By Harry Mottram: When Ned Anon (one of John Newton’s labourers) wearing just a smile, dived into the filling waters of Cleveland Pools in 1817 as the final touches were completed to the swimming pool, little did he know that some 206 years later his actions would be repeated by scores of 21st century Bathonians. (Although they will be attired in bathing costumes of various designs.)
Cleveland Pools in Bath will reopen to the public for swimming from Sunday 10 September, following its transformational restoration project. The Georgian lido was saved for future generations following a 20-year campaign led by volunteers and supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
To celebrate this milestone being reached, and also to mark Heritage Open Days, swimming will be free on Sunday 10 September. Spaces will need to be booked in advance. Tickets will be available to book on the Cleveland Pools website from 10am on Saturday 2 September. Tickets to swim will be available for three slots: 10am to 12 noon, 12 noon to 2pm and 2pm to 4pm. Please note, the water is not currently heated and so you may need a hot drink afterwards and arub down with a towel.
Cleveland Pools in Bath first opened to the public in 1817 but eventually fell into decline and was closed to the public in the 1980s. The project to save the Pools began in 2004 with the formation of the Cleveland Pools Trust, a group of committed volunteers who came together with a vision to restore the pools to their former glory and reopen them to the community of Bath.
As the project developed, it gained significant support from heritage organisations both in the city of Bath and at a national level. This included a £6.5 million grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund along with support from Historic England, Bath & North East Somerset Council, the Public Sector Decarbonisation Fund, and WECA (West of England Combined Authority), as well as from individual donors, charitable trusts and foundations, and crowdfunding.
Paul Simons, Chair of the Cleveland Pools Trust, says: “This has been a marathon swim, often against the tide, but the sheer determination of the local community as represented by the trustees, an army of volunteers, well-wishers, along with supporters such as the Heritage Fund, National Lottery players and our dedicated small number of staff has seen the project through. The celebration last year marked the completion of the restoration works and now we can enter the operational phase in partnership with Fusion. The pontoon will shortly be delivered to site via the river, and the commissioning of the water source heat pump, funded by Salix Finance and assisted by WECA, will be complete.”
Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “It’s fantastic that people can dive into Cleveland Pools this September for the first public swimming, which fittingly is taking place to celebrate Heritage Open Days. Volunteers from Bath’s community have tirelessly and passionately worked to return this beautiful and historic Georgian baths to its original glory and use. It’s a credit to them that we can all enjoy swimming here again over 200 years later and, with money raised by National Lottery players, we can ensure that heritage is valued, cared for and sustained for everyone, now and in the future.”
Councillor Kevin Guy, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “Cleveland Pools is a huge asset for the city, and I am very pleased to see an opening date which means people can look forward to swimming in the Pools once again. Getting to this final stage is the culmination of many years of hard work by everyone involved thanks to the commitment of so many volunteers.”
Fusion Lifestyle will run the Pools on a day-to-day basis. Anthony Cawley is their CEO and feels that ‘Cleveland Pools is not just Britain’s oldest lido, it is also one of its most beautiful. Fusion Lifestyle already operates five lidos across the country, and we understand intrinsically the very special place these facilities hold in the hearts of the communities who use them. In the coming weeks we will be publishing our autumn and winter opening hours.’
To find out more or plan your visit, please visit www.clevelandpools.org.uk
Main picture: Kitty Dimbleby