The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Lido update

Hilsea lido was designed in 1933, and completed in 1935, to the designs of the Portsmouth City Council Engineer’s Department. [Click here for an aerial view and for the lido]. It was built in the prevalent modern style, with strong nautical imagery and it can be said to be a relatively early example of the style in Britain. It covers a large site of about eight acres, which is interesting from both an architectural and socio-historic point of view. It has survived relatively well, although its diving tower and former entrance arch have all been demolished.

Hilsea lido was turned down for listing in 1994 as it was considered not to be ‘of comparable architectural quality with either Saltdean lido or Jubilee Pool, Penzance, International Modern style seaside lidos which are listed, or Peterborough, a listed urban lido which is in a Spanish style ‘. The then current standards of listing are no longer viable, and circumstances have changed greatly since 1994. Today only a handful of lidos survive. Their rapid rate of closure, and demolition in most cases, suggests that virtually the whole building type is likely to disappear. It is our understanding that at present only twelve outdoor swimming baths are listed.

Although the Jubilee in Penzance and Saltdean lido are considered to be the best two examples in Britain, their standards should not be used to exclude others, such as Hilsea, from being listed and preserved for future generations to enjoy. Hilsea lido should be spot-listed as a representative of a rapidly diminishing building type of great historic interest, but also as a fine building within its own right.

The Society’s Casework Committee has recently discussed the circumstances surrounding this worthy example of an open-air swimming pool. The City Council is currently assessing the lido for its continued use, and it was closed to the public in summer 2001 for the first time. Prior to that, it had only been kept open due to heavy local campaigning, as the authorities have been threatening to close down the pool for many years now. The Twentieth Century Society feels that spot-listing Hilsea lido will help protect it from further decay and the threats of permanent closure.


Unlike other local authorities, Plymouth City Council is committed to refurbishing and preserving Tinside Lido. They recognise the value of such a facility as a leisure and tourist attraction. Plymouth is in the process of appointing the architects, following a competition, and is forming a Tinside Regeneration Panel to handle the project. A conservation plan is being drafted and we have been given the opportunity to comment. We are generally happy with the recommendations put forward for this important leisure municipal facility.

We believe that any new development should be on the same footprint as the existing buildings. We would resist any proposal for raising the sea wall, as it would not prevent flooding but it would reduce the vital link between the pool and the sea. We feel that the listed changing block should be retained and that it could easily be adapted to accommodate new uses, e.g. by opening up the ground floor to link with the lido surround, or by adding new floors on the existing roof. The criteria for the architectural language of the new elements should not be too prescriptive, and the emphasis should be on high quality. Tinside lido is important in our view for the interplay of natural and manmade elements and this equilibrium has to be maintained by the new scheme.

South Bay Pool

Our spot listing request is making waves in Scarborough. The national media has covered our campaign widely and the local authority has written to us to request we reconsider. They believe that ‘clearing the dereliction at the pool is a priority for the town is seeking to progress its urban renaissance’ and applied for a grant to assist with the financial cost involved. They have commissioned an assessment which indicates that the restoration of the pool, even if viable and affordable, would not be sustainable. Given the number of local people who have written to us to support the listing and long term preservation of the South Bay Pool, we think otherwise. The fight goes on…

Related links:
12/2001 Droitwich Lido, Worcs
09/2001 Bathing belles in peril: Lasting Lidos

Emmanuelle Morgan