The South Shore Open Air Swimming Bath

The Open Air Baths in the 1920s

Situated adjacent to the South Pier at Blackpool was the open- air swimming bath. Elliptical in form, it was designed in the renaissance style of architecture, with white ivory terracotta, known as ‘Marmola’. It was said to be the largest and finest of its kind in the world and similar in design to the colosseum of ancient Rome.

Built at a cost of around £70,000, it was officially opened on the 9th June 1923, the same day as the first Blackpool Carnival, by the Mayor of Blackpool, Councillor Henry Brooks. The opening ceremony was followed by a short swimming exhibition in which Blackpool swimmer Lucy Morton took part. The following year Lucy was to win a gold medal in the 1924 Paris Olympics.

The baths as illustrated on the 1931 Holiday Guide, Publicity Department Collection

With a capacity of over one and a half million gallons of scientifically filtered seawater, it was capable of accommodating 500 bathers and 3000 spectators. The average depth of the 110 yard international pool was around 5ft although a depth of 15ft was needed to

accommodate the 32ft diving board. On the spacious balcony, visitors could promenade for a distance of 1/3 of a mile. Within the first two years of opening over one million swimmers and spectators used the amenity.

In 1934, the bathing pool was featured in the Gracie Fields film ‘Sing As We Go’, and in later years it was the venue for the Miss- Blackpool and Miss UK Beauty Contests. The Lancashire Cotton Queens were also crowned there. During the 1970s, the European ‘Jeux Sans Frontiers’ (‘It’s a Knockout’) competition also took place at the pool.

Sadly in 1983, following years of neglect and falling attendances, the bath was demolished and the site developed into a water based, indoor leisure complex known as ‘The Sandcastle’. Had the summing bath survived it would surely have been granted listed status.

A superb model of the open-air bath can be seen today at Brookes Collectables on Waterloo Road.

Barry Shaw