View from the Heath: Celebrate 80 years of the Lido as the warm weather returns


- Credit: Archant

This month, the summer season begins at the Parliament Hill Fields Lido. The Lido will stay open until 6.30pm and as always, will be open seven days a week.

It’s an especially important season this year, as the lido celebrates its 80th birthday.

There will be celebratory events throughout, alongside our the regular programme of events. Special events will centre around our annual Give it a Go Day in July, the official lido birthday in August, and Open House London in September.

The Parliament Hill Fields Lido was first declared open on August 20, 1938 by Stanley Rous of the Football Association.

It was the most ambitious and expensive of the 13 lidos built on parkland sites between the First World War and Second World War and was part of London County Council Leader Herbert Morrison’s vision, to bring the seaside to the city.

The basic layout of the lido has not changed since 1938.

The pool measures 200ft x 90 ft (61m x 27m), holds 625,000 gallons of water and can handle more than 2,000 bathers when including the terraces and changing rooms.

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The City of London Corporation began a two-year long, multi-million pound refurbishment in 2004, including the installation of a stainless-steel lined pool.

This was a first for a British outdoor pool.

Disabled access was also improved, and the main poolside clock was restored.

The beauty, spaciousness and symmetry of the lido design make it a sought-after venue for fashion shoots, TV and film productions.

In 1999 the iconic design of the Lido was formally recognised, with the lido receiving a Grade II listing as the best representative example of an urban lido.

The lido is one of the few pools in London that has remained unheated.

In recent years public enthusiasm for this bold decision has shot up, with the revival of outdoor swimming and interest in the health benefits of cold-water immersion.

Visitors and lifeguards alike swim in the pool all year round, even when temperatures plummeted to around -10C earlier this year.

The lido has also been host to many sporting events alongside recreational swimming. From 1947 until 1968, it was the venue for the London County swimming, diving and water polo championships. It has staged the heats for north London competitors each year and the finals in alternate years. Water polo clubs continue to train there after hours.

Since 1999, the lido has hosted the Hampstead Heath Duathlon, which offers an opportunity to swim in each of the Heath’s swimming facilities and to run between them.

In 2017 nearly 300 competitors took part.

The lido also hosts popular annual charity events, particularly in winter and is a favoured triathlon training spot.

This summer will be an exciting moment in the lido’s long history, as it continues to bring that bit of seaside to the inner city. It’s a chance to celebrate the fact that it remains at the heart of an active community of outdoor swimmers and continues to be a landmark of outdoor swimming though the decades.

• What’s your favourite memory of Parliament Hill Fields Lido and do you have any historical pictures to share with other readers?

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