Report - - Broomhill Lido, Ipswich - April 2016 | Leisure Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Broomhill Lido, Ipswich - April 2016


Is this the future?
28DL Full Member

“I would run home from school, get into my Speedos and go straight across to the pool and stay there until my dad would whistle from across the road… I’d get a hamburger and a Fanta, chat up any of the girls and usually got an hour off to have a swim – it was pretty perfect.” (Mark Ling, a volunteer who battled to save the pool).

Broomhill Open Air Swimming Pool, or lido as some would call it, is situated in Broomhill Park (known locally as ‘the dump’), an area of land formerly owned by the Sherrington family until it was purchased by the Borough of Ipswich in 1925. The art deco style pool, which is 4.5 metres deep at its furthest end, was constructed in 1938, at a cost of £17,000. It features eight lanes, each approximately 50 yards long, a smaller children’s pool, a grandstand for 700 spectators, underwater lighting and five diving boards; the highest was 5 metres tall. When it was first opened, the pool also had a number of boilers which could heat the water up to 21C (70F); however, they were requisitioned for the war effort in 1941. Today, Broomhill Pool is one of just fourteen remaining Grade II listed lidos left in England, and this site has the last Wickseed diving stage in the entire country.

Lidos, such as the one at Broomhill were designed to be classless areas, allowing bathers to seek refuge from the constraints of Victorian tradition and its strict conventions. Despite the weather, there was said to have been a surge in the number of outdoor swimming pools across the UK during the 1920s and 1930s. Part of the reason for this stemmed from the new social trend that aimed to promote the virtues of fitness and outdoor recreation. Like most lidos across the UK at the time, Broomhill was a popular place for teenagers to meet and mingle. Some days, especially in the summer months, the public facility could attract up to 2000 people in a single afternoon. As Mr. Ling – one of the pool’s old regulars – pointed out in an interview: “Broomhill was always a good place for young love and developing an interest in the opposite sex”.

After operating for 64 years, Broomhill Pool was forced to close in 2002 due to financial struggles and the estimated cost for crucial repair work. There was public outrage over the closure, especially after plans were revealed to fill the lido in with sand and granular infill. Concerned members of the public and the Broomhill Trust intervened, arguing that consent had not been properly sought, given that the site had become listed. In the years the pool was left unused, vandalism quickly followed; graffiti appeared on some of the buildings and a number of doors in the changing blocks were damaged or completely removed. In response to this, the council erected a number of fences around the perimeter and diving boards, and placed a corrugated metal covering over the pool itself.

The pool’s fate continued to remain uncertain until 2011, when the Council and an outside operator, Fusion Lifestyle, negotiated a deal. As things stand, Fusion Lifestyle, backed by Ipswich Borough Council, had been successful in attaining £180,000 for the first stage of development, following a bid for Heritage Lottery Funding. A further £3.3 million is in the pipeline for the second stage. Fusion anticipate a possible opening date sometime in 2018. In spite of the success, however, a number Broomhill’s local residents are unhappy with the decision to save the pool. Their arguments point to limited parking in the area, and concerns surrounding noise and anti-social behaviour. Many describe the pool’s resurrection as “a waste of money”, and point out that “nobody seems interested in what they think”. Still, perhaps they should have a think about some of Mark Ling’s nostalgic memories of the place, and when it’s open they might be more approving of the development:

“Swimming outdoors, being at one with the elements and nature, is a totally different way of swimming… It’s the contrast here – you’ve got the backdrop of the green of Broomhill park, which is a natural woodland, massive skies, as you go into late afternoon and early evening you get blood red skies – and in the middle you have this stark white modernist building… Every one of your senses is being used, and there aren’t many places that you can do that nowadays… It’s a wonderful place to be.”

Our Version of Events

After a long drive in the orange coloured car we’d acquired, through an awful lot of rain, we ended up in the large town of Ipswich. None of us had ever been to Ipswich before, so it was a new experience. We decided to hang around for a while, seeing as we had nowhere else to be and we’d driven a long way to get there. After a decent, but incredibly expensive, breakfast in the dirtiest (dirtiest usually means cheap where we’re from) café we could find (which wasn’t as dirty as it looked on the inside), we made our way across town to the former open air swimming pool. It was historic, so a quick look seemed worthwhile.

No matter which angle we came from, access was very public, as any of the residents who were washing their cars or watching us through their net curtains will attest. Once I was inside, I quickly glanced around at my surroundings and was disappointed by what my eyes were seeing. The pool was completely covered by a metal sheet, and there wasn’t much else there. In hindsight, I guess we shouldn’t have expected to find much more. Nevertheless, we decided to make the most out of the situation and have a look around anyway. The large seating area was quite impressive, as was the old ‘special’ diving board. Interestingly, as we discovered while sticking our heads through a decent sized gap in the covering, the pool is still full of water. Even though it was a fairly average day in terms of the temperature, things were pretty steamy in there. Had the water not been green, we might have been tempted to take a dip.

Unfortunately, there was no access to the ice cream stall or former shop; not that we expected anything to be inside. We finished our self-guided tour with a quick look at the old changing areas. Blue for boys and pink for girls seemed to be the colour scheme throughout. After that we decided to head for the exit (a different way to the way we entered I should add). Unexpectedly, however, just as we were primed to make our move and pop ourselves back into society, we came across a lady hanging her washing out below us. Her husband was doing something else in the bushes to our right. Slightly surprised she was there, and a little unsure how we were actually getting out, we proceeded by openly discussing our plans for the site. I’m certain we looked legit – three startled randomly dressed lads standing on one of the side-building’s rooftops having a thoughtful chat about retiling the entire pool in aqua coloured tiles, because they match the colour of the water better apparently. A moment later though, and the lady hanging out the washing with a confused expression on her face disappeared back inside. It was time to skedaddle, so we decided to stop fucking around and jumped down, back into reality. In need of some refreshment after our first explore of the day, we decided to call in at the nearest pub; after all, it’s important to try out foreign watering holes.

Explored with Box and Husky.










































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