UK’s oldest public open-air pools to reopen thanks to Heritage Lottery Fund grant

Cleveland Pools in the 1960s

The oldest surviving open-air swimming baths in the UK are set to be fully restored and reopened to the public, thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The Grade II* listed Cleveland Pools, a 200-year old Georgian lido in the historic city of Bath, has secured earmarked funding of £4.1million including a development grant of £366,200, it was announced today.

Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies, who has been a long-time supporter and ambassador for the project, said: “This is such good news. After hard work and sheer perseverance by the trust and its advisers it's looking like we will have a magnificent and unique pool in Bath that we can all enjoy for a proper outdoor swim.”

The pools first opened in 1815 following the Bathwick Water Act which prohibited nude bathing in the river. Laid out in the shape of a miniature Georgian crescent, the site includes two bathing pools, the original changing rooms and a private ladies pool. They are one of only a small number of pre-Victorian sporting buildings to survive nationally and are thought to be the oldest swimming baths of its type in Western Europe.

The site closed to the public in 1978 and, after finally closing altogether in 1984, was briefly used as a trout farm. It has since deteriorated but although on English Heritage’s Heritage at Risk register, the main features remain remarkably intact.

The restoration project, run by community group The Cleveland Pools trust, will conserve the Georgian features and upgrade the facilities to allow for year-round swimming and other activities. When complete, the site will include a 25-metre swimming pool, children’s splash area, pavilion and café. The pools will be naturally treated and heated using the latest technology.

Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: “There’s nothing quite like swimming in the great outdoors, and it’s something which so many of us really enjoy, whatever our age. Cleveland Pools are believed to be the oldest surviving example of a public swimming pool in England. They have a fantastic story behind them that provides a glimpse into how our ancestors spent their leisure time, and we’re delighted to support this important project.”

Ann Dunlop, Chairman of the Cleveland Pools Trust, said: “The trust and its many supporters will be over the moon that our campaign to keep the pools in the public eye, while developing a sustainable plan working with experts from both English Heritage and The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, has finally got the green light from HLF. The success of our bid is all the more remarkable given that we are all volunteers with no paid staff.”

The HLF grant will cover 85% of the total costs. Bath and North-East Somerset Council, who own the site, have pledged £200,000 towards the project. The trust are now looking to secure the remaining money and are hoping that people will be moved to donate to make the project a reality.

Expert advice has been provided by English Heritage and the Prince’s Regeneration Trust.

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of The Prince's Regeneration Trust, said: “We're absolutely delighted with this news. It's a momentous step forward for Cleveland Pools after years of hard work by everyone involved. In the current hot weather the cooling waters of the Cleveland Pools would be a popular and attractive asset for everyone in Bath. We are now finally near to making that happen.

“We would like to thank HLF for their tremendous support and investment in Cleveland Pools.”

Notes to editors

HLF has invested in various lidos across the UK including:

  • £2.3m to restore one of Wales’ largest and only remaining listed lidos in Ynysangharad War Memorial Park, Pontypridd
  • £999,500 to the Grade II listed Uxbridge Lido in north-west London
  • £382,000 to Sandford Parks Lido in Cheltenham
  • £500,000 to redevelop Brockwell Lido in south London

The Cleveland Pools Trust was formed in 2004 to work toward conserving the original buildings and restoring outdoor swimming in the idyllic and historic setting as an asset to the local community and through Bath’s World Heritage Site status to the wider world. Find out more Cleveland Pools Trust's official website.

The trust will now begin the first stage of the project. This will include:

  • Appointing a design team of architects, engineers and surveyors
  • Developing an activity plan to set out how the project will involve and serve the local community
  • Creating a conservation heritage interpretation plan, to decide how the finished pools will preserve and display the heritage associated with them
  • Creating a full business plan
  • Appointing a project director to manage this phase of the project

Further information

The Cleveland Pools Trust: Sally Helvey on 07836 252 569 or email:

HLF press office: Tom Williams on 020 7591 6056 or email:

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