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IMPORTANT - SALTDEAN LIDO - Please note that the community centre is open as usual - contact Saltdean Community Association for details. The swimming pool at the Lido is currently closed awaiting news of tendering and redevelopment. There is no contact number for queries - visit the Saltdean Lido campaign website for updates.


Let it lido - the UK's best outdoor pools

Saltdean Lido, Sussex

If you’re on the South Coast and fancy a swim, you could join the throng on pebbly Brighton Beach.

But if you want to avoid the candy floss kids and hen parties, go a mile up the coast to the wonderful art deco lido at Saltdean. It’s not big, but it is sexy.

What’s there? Pool with cascade and diving board, café and sun terraces.

How much? £4 adults, £3 children, £2 under-5s and concessions.

Opening times: 7am to 9pm weekdays, 10am to 6pm weekends, until mid-September.

Get there: Drive east along the South Coast Road from Brighton or take buses 12, 12A, 14, 14A, 14B or 14C. Find driving directions to Saltdean, and look for holiday accommodation in the area.

Find out more: Call 01273 888308

The term Lido is from the name of a bathing place in Venice. They are usually designed for activities around water with areas for sunbathing and eating.
The Golden Age of new Lidos was in the 1930s when swimming became very popular. Many Lidos and pools have closed but saltdean is unusual in being open again.

Several factors came together in the inter-war years to spark off a huge popularity for outdoor swimming pools. Swimming itself was a highly fashionable sport throughout the period. It had been popular as early as 1875, when Captain Webb swam across the Channel, but was to take on a new significance from the 'twenties onwards.1926 saw the first woman, Miss Gertrude Ederle, swim across the Channel, beating the then male record by two hours, followed by six other women in 1928. Magazines of the time were full of references to improving health and general fitness through swimming.

Bathing wear evolved through the 'twenties to give women more freedom, and "Jantzen" launched their new costumes in 1929 with the slogan "the suit that changed bathing into swimming". Added to this, sunbathing swept our shores in the early 'thirties with a general fashion for healthy outdoor pursuits including hiking and rambling.

Swimming's popularity encouraged many local councils of seaside resorts to invest heavily in new pools as part of the general improvement needed to cater for the dramatic increase in the numbers of holiday makers. At the start of the 'thirties, it became as essential to have a lido as it had been to have a pier forty years before. By the end of the 'thirties, lidos were to be found at Prestatyn (opened 1922), Blackpool (1923), Plymouth (1928), Exmouth (1929), Skegness (1932), Hastings and St Leonards (1933), New Brighton and Wallasey (1934), Brighton (1935), Penzance (opened 1935), Morecambe (1936), Weston-super-Mare (1938), to name a selection. Bournemouth actually had an indoor pool with one wall opening to give the advantages of an outdoor pool in hot weather.

By the mid 'thirties a standard lido design had emerged. Most pools were rectangular, although oval shapes were also common with decks for sunbathing and cafés for bathers and spectators. The most important of the lido's buildings was the engine room that kept the pool fed with clean water. Much was made of the purity of water in new pools by guidebooks and contemporary advertising, suggesting that this was not always the case. Most pools of the era had a cascade or fountain and on hot days bathers could climb on to it and watch other swimmers. The fountain also served to aerate the water. Slides were also featured, a double slide or water chute was provided at the Skegness Pool. The diving boards though, were perhaps the most stylish features with some pools had very elaborate diving platforms. The one at Western-super-Mare had a semicircular platform to which boards at varying heights were mounted. This pool also had the unusual feature of a gently sloping beach area. It was though, in other respects conservative for a pool built in 1938, for the classical style was used in preference to the modern.

One particularly pleasing example of the modern style is the Saltdean Lido, which happily still stands today. Saltdean was developed extensively in the 'thirties and promoted to potential investors as "The Coming Resort". Saltdean itself has many buildings, built in the Hollywood Modern style - white walls and green roofs - popular in many seaside developments of the era. Saltdean's lido was designed by the architect, R W H Jones, who also designed the Ocean Hotel.

The pool itself is situated near the beach. It is relatively small, offering provision for only five hundred bathers. The main building behind is a two storey block, featuring a café with curved metal windows in its centre. Forming curved wings on either side of the café are the changing rooms on the ground floor and the sun terraces above these. The café resembles the bridge of an ocean liner. The effect is heightened by the presence of white curved metal railings on top of the café and in front of the terraces. Inspiration for the design appears to have been contemporary liner and aircraft design. No doubt, the nearby De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill-on-Sea also had its influence. The pool itself has the popular features of a cascade in the centre and a diving board with curved railings styled to match the design of the main building. The design was well received by the contemporary architectural press.

One thing that may appear strange to the modern reader is not the popularity of the lido itself, but why they were so popular at seaside towns? Certainly, people had come to expect the same public facilities on holiday as they enjoyed at home. Surely, though, if they wanted to go swimming, what was wrong with the sea? What may seem even stranger is that most seaside lidos were built only a few hundred yards away from, if not actually on, the beach itself and they were filled with salt water from the sea. The answer lies in the prevailing attitude towards bathing. This was sadly still the era of bathing restrictions and added charges. The bathing machine had ceased to be used by most people before the First World War, but the attitudes that first brought it into use died hard. It was still common for councils to insist bathers made use of and paid for the regulation council bathing huts or cubicles and some still charged bathers for the privilege of erecting their own bathing tents on the beach. At Bournemouth, the charges were 6d per half-hour to hire a bathing tent or 9d daily to use your own. At Eastbourne, you were required to pay 6d to use a corporation tent. 'Free bathing', as it was known, was only available from certain places or at certain times of the day. At Bournemouth, for example, you could only bathe without charge before 8 am. The practice of so called "Macintosh bathing" was usually frowned upon and technically could result in a fine. In the 'thirties this involved changing into bathing wear in the hotel and walking to the beach, often only across the road, wearing a Macintosh which was then discarded on the beach. At Eastbourne, in 1937, "Macintosh bathing" was permitted, but a charge of 3d was levied which included the use of a cloakroom. Actually changing under the Macintosh or in the car parked just opposite the beach was considered even worse.

Things were worse still. It was quite common for council officials to decide that the weather was too "rough" for sea bathing and forbid it altogether on certain days of the year. If you had to pay anyway, why not pay and swim in the lido, which was probably cheaper and offered better swimming than the sea? Also, you would not lose out on the days when the sea was considered too rough. The swimming pool at Hastings and St Leonards even offered (sea) bathing from the pool. (You changed in the lido and swam in the sea!) Back to top

The lido reached its zenith of popularity in the 'thirties. There were few new lidos built after the War. Gradually tastes changed and poor attendance made the pools uneconomic to run. Many fell into disrepair and decay and were finally demolished. As a symbol of the 'thirties, the lido stands supreme, symbolising as it did, unashamed modernity, fashionable chic, youthful healthy activity and the cult of sun worship. If sun worship was the cult of the 'thirties, then the lido surely was its temple.

"Taken and adapted with thanks from 'Sun, Fun and Crowds - Seaside Holidays Between the Wars' by Steven Braggs and Diane Harris, published by Tempus Publishing Ltd"

Please consult

Other articles on the Internet
Student Saves Saltdean Lido' - The University of Sussex 1997 Click here
Another article regarding Lido's and outdoor pools in the UK Click here

For more on the History of the Lido please consult Saltdean Past