When a student in 1960’s Newcastle I lived in a number of houses that were demolished very soon after I had moved out. Looking at the space of air that I had once occupied was weird. For a start it didn’t take much effort to reproduce the exact contours and ambience of my old rooms. I can still conjure up these old places and sometimes if I can’t sleep at night I walk round them in my head. So like many others I find a fascination in passed histories and dereliction.

In  1997 I came across an abandoned swimming pool on the seafront of Scarborough’s South Bay. It’s now gone, filled in and concreted over but there was a time when judging from a brilliant poster in Scarborough Art gallery fashionable people sipped Pimm’s and watched young men plummet off high diving boards during sunny days in a different era.

The idea of a specific time reserved for leisure originated in the 1930’s. Contemporary medical theories believing in the benefits of fresh air and sunlight encouraged the pursuit of open-air pursuits and led to the establishment of a number of outdoor pools with amenities. The more elaborate examples were called Lidos, a term borrowed from the famous bathing resort at Venice. I fancied this one as a lido. It was designed by Harry W. Smith, Borough Engineer (1893-1930) and at one point was the largest outdoor pool in Europe. Construction was begun in 1914 and completed the following year. The changing rooms with their exotic pillars, tiles and circular windows, the pool fountains and various associated bungalows were added in the 1930’s.


The pool reached it’s heyday in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s. School swimming Galas were still held there in the 1970’s, although I’m informed the water was freezing and the changing rooms clammy. By this time we had got used to our pools being both heated and indoors. The pool was finally closed in 1989. It lay derelict, festooned in barbed wire throughout the 1990’s, an obsolete reminder of a different way of life.

lizztlido1copy pool31997 pool1997 Listing for the South Bay Pool was turned down in the summer of 2002, and the pool filled with rubble and sand in the summer of 2003. council   council-info Hand developed black and white photographs taken during the summers of 1997-2000 show the pool and it’s surrounding buildings in the last throws of disintegration. Festooned with barbed wire and Keep Off notices the water is black and oily.

lido2011-copy   lido3

lido4keep-out The fountains a major feature of the pool, were resurrected as transparent images on the gallery windows a last memory before final demolition. windowA4-copy


I’ve been back often for More Scarborough ………

4 thoughts on “Lido

  1. Hi Liz, I have a feature on my website about The South Bay Pool, Scarborough, ( This is purely a personal project and have been encouraged by several people contacting me to express there interest in the pool. I am hoping to produce a comprehensive archive of images and history of this place, and therefore was most interested to read your feature on this building. I would like to know if you would let me use one of your pictures (third from top, a corner of the pool with steps) to illustrate where the high diving board used to stand. I would of course credit you and link to your site if you wish.

    With thanks, Douglas Stuart

    1. Hi Doug,
      Of course you can use the photo, just acknowledge it as mine. I have been on your site, enjoyed it immensely and rather jealous that I did not manage to get inside the changing rooms. I too was absolutely fascinated with the pool, you could almost hear excited voices seeping from the desolation. Very fond of Scarborough and in fact I will be there next weekend. Don’t think much of the pool replacement, such a shame that the columns were not preserved and I wonder whether the aerators are in bits or decorating someone’s garden.

      1. Hi Liz, wonderful, thank you. Scarborough is a wonderful place, and I have been motivated to write my article by the profound sadness I feel at the pool’s destruction and an urge to preserve and share some history.

  2. Hi I spent many a happy summer holidays in the South Bay pool, using mask and snorkel in the icy sea water and catching the odd flat fish that had found its way into the water, we were not allowed to use mask, snorkels etc in the more popular north bay pool.

    We also used it as a private pool for the local sub aqua club and would do our snorkel and aqua lung (old name lol) in there on a summer night after it was closed to the public.

    Can anyone answer for me “how high was the top diving board” we would kamikaze jump off it as kids and even once braved a dive with my mates wetsuit top on for protection.

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