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The UK Lidos History Society ( = Lidos Yahoo Group) has up-to-the-minute information on lido closures, re-openings and history. If you want to join, but prefer not to have a Yahoo ID, send an email to Oliver.

Anne Jessel's Lost Lidos website on lost lidos and aqua nostalgia.

For London pools, go to the London Pools Campaign website. Also lists other pools under threat outside London.

The River and Lake Swimming Association was formed by Yacov Lev of the Friends of Hatchmere, and four open water swimming clubs. See also the related

Pete Stubbs' old but useful Lidos and outdoor swimming pools in the UK
- but note that the details have not been updated since 27th April 2003.

"Splash out this summer: Lidos" was written by Gavin Hadland, in July 2000
now archived on, previously on the website.

The Twentieth Century Society in London, campaigns to get many lidos and other 1930s buildings listed.

Previously on the National Trust website A Brief History of the British Seaside Holiday.

Lynn Pearson's Database of Seaside Architecture, is currently offline. See also her book (below) The People's Palaces.

The Victorian Turkish Bath: their origin, development, & gradual decline - a remarkable and comprehensive website by Malcolm Shifrin.

the Amateur Swimming Association, see under Disciplines / Open Water Swimming. Unheated lidos are frequently used by open water swimmers for practice sessions.


For a comprehensive history of lidos in the UK, see Janet Smith's book, published in July 2005, by English Heritage and Malavan Media.
The details are:
Liquid Assets: the lidos and open air swimming pools of Britain
by Janet Smith
London, English Heritage, 2005.
ISBN-10: 0954744500

Other recent books:

Wild swimming: 150 hidden dips in the rivers, lakes and waterfalls of Britain
by Daniel Start
London, Punk Publishing, 2008, 256pp.
ISBN-10: 0955203678

Wild swim: river, lake, lido and sea: the best places to swim outdoors in Britain
by Kate Rew and Dominick Tyler
London, GuardianBooks, 2008, 208pp. (hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0852650930
See my comments on this book to the Lidos Yahoo Group.

Out of the blue: a celebration of Brockwell Park Lido
by Peter Bradley
London, BLUPress, 2007, 128pp.
ISBN-10: 0955627001

A Day in the sun: outdoor pursuits in the art of the 1930s
by Timothy Wilcox
London, Philip Wilson Publishers, 2006, 112pp. (hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0856676195

Farewell my lido
edited by Alan Powers, with contributions by Alicia Pivaro, Elain Harwood and Julia Courtney
published by The Thirties Society, 1991, 51pp.
Available from the Twentieth Century Society.

Tooting Bec Lido
by Janet Smith
published by South London Swimming Club, 1996.
ISBN-10: 0952884704
Price £5.95 from the author: 16 Crowborough Road, London SW17 9QQ

Taking the plunge: the architecture of bathing
by Marcus Binney and Hana & Alastair Laing
published by Save Britain’s Heritage, London, [1982]
ISBN-10: 0905978110
[A companion to SAVE's exhibition at the RIBA Heinz gallery, May - July 1982].

Waterlog - a swimmer’s journey through Britain
by Roger Deakin
London : Vintage, 2000, pbk
ISBN-10: 0099282550
(hardback published by Chatto & Windus, London, 1999)

The British seaside: holidays and resorts in the twentieth century
by J.K. Walton
Manchester University Press, 2000, 216 pp.
ISBN-10: 0719051703

Haunts of the black masseur: the swimmer as hero
by Charles Sprawson,
published by Penguin Books, 1992
ISBN-10: 0099223317
["An exploration of the meaning that different cultures have attached to water, from the god-like Greeks to Virginia Woolf to Mark Spitz."]

Ich nehme dich auf meinen Rücken, vermähle dich dem Ozean
Die Kulturgeschichte des Schwimmens
by Charles Sprawson
Mare Verlag, Hamburg, Germany, 2002 (not yet seen)
ISBN-10: 3936384738

Sun, Fun & Crowds
by Steven Braggs and Diane Harris
Tempus Publishing, paperback, 2000.
ISBN-10: 0752418912
See Steven Braggs' website:

Here comes the sun: architecture and public space in 20th century European culture
by Ken Worpole
Reaktion Books, December 2000
large format paperback, with 95 illustrations, 60 in colour.
See his website:

The people's palaces
by Lynn F. Pearson
Barracuda Books Limited, 1991 (out of print)
Full text online
[On Britain's seaside pleasure buildings from 1870 to 1914.

The springboard in the pond: an intimate history of the swimming pool
by Thomas A. P. van Leeuwen
Cambridge, Mass, USA: MIT Press, c1998 [paperback 2000]

Documentation of progress in regeneration of London Fields and its lido in Hackney, London E8
by Lucy Teather
Unpublished MA Dissertation, University of East London, [n.d.]

The beach: the history of paradise on earth
by Lena Lencek
London : Secker & Warburg, 1998.

Testing the Waters: The Sport of Swimming
United Kingdom Parliament, House of Commons
Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, Second Report, HC 418
Printed 18 December 2001
ISBN-10: 0215001141
UK Parliament - publication on the internet

Early British swimming, 55 BC - AD 1719
by Nicholas Orme
Exeter: University of Exeter, 1983.


The Gospel of Lido is the title of Miranda Diboll's MA Radio student project made in 2000. It is a 20-minute documentary [never broadcast] about lidos in London. Four are featured: Parliament Hill Fields, Tooting Bec, Southwark Park and London Fields. For a copy on CD (charge for postage, etc.) please email her at, she now lives in Dubai.
(not yet seen)

The BBC Radio 4 programme: "Lidos" : Excess Baggage was broadcast on 14 July 2001, presented by Arthur Smith.
See BBC website:

"London's Home Videos" (Granada / London Weekend Television)
made in conjunction with the London Film Archive,
was broadcast on Sunday 7th December 2003 on ITV1
featured the now-closed lido in London Fields, Hackney, London E8.

