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Update: Chequered History Of Burpham’s Kingpost Restaurant And Open-air Swimming Pool

Published on: 13 Aug, 2022
Updated on: 25 Aug, 2022

Edited by David Rose

After this story was published on August 13, 2022, historian Frank Phillipson supplied further details about the former Kingpost leisure amenity at Burpham. The story has now been updated.

With motor dealers MJA vacating its premises in Burpham, and Ian Creese’s letter to The Guildford Dragon NEWS urging that its replacement “must have community value”, it’s worth looking at the open-air swimming pool and restaurant that was once on the site.

Indeed, Guildford once had another open-air swimming pool other than the lido – and not forgetting a third as well, at Shere, dating back to the 19th century, both still open today.

Unlike Guildford Lido, opened in 1933 (and celebrated its 80th birthday in 2013) and which was constructed and run by the town council, the Burpham pool and leisure complex (as it would be called today) was an independent venture.

And it appears to have had a rather short and chequered history, while also being created in the early 1930s during the “golden age” of the building of lidos in the UK.

The name “lido”, often given to open-air swimming pools, is taken from the town and beach resort in north-eastern Italy, on the Lido reef opposite Venice.

The pool at The Kingpost Restaurant and Swimming Pool, Burpham, in the 1930s.

It appears that the Kingpost restaurant opened in January 1933. An advert of January 7, 1933 for a “Super Service Station”, that would become Pantiles Garage, states that it is “Next (to the) New Kingpost Restaurant”.

An initial advert for the Kingpost Restaurant appeared in the same edition of the Surrey Advertiser. It states: “Come and see this Medieval restaurant – it’s old oak antiques, etc.”.

While built in the 1930s mock Tudor style there were no buildings previously located anywhere on this site. It’s possible that old timbers may have been used in its construction hence the “Kingpost” name.

A later advert for the Kingpost of June 1933 states that it will be open till late while the [Aldershot Military] Tattoo is taking place.

In an advert of August 12, 1933 there is the first mention of the swimming pool.

In an advert of September 1933, it states: “The Water has again been Entirely Changed”.

In July 1934 a staff outing from WJ Daniel and Co., a drapers, converged on the Kingpost for a get together and to compete in sports events between the various branches.

By April 1936 The Kingpost advert stated that it was “Now under entirely New Management” and was styled as a “Roadhouse” and was now the “The Kingpost Country Club”.

In 1936 editions of The Stage adverts for musicians and singers to perform at The Kingpost were placed.

However, The Kingpost was about to be closed down as non-members were being served with drink and allowed to dance in contravention of the licensing laws.

It was “struck off the register and disqualified for one year”, with “the club secretary and manager fined £70, plus costs, for offences under the Licensing Act”.

In 1937 the property was put up for sale, with part of the description stating: “The property consist of two acres on a corner facing the London Road and New Inn Lane.

“The main building and the restaurant has a sale shop right of the entrance and left is a snack bar, kitchens, and a storeroom, and adjoining is a large shed previously used as a garage, which has a cement floor and is fitted as a secondary restaurant for serving teas and refreshments to the swimming pool during the time it is open.

“The swimming pool is 65 feet by 32 feet; depth 8 feet at one end and 3 feet at the other, enclosed by rails right and left of the pool, which obscure the bathing huts. There are 40 commodious bathing huts and two sets of lavatories – one on each side of the pool. There are two spring boards of the latest patterns, and a high diving board. There is underwater lighting and also flood lighting. In a building adjoining the pool is a filter plant, installed by the Turnover Filter Company and it is of the same pattern as at the Lido, Guildford. There is a pay box and turnstiles and storage for towels and bathing costumes.”

Aerial view of The Kingpost Restaurant Swimming Pool, Burpham.

Sold in 1937, The Kingpost seems to have reverted to being a restaurant. There seems to have been local activities based at the site with a Kingpost table tennis team being mentioned in the late 1930s in newspaper match results.

By 1938, the Kelly’s Directory listed C P & H Fountain as the owners, while in 1939 two companies were registered for the premises – Athenaeum (Ice Rinks) and Guildford Athenaeum Ltd. Its directors being Lord Cecil Charles Douglas, Cyril Percy Fountain and Herbert William Fountain.

The Kingpost was given as the registered office of “The Guildford Athenaeum” in 1939. This was a project to build a sports and leisure centre with the main feature being an ice rink that could “skate 2,000 people with 8,000 spectator seats”.

Numerous other sports amenities were proposed with restaurants and bars and a large hall that would accommodate 500 dance couples. However, the start of the Second World War put a stop to the scheme which was never resurrected.

In a further report of June 24, 1939 of the Reading Mercury there seems to be some acknowledgement of the impending war with the inclusion in the proposal for a “gas proof shelter” which could be used for local ARP exercises and demonstrations.

The Kingpost appears to have been requisitioned by Guildford Borough Council as part of the war effort. It acted as a Civil Defence training school and may have acted as a rest centre for any people made homeless or locally evacuated. The local air raid siren was located adjacent to the building.

In November 1945 “The Kingpost” was broken in to.

In April 1950 the Kingpost reopened as “The Original Kingpost Tudor Restaurant”.

In the early 1950s, Burpham had a small Roman Catholic worshipping community without a church of their own. Mass was celebrated in the home of Misses Anne and Nell Leonard. As numbers grew, the community sought the help of Fr Gordon Albion who found a venue in a disused café, The Kingpost.

The Kingpost in 1955.

In the December 1955 issue of the Catholic Herald, it noted that there will be a Mass at the new Mass Centre at Kingpost, Burpham.

In 1958, Orchard Cottage and the adjoining land in New Inn Lane was purchased and the building of a church began. The first Mass was celebrated in June 1960, establishing the Burpham Parish of St Mary of Pity.

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