,463 bathers – a few more than the previous year of 171,624.
It was so popular that floodlight bathing was called for, which would
have been appropriate had it not been asked for during the war years in the blackout!
The high patronage was a worrying period for one particular superintendent, being responsible for 301,000 human beings in this Southampton Lido. These included non-swimming young children plunging in at the deep-end wearing motor bike tyres.
The Lido was closed for two years in the forties, because of smoke and grit wafting over from the Southampton electrical generating station close-by. A major overhaul took place, and despite the grim portrayal, it was reopened and was to become a unique, favourite valued Southampton haunt for its locals and visitors.
OUTCOME The Southampton Lido had been living on borrowed time since 1973.
There was noticeable deterioration of the structure with annual patching up including murky waters in the deep area of the pool.
On investigation there was a total collapse of the boiler and filtration system, plus cracks in the pool basin. In the end the dear old Lido did not rise to the standards of health and safety.
There were plans for future development of the site and finally the Lido didn’t warrant the amount of money necessary to keep it in good shape. Despite pleas from the public, the patrons had their last dip as murky waters flowed around the Southampton Lido, closing it’s doors in 1977 For a short time there were plans for it to be used as a skateboard facility.
The old beloved antiquated Southampton treasure, once looking over the mud flats of the Solent, and beyond to open sea, would now – if it had survived – be surrounded by huge retail centres, car parks, and – with not one glimpse of the sea.
Extra Note: The very first plunge pool on the site of the Lido was a ladies covered pool and mens outdoor pool in 1854. The Lido described here was almost an identical shape to the original mens’ which took its water directly from the River Test.
From the 1930s to the 21st century, from sea scape to reclaimed land on which are huge present day popular retail units and shopping malls.
Reclaimed from the Sea
The blue mark show where the Lido once was. In the vicinity of Toys “R” us.
The cone shaped white building top right is the Southampton Eddie Read Swimming and Diving Complex – “The Quays” and once the site of the Southampton Central Baths.