Thanks to National Lottery players, Tooting Bec Lido’s important landmark heritage features have been restored and preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.
The lido with its distinctive colourful cubicle doors
The three-year project has seen the lido undergo a series of facelifts and refurbishments to preserve some of its most striking assets.
Chief among these has been the work carried out to the changing cubicles which line both sides of the lido – which at 91.5 metres in length is the UK’s biggest open-air freshwater swimming pool. These cubicles were first installed in the 1930s and half a century later their doors were painted in striking bright colours to form an iconic poolside feature. The refurbishment included repairs to timber posts, seats and doors, as well as to the rear walls and the timber partitions between the cubicles. Missing or damaged hinges, bolts and clothes hooks have been replaced and all the doors repainted. In addition, a new family-sized cubicle that can also be used by wheelchair-using visitors has also been added to the western terrace.
The water treatment building, which also dates back to the 1930s, contains the original filter equipment which is still in full working order and thought to be one of the oldest swimming pool water purification plants still in full-time operation.
To highlight its importance to the lido, the plant room has had windows installed so that swimmers can see and appreciate the machinery that provides the pool’s clean and sparking water – and to explain how it works, an information panel has been added which outlines the science of the water purification process and the history of the sand filters.
A stepped terrace sun trap has also been created on the western side of the pool to increase relaxation and sunbathing space for visitors. To honour and commemorate important figures in the Lido’s 113-year-history, ceramic plaques embossed with their names have been fitted on the rendered wall at the top of the steps.
And more cycle parking has been installed behind the ladies’ shower block, mirroring the cycle parking on the other side of the entrance to cater for the many Lido visitors who arrive by bike.
These improvements have been made possible thanks to a generous grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, with further funding from Wandsworth Council and match funding raised by the South London Swimming Club.
The restoration is part of the wider £1.9m Tooting Common Heritage Project which is rejuvenating this important south London open space and enhancing its overall heritage.
The council’s cabinet member for parks and open spaces Cllr Steffi Sutters said: “This is wonderful news for the Lido. I’m absolutely thrilled that so many important heritage features have been refurbished and enhanced.
“The lido truly is a south London treasure and one of only a handful of surviving open air swimming pools in our capital city. It’s great that Wandsworth residents have such an amazing gem on their doorsteps.
“I’d like to thank the National Lottery Heritage Fund for everything they’ve done for the Lido and for other parts of Tooting Common and also the South London Swimming Club (SLSC) which has been at the forefront of efforts to improve and promote this wonderful open-air pool.”
The SLSC’s Treasurer Richard Knight said: “When the Reverend John Hendry Anderson, Rector of Tooting, Chairman of the Works Committee for London and former Mayor of Wandsworth came up with the concept of a bathing lake back in 1902 I wonder whether he could have envisaged the lido would still be such a success over 100 years later and a critical part of our community that is still increasing in popularity.
“With 1m gallons of water, each one of them cold, it’s great to see the lido being used by an increasingly diverse pool of users, from the very young to the very old, from competitive triathletes to the old English backstrokers and from the sunbathers to the ice dippers. All of them getting great pleasure out of this place.”
The lido also boasts a separate pool for toddlers, a cafe and extensive space for sunbathing and picnics. The main pool is open in the summer months from 6am until 7.45pm. For more information about opening hours and admission prices visit www.placesleisure.org/centres/tooting-bec-lido/.
The SLSC’s rich 100 year history now forms part of a heritage archive, supported by the NLHF in partnership with the Wandsworth Heritage Service. This collection of local archive material can be accessed via www.tootinglidohistory.org.uk.
The SLSC’s Andy Fitch, great-great-grandson of Sir Alexander Glegg, who was not only a Mayor of Wandsworth but a founding member of the swimming club, is pictured here alongside Polly Ryder, the great-grand-daughter of the Rev Anderson. He said: "As a descendant of Sir Alex Glegg and an SLSC member, I am very proud of his work alongside the Rev. Anderson to ensure that the Lido was successfully built and I'm delighted that he's to be commemorated with a plaque acknowledging his efforts."