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Hall Leys, Boating Lake

New Bath Hotel - the Outdoor Swimming Pool

In August 1935 Matlock's Council were considering whether to build a new swimming pool in the town centre as part of its expanding tourist industry[1]. They had opened the boating lake and paddling pool in the Hall Leys Park a few months before and perhaps there was also an element of competition as an outdoor pool had been opened at the New Bath Hotel the previous year. There were other pools, but all were connected with hydros and were not readily available to the general public. The Chamber of Trade opposed to the scheme, seemingly arguing that the rates would increase, and declined an invitation to meet with the Council and discuss the matter[2].

It was planned to build the Lido on Imperial Road Gardens behind the Crown Hotel[3] and opposite the Bank Road Post Office on "one of the fairest open spaces in the town" according to Mr. Eldridge, who was a member of the Chamber of Trade[2]. Ministry of Health approval of an £11,000 loan would be given on condition that an application for the removal of the restrictive covenant attached to the land was successful. This was eventually confirmed and on 18 June 1936 Matlock Urban Council announced agreement "in principle"' to the swimming pool scheme as the loan had been approved[4].

"The luxurious lido at Matlock" was heralded as a "welcome addition to the many amenities of one of Derbyshire's most beautiful spas"; it was opened by Brigadier G. M. Jackson of Clay Cross Hall on 26 May 1938 when he turned the water on. The pre-opening publicity said the Lido had been built at a final cost of £12,000 (later amended to almost £15,000 by the Ministry of Health) and offered "a delightful rendezvous for residents and visitors". The water in both the open air and covered swimming pools was to be heated to 72 degrees and continuously purified. Other amenities included ample sun-bathing facilities, evening flood lighting, a modern cafe, and adequate car parking[5]. Parking seems to perhaps have been an unnecessary priority in the early years as vehicles were non-existent in the top image (which appears to have been taken around the time the Lido opened), although they were perhaps referring to the weekend visitors.

The Art Deco Lido building, with the pool entrance behind the woman who is standing at the road junction
facing the camera. The cafe entrance was behind the three people with a pram on the left of this enlargement.
A special parade of bathing beauties and diving exhibitions
was included in the programme for the Lido's opening ceremony[5].

The Sheffield paper listed several of those who had provided their services, with some rather blatant plugs for the local gas company. Gas, for example, was described as "a reliable and economic fuel fully recognised at the Matlock Lido, where [it] will play important part in utility and comfort". The Sheffield Gas Co. had fitted their latest appliances, with the tea room having gas radiation, gas heaters were installed in the lavatories and washrooms and the oil plant for heating the pool was ignited by gas. The roof was constructed of Westmorland Green Slates provided by Messrs. William Proctor and Sons, Hall & Co. had worked on the electrical installations, William Twigg on the steel work and the stone was provided by Boden (Stone) Ltd. of Stanton-in-the-Peak[6].

Matlock's new £12,000 "Lido" was opened in the presence of a large crowd[6]. People filled every available space.
The design of the main building was all straight lines and right angles.
It was constructed of local stone, as were the boundary walls (so no wooden perimeter fencing).
W. N. Statham of Matlock took photos of the ceremony - his name was embossed in the lower right hand corner
of this image.

The open air pool was 125 feet in length and 50 feet in breadth and the Lido could hold 500 bathers. The cafe had roof gardens (see image 4 below) and there was ample changing accommodation. It was painted cream and pale green, with splashes of vermillion on the diving stages, hand rails etc[7]. Michael Fay points out that the colour scheme was the same thirty years later.

The outdoor pool in the late 1940s, looking towards the deep end.
The diving boards and water cascades were removed in the 1970s when the outdoor pool was
given a roof. The indoor pool can be seen behind the boards.

Further celebrations were to continue on the Saturday after the pool opened but heavy rain rather somewhat marred the occasion. The Town's Attraction Committee had arranged a bathing beauty parade, exhibitions of swimming and diving by members and a polo match. The bathing parade, with locals modelling some of the latest costumes, was transferred to the Town Hall and the swimming demonstration and races were held in the covered pool. Swimming demonstrations were performed by R. O. Trippett, an ex-Empire 150 yards backstroke champion, Police-constable Buckley who was an ex-Wester 440 and 100 yards freestyle champion and Mr. J. H. Watson of the Derby Swimming Club. The water polo match between the Sheffield Police Club and Derby Swimming Club was a highlight of the day and held in the large pool as were diving exhibitions by members of the Derby Club[8].

1958. A Valentine's scalloped edge postcard.
We can see Imperial Road on the right of the indoor pool.
That pool's windows had changed but otherwise the Lido was the same.
Perhaps this was a Bank holiday as the pool is much busier.

The Lido's receipts for the first month ago amounted to £334, of which was £152 for season tickets[9]. In 1939 the swimming club 's membership was 201, and four galas were planned for the summer. In the early years a monthly season ticket cost 1s 6d and admission was 3d, with someone in the town selling tickets for only 2d[10]. The club's captain was W. Warren, the vice-captain was K. D. J. Ward and its trainer was J. Soppitt[11] who taught many Matlock youngsters to swim over the years. The pool closed in the autumn of 1939 but re-opened the following Easter[12].

