The Swimming Baths
In July 1924 an open-air swimming pool opened in Rowntree Park. It was located at the North end of the park toward the Terry’s avenue gates (sort of between the carpark and the gates). The water was unheated and the pool was free to use until 1944.
There was outdoor changing either side of the pool males to the left and females to the right. The cubicles didn’t lock. Sunbathing balconies overlooked the pool, so spectators saw the park and river! There were galas and shows and a water chute added in 1928 and a springboard in 1949.
In the 1940s the heating and filtration were added but the heating was never very good! In the 1930s there was a swimming instructor, Lillian Little, who was remembered by many. During WW2 in 1941 the baths were temporarily closed and used to store drinking water in case of air raids. They reopened in the summer. However, the Army had the baths one day a week for practice. On the 9th May 1946 a Victory gala to celebrate the end of the war.
1949 there were talks of modernising the pool and adding a roof but this didn’t happen. 1979 the park flooded 9.62 feet and baths were closed. 250 000 gallons of water pumped out of the pool and it took 4 days to clean tiles. There was another flood in 1982. The demolition of the pool was approved in 1985.
“It would cost about fourpence to enter, and you were only supposed to swim for half an hour – but no one stuck to that! When you were in there you were in there all afternoon. You would take in a bar of chocolate to eat at tea time and that was it. There were changing boxes in all the way around the side and if the baths were getting very full you used to take your clothes and put them on the balcony; no one stole anything in those days.”
“I remember the guy with the sweet trolley set up outside and you had to throw money down to him first before he would throw your sweets up to you on the balcony. Then you would get a cup of oxo from the vending machine to warm yourself up. Always in there in the summer months, Happy days”
“I used to work in the offices at Terry’s off Bishopthorpe Road and in our lunch breaks in the summer we used to take our sandwiches and go down to the swimming baths, have a swim and then dry off and go and sit upon the balcony and eat our lunch. It was a fair stroll down the riverside from Terry’s so it could sometimes be a bit of a scramble to get back but we used to have an hour and a half for lunch in those days. The baths were lovely in summer but could be quite chilly the rest of the year. The changing cubicles had concrete floors and wooden doors and there would be coat hangers inside for your clothes. The water was always clean. It was lovely and bluer than the sea”.
“There was a terrace up a flight of steps which surrounded the pool. On a sunny day, you could sunbathe in some discomfort as this surface was also concrete. The water was unheated and we can remember hovering at the edge of the pool knowing that the first few seconds would be a challenge. At the deep end were springboards. The steps up to the high one were wooden and could become slippery but we can’t recall protests about this – though people did sometimes hurt themselves.”
June and Rose
(Images and memories from our archive and R Holland)