Pop video of Vanilla: "No Way, No Way"
CD single, CDEM 487, 1997, (EMI)
the video was filmed in Brockwell Park lido in London.
It was voted one of the Top 100 Worst videos!
Also one of Channel 4 television's All-Time Worst Singles (2003) - it was Number 26.

"Lido" by Lucy Blakstad,
BBC, 1996 (50 mins)
was about the Brockwell Park lido.

10 x 10 short film "Lido"
BBC, 1994.
Graham Kelly writes:
"A very romantic film with evocative shots of Peterborough, Tooting Bec, Uxbridge, Parliament Hill, Stroud, Saltdean and a derelict Brockwell Park along with old footage and photos of older pools. It also shows two other derelict pools (Finchley and Kennington)."

"Swimming in the Rain" (title may be incorrect)
was broadcast on BBC2 on 10 November 1993.
(Graham Kelly writes: It featured a woman extolling the virtues of swimming al fresco. Quite a few different pools were shown).
(not yet seen)


Lido in Venezia, Italy

The Lido is an island reef in north-east Italy separating the lagoon of Venice from the Adriatic Sea. The town of Lido, at the northern end of the island, is a fashionable resort. Social climbers then started using the town's name for any fashionable Lido-esque beach. The italian word is derived from the Latin litus meaning a shore, or bank - and is pronounced "lee-do".

The word "lido"(defined)

Subsequently, the word "lido" was used in the 19th century for many fashionable beach resorts. In Europe, a lido became

"a public swimming pool which is outside, or part of a beach, where people could swim or lie in the sun".

The earliest known use of the word for a public swimming pool in London was Edmonton Lido (following reopening after refurbishment) on 27 July 1935. There may be earlier published uses of the word outside London.

In the UK it can be pronounced "lee-do" or "lie-do" - both are acceptable.

George Lansbury

There is a memorial plaque to Lansbury in Hyde Park, London, to be found on the wall of the Lido Pavilion. George Lansbury was a great believer in promoting the recreational rights of working-class people and, as the first Commissioner of Works in the inter-war years, he masterminded great improvements to public amenities in London. He opened part of the Serpentine Lake, for mixed bathing, in 1929 in the face of stiff opposition from the conservative Parks Commissioners. He subscribed to the new social ideas about healthy urban living, the benefits of sunshine and sunbathing, and the new cult of the outdoor life, many of which had originated in Germany. He was responsible for the equipping of the nearby playground between 1923 and 1932 and the opening of a sandpit and octagonal shelter.

Sir Patrick Abercrombie

An architect, landscape architect and town planner, Abercrombie was responsible for one of the greatest open space plans ever prepared for a capital city: the 1943-4 County of London Plan and Greater London Plan. The main proposal was for a great web of greenspace interlacing the entire London region. Though never adopted as an official plan, it is being implemented, year-by-year, by a host of local authorities and voluntry groups with an interest in London Planning.
Abercrombie's open space proposals in 1943/44.

Natatio (pl. natationes)

An open-air swimming pool, usually part of a large Roman bath complex - sizes and shapes vary, eg 23m x 35m.
Examples may be seen in

Swimming timeline

2500 BC - First Egyptian hieroglyphics depicting swimming
400 BC - Egyptians and Romans leisurely dive off cliffs
36 BC - Japanese Emperor Sujin encourages swimming
78 AD - Romans introduce swimming to Britain as a manly social pastime (see above)
14th century - Medieval knights taught to master swimming in armour
15th century - The Church objects to naked bathing on moral grounds
16th century - Oxford and Cambridge University ban swimming after fatalities
17th century - Swimming at British seaside resorts starts, linked to water therapy
17th century - Japanese Emperor Goyozei rules that schoolchildren should swim
17th century - Medicinal value of natural spa springs discovered in Britain
18th century - Nude bathing in the sea, for men, popularized by George III, eg at Weymouth
1743 - The first indoor swimming pool was opened in London (43 ft long)
1837 - London had six indoor pools, with diving boards
1844 - A swimming race exposes Britain to Red Indians 'crawl' style
1875 - Captain Webb pioneers swimming the English Channel to France
1896 - Swimming included in the modern Olympic Games
1908 - Diving from low springboards introduced at the Olympics
[updated version of a webpage by Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games]

Swimming Defined (definition)

Swimming is the act of moving through water by using the arms and/or legs. Swimming does not come naturally to man; it has to be taught. It is a popular form of recreation, an important international sport, and healthy exercise. People of all ages, from the very young to the elderly, swim for fun. Throughout the world, millions of people enjoy swimming in lakes, oceans, and rivers. Others swim in indoor or outdoor pools. Many schools, recreation centres, hotels, and private clubs have an indoor or outdoor pool. Thousands of communities provide pools for residents. People may have a pool in their garden.

A more evocative description:
You see and experience things when you’re swimming in a way that is completely different from any other. You are in nature, part and parcel of it, in a far more complete and intense way than on dry land and your sense of the present is overwhelming. When entering water the body seems to meld into the substance surrounding it. When you swim, you feel your body for what it mostly is, water and your body begins to move with the water around it. Swimming is not an activity where the surroundings disappear, it is an activity where the environment is the focus, the corporeal sensations of it all-encompassing. It is also an environment in which swimmers are isolated and alone. They are unable to communicate normally and are separated from people outside the water and other swimmers in the water. They alone must act and move to survive.
[Deakin, Petterd and others]

Oliver Merrington,
Updated August 2015.