The Opening of the War
Memorial Baths, 1963
The Windsor War Memorial Swimming Pool
was opened on 18th May 1963 at 3pm by the Mayor of Windsor, Councillor
H H Basford.
The plaque commemorating the
opening of the War Memorial Swimming Pool.
This plaque is displayed outside the Leisure Centre.
The plaque reads:
WINDSOR WAR MEMORIAL SWIMMING BATH
OPENED ON 18TH MAY 1963
BY HIS WORSHIP THE MAYOR
COUNCILLOR H H BASFORD
The preceding Mayor, Alderman Francis
Burton, who was a keen swimmer and had taken part in a number
of river races such as the Boveney to Romney 'Lock to Lock' race,
had campaigned for a 'proper' swimming baths at Windsor for many
years, the swimming facilities at Baths Isle on the Thames having
been closed a good few years earlier as the river presented a
health hazard. A reference to this appears in the Journal of
the Imperial Service College where
it was reported in March 1938 that no swimming contests had taken
place the previous summer 'as the Baths could not be used owing
to river pollution.' Even as far back as 1886 it was suggested
that, in tribute to Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, the town
should have its own swimming baths. Come 1962 therefore, it was
highly appropriate that during his Mayoralty, 1961-62, Alderman
Burton was invited to lay the foundation stone on 21st May 1962.
The plaque reads:
WINDSOR WAR MEMORIAL SWIMMING BATH
FOUNDATION STONE LAID BY
BY ALDERMAN FRANCIS BURTON MAYOR
21ST MAY 1962
This plaque is displayed outside
the Leisure Centre.
Memories of My Father,
by Mrs Eileen Quick
As a child I must have swum in every
pool in the south east of England with my father when he was
trying to find a suitable design for Windsor and persuade the
council that we needed our
own pool. I was at the opening in my guides uniform along with
many other youngsters and enjoyed the free swim.
My father was passionate in his belief that every
child should be able to swim and he taught me in the river before
I could even walk.
He was delighted with the outdoor pool and we swam
in it frequently during the season. My mother was a proficient
but unenthusiastic swimmer and we used to tease her, saying that
she put her toe in the water just in time for the whistle to
blow for the end of the session.
Before the War Memorial Swimming Pool
was opened, Windsorians had to risk swimming in the river, or
choose either the Community Centre indoor baths along the Farnham
Road in Slough, or the open air baths at Maidenhead which dated
from the 1930s. The opening of the War Memorial Baths in Windsor
was therefore a major event in the town, especially for children.
After the opening ceremony, there was a diving display
and some comedy diving, and then Alderman Burton was invited
to take the first 'public' dip, a colleague of his jokingly throwing
him a lifebelt as he swam in the deep end. A little while later
the general public (predominantly school boys and girls) were
allowed in for a free swim, which resulted in a crush in the
pool that it was possibly never going to experience again in
The 'vital statistics' of the pool were: 110' long,
48' wide to ASA National Standards. Deep end 12'6", 3' 3"
at the shallow end. Six lanes. 5 metre and 3 metre diving boards
plus two 1 metre boards. The pool was heated to 70deg F. The
pool superintendent was Mr Brown, a dour and thoroughly conscientious
Yorkshireman. His wife also helped out in the day to day running
of the pool. Mr Brown lived across the road from the pool and
was regularly to be seen late in the evening in the filter house,
ensuring that the pool water was beautifully clear for the next
day's sessions. He understood the importance of clear and sparkling
water, not just because it looked so inviting, but from a safety
point of view. Mr Brown was strict with his lifeguards, making
sure that they watched the water at all times and did not become
sidetracked chatting up the local girls! He also insisted that
they wear their white life guard tops at all times, regardless
of the weather, so that they were clearly visible.
The spectators stand, on the roof of the changing
areas, held 250-300 people. The recreational nature of the Memorial
Baths was emphasised by the bright colours, blues and pinks and
yellows used throughout the building.
There was debate in Windsor throughout the
50s, 60s and 70s about whether the pool should have a roof and
be a year round facility, or be open air, open just in the spring,
summer and early autumn, Probably by virtue of cost, the open
air lobby won the day, until the arrival of the covered Leisure
The Toddlers Pool
Opened circa 1968
We are grateful to Brian who has sent
us these pictures that he took of the toddlers pool c.1967/1968.
