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Last week Dr Ian Dungavell successfully completed his challenge to visit all of the listed Victorian and Edwardian pools still open for public swimming in England and swim a lap for every year each of the buildings has been standing. His last port of call was Dulwich Leisure Centre in South London.
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.
Ian began his challenge, which amounted to a total of 1543 lengths or just over 22 miles, at Bramley Baths in West Yorkshire on Thursday 24 July 2008. Over the following 36 days, he visited all 14 listed Victorian and Edwardian public swimming pools in England and swam a length for every year each pool has been open.
The 1000 year swim challenge has really captured people's imagination. Wherever I have swum, local people have thought it a great idea, and local media have turned out to cover the occasion. Here is some what can be seen on the internet.
What an amazing thing the Swindon Health Hydro is. And it's a hidden gem: passing it on Faringdon Road you get no sense that the building is open, and it looks more like a railway works than a swimming baths.
Many schools in the early 20th century had their own swimming pools, but this is the first one I've been in. The poor physical state of the nation's young men signing up to join the Boer War had come as a shock, and so healthy exercise was encouraged.
Beverley Road Baths is an impressive monument to turn-of-the-century civic pride. A central square tower topped by an octagonal cupola marks out the entrance, and another smaller cupola with a copper dome turns the corner into Epworth Street. To the right, the gabled end of the pool hall, decorated with a Palladian window. This is a baths complex which wants to be noticed!
Well, this was a great start to the 1000 year swim! There has been so much interest in the event from national and local media, and people are keen to tell me about why this pool matters to them. Bramley Baths is the last open survivor of eight pools built by Leeds City Council from 1899-1900, and I could see as soon as I got there why it has been listed.
Local residents running a petition against the demolition of a Victorian pool in Lewisham have once again been backed by the Victorian Society, the national charity campaigning for the Victorian and Edwardian historic environment.