Some additional notes on Parliament Hill Lido, by Andy Hoines, Feb 2005. --------------------------------------------- This 200 x 90 feet outdoor pool, set within a 2.5 acre site on the edge of Hampstead Heath, was opened to the public on 20 August 1938. The opening was conducted, a touch incongruously, by Mr S.F. Rous, the Secretary of the Football Association. This lido was the 12th and most expensive (£34,000) of the 13 built by the London County Council (LCC) between the early 1920's and 1939 and thus represents the ultimate expression of their vision of an urban lido. The 650,000 gallon pool capacity was capable of being completely filtered, aerated and sterilised every 5 hours. Along with Victoria Park Lido, it was one of two "super-sized" lidos built by the LCC in the late 1930's, reflecting the projected high demand in these densely populated suburbs. The pool was designed to handle up to 2,000 bathers at a time, but also had substantial areas set aside for sunbathing and spectators. There was also a diving stage and shutes and a large cafe. The low rise pool buildings and walls were designed to minimise shade and trap the heat. In common with all the other LCC lidos, heating was never fitted and the pool remains unheated to this day. From the opening brochure, there was a main diving stage with two 3m (1 sprung and 1 fixed) and one fixed 5m board. There were also two separate 1m boards on either side of the main diving stage, again one fixed and one sprung and an "ordinary spring" board (not sure what this was). This indicates that the 1m (or was it an "ordinary") springboard on the side of the deep end, that was in use until 2003 (and I am sure of this date from personal visits to the lido) may have been in a different location to the original. At the outset, the lido was provided as a public service, with entry being free for the single sex sessions (2 full days for females and 5 mornings for males) and a subsidised charge of only 6d adults / 3d children being made for the mixed sessions. This tradition of free morning swimming has survived until the present day. The pool remained open throughout the war and thrived through the lido golden era of the 1950's and 1960's, with annual attendances of over 100 000 common. Some time between 1952 and 1965, the current car park was added. This remarkably remains free for heath and lido users, but is sometimes closed during hot weather to reduce problems of "car park rage"! Galas were regularly held at the lido until at least the late 1960's, as there are many hundred of photos at the London Metropolitan Archives of these events, including diving displays. By the mid 1970's, however, the Greater London Council (GLC), the LCC's successor, was forced to make budget cuts. Complaints started to be made about the run down nature of the facility and a demotivated staff unable or unwilling to adequately control the unruly behaviour of some of the patrons. This culminated in the tragic death of Enrico Sidoli in 1976 - see http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/lidos/message/566 - following which considerable safety related measures were taken, including the removal of most of the diving facilities and increased staffing levels. In July 1980, the lido, by then one of only three (the others were at Eltham and Victoria Park) still managed by the GLC and increasingly viewed as a white elephant unsuited to modern needs, survived a closure motion. Subsequent redevelopment proposals were thwarted by capital spending restrictions imposed by central Government. In 1986, the abolition of the GLC led to the lido being taken over by the London Residuary Body. Under the chairman, Sir Godfrey Taylor, the lido was not only kept open, but money for much needed capital expenditure was secured. The City of London (now Corporation of London), subsequently took over the operation of the lido, together with Hampstead Heath, in 1989. In 1988 and 1989 the lido opened late due to problems recruiting lifeguards in May and June. However, since then, the lido has remained open and further investment has been made at the lido, including cycle racks, hot showers, a paddling pool, improved security fencing and CCTV cameras. The takeover of this pool by the relatively prosperous Corporation has almost certainly been the main reason why this lido has survived, as both Eltham and Victoria Park were soon closed by the local authorities who inherited them from the GLC. The pool is still proving relevant and popular, with 49 000 paying visitors recorded in 2003. The vast pool size really comes into it's own in heatwaves, when it is still possible to have a swim even when upto 3000 people are packed into the complex. The lido complex was listed in January 1999, as one of the finest surviving examples of a 1930's lido left in the UK. The last diving board (a 1m springboard) was finally removed in 2003, a victim of the modern litigious culture. Another problem encountered in recent times have been several closures of the pool during heatwaves following the water becoming opaque with the washed off sun cream from the large numbers of swimmers. This has caused a considerable loss of income and poor publicity for the lido. This spectacular monument to a bygone civic pride and public service provision has thus survived WW2, several ownership changes and the widespread lido closures of the past 30 years. Until September 2004, it remained in almost its original condition, although many details such as the diving facilities, separate spectators' entrances, footbaths, deep end scum channel and flower beds had been removed over the years. More remarkably, it has also been kept open for a full four and a half month summer season, and all year for early morning swimming right into modern times. Feb 2005: The lido is currently closed for Phase 1 of an extensive refurbishment, but is scheduled to reopen in May 2005. The most noticeable changes will be improved facilities for disabled access and a new stainless steel pool tank of the same size as the original, but with a larger shallow area and shallower deep end than the original pool. This should at least solve once and for all the troublesome leaks from the pool tank which have been causing considerable problems for over 20 years.