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Updated September 2012

Histories of Windsor

The
War Memorial
Swimming Baths
Opened in 1963

and earlier swimming facilities in
The Thames at Windsor

More photographs would be welcome of the original building and pool

 The History Zone Index

 The Royal Windsor Home Page

The Windsor Swimming War Memorial Pool
is featured on the Windsor Forum here

Windsor Swimming Pool 1963

Windsor Swimming Pool 1963
With thanks to 'Denisthemenace' for sending this and other photos of Windsor

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The Mayor, Alderman and officials at the opening ceremony.

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The opening ceremony comes to an end.

Diving 06

The celebrations continue with a diving display...

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...the diver caught in mid-dive

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Some diving clowns followed...

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...and finally Alderman Burton was invited to take the first public dip in acknowledgement of his long campaign for Windsor to have its own pool

Photos of the Opening Ceremony ©RWWS


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, Alderman Burton
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 its lifetime!
  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 Pool.

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.

Toddlers Pool from the balcony

The Toddlers Pool from the Balcony

Toddlers Pool

The Toddlers Pool

A View from the Balcony

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 shone.

The impressive 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.

Baths 1860s

This Illustrated London News engraving of the floods of 1865 clearly shows the flooded baths by the GWR viaduct.

Extract

An extract from the above engraving showing the 'Baths' sign.

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.

Baths Isle 1880s

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.

map of baths location

An 1890s map of the river with the Swimming Baths marked to the east of
Deadwater Ait (Baths Island).

The Swimming Baths in the very early 1900s

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.

Bsths Isle 1930s

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.

Baths Island 1945

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.

More photographs would be welcome of the original building and pool

 The History Zone Index

 The Royal Windsor Home Page

The Windsor Swimming War Memorial Pool
is featured on the Windsor Forum here

Lost Lidos

A site devoted to Lost Lidos, Aquashow stars, swimmers, divers and patrons of the times.

www.soyouwantto.co.uk


 The History Zone Index

 The Royal Windsor Home Page



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