The Cleveland Pools in Bathwick

The 'great and the good of Bath' played a major role in the original creation of the Cleveland Pools. An advert ran in the Bath Chronicle newspaper on 20th July 1815 asking for subscriptions from those gentlemen wishing “...to provide a place in connection with the River, where those who swim and those who do not will be alike accommodated ". Contributions poured in and the Pools were an immediate success.

THE STORY SO FAR 

 

Hidden away in Bathwick, on the banks of the River Avon, is the country’s only surviving Georgian lido. Built in 1815 in the shape of a small crescent, it was one of the earliest examples of a ‘Subscription Pool’ – built with private money for public use. For decades the formerly-named ‘Cleveland Pleasure Pools’ were a favourite summer destination of generations of people from Bath and beyond. By 1861 this glorious open-air venue had become so popular that the Victorians added a children’s upper pool.


Sadly the Pools closed in 1984 when public funds were re-directed to the sports centre, but now the Cleveland Pools Trust - in partnership with the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, English Heritage and Bath & North East Somerset Council (B&NES) - is finally making headway with its campaign to restore the Grade II* baths and reclaim them for outdoor swimming.

The restoration will be carried out as sympathetically as possible, with the intention of providing a 25-metre main pool using naturally-treated and heated water, leaving space for mechanical plant and servicing (see below for one possible design). Alternative energy sources will be used once the changing cubicles and refreshment areas are reinstated, and the cottage will house an exhibition.

For the site to run itself it will not just be used as a unique swimming venue; this important sporting and heritage asset will be perfect for many water-related training opportunities, compact corporate events, small-scale weddings, historical outings and children’s parties. Volunteers will help to enhance events, taking into consideration the concerns of all immediate neighbours*.  Flora and fauna will also be taken into account during and after renovations.  

The Cleveland Pools Trust has been in discussion with B&NES since 2004 about a long-term lease and, with financial help from the Architectural Heritage Fund, it commissioned a feasibility study into future use of the site. Since then, with a significant grant from English Heritage, a further programme of assessment took place which culminated in a Business Plan and a submission to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).  

Much remains to be done if we are to succeed in obtaining an HLF grant and we will be relying heavily on public support. It is our strong belief that our more viable model for the Pools is the way to secure its future.

Join our expanding campaign as we work towards the bicentenary celebrations in July 2015 and one day you may be able to tell your grandchildren that you helped save one of Bath’s finest Georgian heritage assets. 

*  If you are a local resident who wishes to express a concern about an aspect of the campaign, the Cleveland Pools Trust will welcome your comments and queries.  

Please contact sally.kent@me.com and she will pass on your message to the relevant trustee. Thank you. 

One possible design for a restored site

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette. Thursday 2nd May 1901.

OPENING OF CLEVELAND BATHS   * (Children's Pool) *

At the invitation of Mr J E Henshaw, JP, Chairman of the Waterworks Committee, the Mayor (Mr T B Silcock) on Tuesday formally opened the Cleveland Baths, Hampton-row, which have been acquired by the Corporation and greatly improved.  Why the Waterworks Committee should have under their charge public bathing places we are at a loss to know, their duty being the supply of drinking water, but there can be no denying that as regards the acquisition and improvement of the Cleveland Baths they have acted in a public-spirited manner.  Their procedure was so ably and clearly explained in Mr Henshaw’s speech that further preliminaries are superfluous.  Besides his worship and the Chairman of the Committee there was also present Aldermen J S Bartrum (a former Chairman), J Rubie and R H Moore, and Councillors W B Bartrum, S W Bush, A H Butler, W S Brymar, W F Gould, G W H Greves, H T Hatt, J E Henshaw, J Howard, F G Isaacs jun., R Kersley, H W Matthews, A G D Moger, C B Oliver,  E G Peacock, E E Phillips, E F Powell, H J Thomas, T Vincent, J T Waldon, G Woodiwiss and F Young, the Town Clerk (Mr B H Wates), Mr C Gilby (Waterworks Engineer), Mr J M Harper, Mr C Chivers, Dr W H Symons (Medical Officer of Health), Mr Bailey (caretaker), etc.  When the company had assembled around the new or upper bath for juveniles, Mr Henshaw said he had the honour, as Chairman of the Waterworks Committee, to ask the Mayor to declare the baths open for public use.  He need not remind members of the Council that for some 35 to 40 years they had had to be content with a most unsatisfactory and inadequate public bathing place at the side of the Canal.  It had been for a long time the aim of the Committee to provide for the youthful citizens of Bath a swimming bath of a much more satisfactory character.  His predecessor, Alderman Jolly, whom they so much missed, had been extremely anxious that the bathing place on the canal should be superseded by something better (Alderman Bartrum:  And so was Mr Jolly’s predecessor). 

