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Why the 1000 year swim?

Heritage swimming pools offer people a rare opportunity to immerse themselves in living history. With only 14 out of more than 50 listed Victorian and Edwardian pools still open for public use, we need to work hard to make sure no more of our historic pools go down the drain.

Built to make life better for city dwellers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Victorian and Edwardian pools are a valuable link with the past. Symbols of civic pride, they contain some of our best architecture and are repositories of memories and stories for many people that have visited them over the years. With many churches facing closure and ninetenth century schools falling foul of rebuilding schemes, historic pools are sometimes the only heritage building still open to local people.

Yet years of underfunding have led to many of our listed pools being closed. For some, like the Grade II*-listed Former Baths in Ashton-under-Lyne, which were closed in the seventies and have been filled in with concrete, the possibility of reopening as a pool is gone forever. For others, like Grade II-listed Haggerston Baths in Hackney, which is the subject of an ongoing local campaign, all may not be lost. However, with every year that passes repair costs mount and the chances of reopening grow more and more slim.

The answer is to look after the pools we still have. With only 13 listed Victorian and Edwardian pools still open for public use around the country, it's vital that government and pool providers take steps to ensure that these rare heritage assets keep going for many years to come.

In particular, they must

  • Ringfence adequate funding for ongoing maintenance and refurbishment.
  • Work with local communities to ensure access and maximise visitor numbers to historic pools.
  • Work with heritage bodies to ensure that modernisation is carried out sensitively, combining the best of the present and the past.

Monday 1 September, 2008

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