The pool's shallow end, probably late 1950s. Note the pool's curves instead of corners which
were probably better if you were learning to swim although not practical for galas.
T. Greaves & Co's furniture store can be seen on the far side of Bank Road. One of the shop
windows was swathed in plastic sheeting so was presumably being replaced.

There were, unfortunately, two drowning incidents at the pool during the Second World War and a few years afterwards. In 1943 Clarence Williams (20) of Lincoln, who was said to be unable to swim, drowned when there were hundreds bathing and large crowds watching[13]. The second fatality was in 1950 when Percival Charles Downes (20) of Cleobury Mortimer, Kidderminster was found at the bottom of the pool by Kornel Kibarski of the County and Station Hotel whilst he was executing a high dive. Kibarski took the young man to the surface and both he and the Lido's superintendent, J. Littlewood, attempted First Aid but their efforts were to no avail. At the coroner's inquest it was said he might have bumped his head, unseen by hundreds of bathers, and a verdict of accidental drowning was recorded[14].

Post war, the Lido was first used for the Derbyshire Schools' Sports Association annual swimming gala in 1955[15]. The same year there was a proposal by Matlock U.D.C. for winter swimming sessions for schoolchildren[16]. A few years before this there had been several cases of polio in the town and some shunned the Lido.

As for the cafe, it seems to have had several tenants during its lifetime. It was to let in 1950 and in 1955 the then tenant informed the Council that did not wish to continue with the lease so a committee was appointed to see if the cafe could become part of the Lido. At some stage, thought to be in the early 1950s, a gentleman called Herbert Siddons performed Carmen Miranda impersonations on the premises, presumably as a cabaret act[10].

The management was subsequently taken on by Mr. J and Mrs. A Simm who were there until its closure as a cafe. It catered for parties such as school reunions - Charles White's ex-pupils are known to have met up there and the scouts held an annual dinner at the Lido Cafe about 1975. A new roof was installed over the outdoor pool in the early 1970s. The cafe continued for some years but later became a nightclub. The cafe was eventually demolished and Wilkinson's, now Wilko, replaced it.

Advertisement for the pool,
about 1950
Advertisement for the cafe, November 1976

Shortly before Matlock's Lido closed and the new swimming pool was built on Bakewell Road, Michael Fay wrote an extremely informative article about the pool, its history and lidos in general.
See Matlock Lido: Liquidating a Former Tourist Asset

1 and 2. "Bank Road, Matlock". Published by J. Salmon Ltd., Sevenoaks. No.15127. Real Photo. Printed in England. Not posted.
3. [Matlock Lido, 1938]. No publisher although photograph taken by W. N. Statham. © Maureen Smith collection.
4. Photograph of the Lido, probably late 1940s.
5. "The Lido, Matlock". Published by Valentine, No. L7097. Registered in 1958 and posted on 30 Jul 1959 at Matlock.
6. "Matlock Lido and Cafe, Derbyshire". No publisher. PN1259. This is a real photograph. Not posted.
7. Advertisement from "The Matlocks, Derbyshire", guide book published in the 1950s. Geo. Hodgkinson, Printer, Matlock.
8. Advertisement from football club programme - F A Challenge Cup First Round Proper, Matlock Town v Wigan Athletic 20th November 1976. Geo. Hodgkinson, Printer, Matlock. © Susan Tomlinson collection.
Images (apart from nos .3 and 7) in the collection of and provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only


[1] "Sheffield Independent", 20 August 1935. Report of Council meeting.

[2] "Sheffield Independent", 7 March 1936. Not everyone agreed with the sentiments expressed by Mr. Eldridge. Unfortunately, once the Hall Leys was developed little use was made of the Imperial Road Gardens.

[3] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 18 March 1936. The Imperial Road Gardens site covered 3,893 square yards and had been bought by the Council in three separate lots in 1900, 1901 and 1905.
The purchase followed a Council meeting in early 1899 when the then chairman, Mr. Slack, mentioned a piece of land that could be bought from Rev. Wolley Dod. It was described as in front of the town hall and adjacent to another parcel of land that was then being used as a refuse tip. Mr. Challand, another councillor, suggested they should buy the land and perhaps make it into a ground for public use (this was reported in the "Derbyshire Times" on 11 Feb 1899). Work began to convert the land into a park in 1902.

[4] "ibid.", 19 May 1936. Minister Of Health and £11,000 Lido. Agreement In Principle To Matlock Scheme. Also reported in the "Belper News", 22 May 1936. One of the conditions of the original purchase was that the land should be maintained for ever as a recreation ground. The restriction had to be lifted.

[5] "ibid.", 24 May 1938. The Lido was officially opened on May 26th at 2.30 p.m.

[6] "Sheffield Independent", 27 May 1938.

[7] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 26 May 1938. Matlock's £12,000 Lido opened. Mannequin Parade and Diving.

[8] "ibid.", 30 May 1938. Derby Polo Team Win at Matlock. Celebrations at Lido Opening.

[9] "Sheffield Independent", 25 June 1938.

[10] With grateful thanks to the members of the WI.

[11] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 23 March 1939.

[12] "Derbyshire Times", 8 March 1940.

[13] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 2 August 1943.

[14] "ibid.", 12 June 1950. Drowned in Lido.

[15] "Belper News", 22 July 1955.

[16] "ibid.", Jan 1955.