It was built beside the café, at the eastern end. The
pool filtration plant was housed in the brick building. Beyond
the pool buildings is the former Imperial Service College boathouse
(in light blue) used for many years by the Windsor Boys School,
the canoe club and the naval cadets.
The Toddlers Pool from the Balcony
The Toddlers Pool
A view from the balcony on a
busy summer's day
The Leisure Pool
Opened in 1987 by HM The Queen
Despite the exceedingly long time that
it had taken for Windsor to have its own swimming pool, its life
was short lived for by 1986 the pool was demolished and the Windsor
Leisure Pool constructed on the site. Despite being called a
'pool' on the opening plaque, it was in fact two pools, one with
a wave machine and two water slides, and the other featuring
a retractable 'wall' that could be raised from the bottom to
divide the pool into two training areas. Elsewhere in the complex
were an exercise gym and other sports facilities. This new Leisure
Centre complex was opened by HM The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh
on 7th April 1987. The new centre cost a reported £4m.
The council adopted the slogan 'The Wetter the Better' for the
new swimming pool complex, which they might have regretted as
the weather prior to the opening ceremony was decidedly damp,
but as the Queen arrived at 3pm the clouds parted and the sun
plaque commemorating the opening of The Windsor Leisure Pool
by the Queen in 1987
Ten years later, in 1997,
a substantial addition was constructed to the east of the Leisure
Pool and the complex was rechristened The Windsor Leisure Centre.
The extended Leisure Centre was opened by The Duke of Edinburgh
on 7th April 1997.
An equally impressive
plaque commemorates the re-opening of The Windsor Leisure Centre
by The Duke of Edinburgh in 1997
The Windsor Leisure Centre has a website
where you can find out more about the facilities on offer including
Lifestyle Management! Windsor
Leisure Centre Website. Please let us know here
if this link no longer works - they keep changing it!!
Earlier Swimming Facilities
The following pictures show Deadwater
Ait, later to become Baths Island. From perhaps as early as the
1840s, before the railway arches were built, this was an area
where Windsorians used to swim in the river and Victorian maps
show it as Windsor Swimming Baths. The engraving below is from
an 1865 edition of the Illustrated London News reporting the
recent flooding, and happening by chance to show the 'Baths'
sign at that point.
An extract from the above engraving
showing the 'Baths' sign.
This Illustrated London News
engraving of the floods of 1865 clearly shows the flooded baths
by the GWR viaduct.
In 1870 the men's bathing area was moved
downstream to a point adjacent to the island now known as Jacob's
Island as Queen Victoria had complained about the sight of men
bathing so close to the public railway line. This new swimming
area was known as the Eastern Baths. It was not until 1904 that
the area by the arches was officially used as a swimming area
once more when the Ladies Swimming Baths were constructed, later
known as the Western Baths.
A view of Deadwater Ait in 1880,
formerly the site of the original baths. Note that the island
is divided in two by a channel, later filled in.
An 1890s map of the river with
the Swimming Baths marked to the east of
Deadwater Ait (Baths Island).
The Ladies' Swimming Baths in
1904 at the time they were being updated
The men's swimming area had been moved
downstream from this area, close to Jacob's Island, as Queen
Victoria thought it unseemly for male bathers to be in view so
close to the railway line! For more about this area see The Promenade.
A 1930s view of Baths Island,
complete with changing rooms and water polo nets by the railway
viaduct. Many years after the closure of the baths the hand rails
around the sides remain visible.
Boys from Windsor Grammar School,
aka the County Boys School, taking part in school swimming and
diving sports in 1945.
(Source Windsorian Magazine, December 1945)
A view of the swimming baths
from the west looking downstream towards the railway arches.
The three diving boards were installed originally in the ladies
swimming area although later mixed bathing throughout the baths
area was introduced.
The above photograph is believed to have
been taken in April 1947. There appears to be some rubbish piled
up beyond the fence, and the poplars by the arches have yet to
come into leaf, while at the bottom left of the picture there
seems to be a 'tide mark' on the fence which would correspond
with the maximum height of the floods in March 1947, some 6'
above the normal river level.
We hope to locate more views
of the baths in the 1930s and thereafter.
would be welcome of the original building and pool
The Windsor Swimming War Memorial
is featured on the Windsor Forum here
A site devoted
to Lost Lidos, Aquashow stars, swimmers, divers and patrons of