The difficulty which the Waterworks Committee had in finding a suitable site free from objection was great; they were always met by opposition from the inhabitants of the district, who were afraid that some inconvenience or nuisance might be created.  They were fortunate in having the Old Cleveland Baths offered to them.  The cost to the city was just £100, and they had expended about £600 in renovating the old bath and making the new small bath they saw before them.  That smaller bath, he thought, was a very important addition, and he believed the Corporation and citizens would justify a small expense for that purpose (hear, hear).  He only wished that money was never expended by the Corporation for less useful or worthy objects.  They thought they might be excused because the recommendation came from a Committee which had provided a substantial revenue to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.  Notwithstanding the £29,000 loan mentioned by Mr Moger in his speech at the Council that morning, and the interest and sinking fund charge they had to meet, for the year ended 25th March last, the Waterworks earned for the rates £3,400, the largest sum on record (applause).  That small bath, Mr Henshaw added, was filled from the city mains.  The springs which formerly fed a bath on that site had either been diverted into the other bath or had disappeared.  Its capacity was 20,000 gallons, its depth sloped from 1 foot 9 inches to 7 feet 6 inches, its dimensions were 50 feet by 20 feet, and it could be emptied and filled in a very short time.  The old bath below was filled by springs rising in the bottom and yielding 10,000 to 20,000 gallons a day.  There was an impression that the temperature of that bath was extremely low, but tests made by Mr Gilby did not reveal any great difference between the temperature of the city water filling the small bath, the river water, and the lower bath.  That morning both baths had a temperature of 53½ degrees, and the river was 52.  He wished to thank Mr Gilby for the very satisfactory way in which the work had been carried out and Messrs Wills and Son for having executed their contract so fairly and fully.  He was glad to say that in Mr Bailey they had an excellent custodian, as for several years he was captain’s coxswain on the training ship St Vincent.  He was gratified that so many member of the Council had attended.  Personally, he was of opinion that the teaching of swimming was a very important duty, and he should like to see it made obligatory (hear, hear).  The sad boating fatality within a short distance of that spot was an object lesson in the necessity of our boys and girls learning to swim (hear, hear).  Two or three times he had escaped from drowning owing to his ability to swim, and when, a few years ago, he fell from a boat in the Lower Bristol-road, into 7ft or 8ft of flood water, undoubtedly he would have been drowned but for his knowledge of swimming.  He hoped and believed that those baths would be largely used.  Last summer, notwithstanding the unsatisfactory conditions, they had close upon 9,000 bathers at the old bath, and he was sure that number would be largely exceeded this year.  He had great pleasure in asking the Mayor to declare the Baths open.

The Mayor congratulated the genial Chairman of the Waterworks Committee on the successful result of his efforts to obtain a free bathing place for the citizens of Bath.  He should also like to congratulate the engineer and contractor on the good work that had been done.  He came there very willingly, for the visit revived old and pleasant memories of experiences of Evans’s and Cleveland Baths in their youth.  He cordially re-echoed the wish of the Chairman that as the result of those baths being opened many more boys would learn swimming, and he hoped it would be possible to arrange for classes from schools to have the use of the bath for learning and natatory art on certain days.  They had listened to a most lucid and interesting speech by Mr Henshaw, and he had the very greatest pleasure in declaring the baths open (applause).

Alderman Bartrum followed with a few appropriate remarks, and mentioned that he first mentioned that he first bathed in that place in 1832.  When he was Chairman of the Waterworks Committee they endeavoured to obtain a better bath, but without success.

Mr Moger proposed a vote of thanks to Mr Henshaw for the trouble and care he had taken to provide those baths for the public use.  He was one of those men always foremost in every good object at all calculated to benefit the city.  Those baths would always be associated with Mr Henshaw’s name; had it not been his public spirit and energy, in all probability those baths would never have been in the possession of the Corporation.  He had lively recollections of those baths and of the monkey that was the terror of their lives (laughter).

The vote was carried by acclamation, and Mr Henshaw, in acknowledging it, thanked the Mayor for his kindness in performing the opening ceremony.

Light refreshments were then served by the liberality of Mr Henshaw, and success to the new Corporate institution was drunk in champagne.