Fringe Box



Guildford Lido Celebrates 90 Years with a £2.1m Refurbishment

Published on: 28 Jun, 2023
Updated on: 27 Jun, 2023

Guildford Lido has celebrated its 90th birthday following a £2.1 million refurbishment.

The new open-air pool includes “state-of-the-art changing facilities” said a spokesperson from Guildford Borough Council.

The outdoor main pool, paddling pool, slides and a small gym attracts around 80,000 people per year and up to 2,500 visitors on busy days.

Photos of before and after the 2023 refurbishment of Guildford Lido’s changing rooms.

Guildford Borough Council’s lead councillor for commercial development, Catherine Houston (Lib Dem, Shalford), said: “Our commitment is to provide exceptional experiences for our visitors.

“When the original 1930s drainage system needed replacing, we saw an incredible opportunity to modernise.

“A lot of careful thought has gone into future-proofing this upgrade to ensure the buildings are less maintenance intensive.

“Careful consideration has been made in the design to optimise the use of natural light and ventilation, creating a more environmentally-friendly facility, whilst also incorporating technologies which will reduce energy and water usage.

The Guildford Lido in 2020.

“We all have such fond memories of visiting the lido, in our childhood or with our families. I look forward to so many more being made. By enhancing this local gem we protect these delightful experiences yet to be had.”

A spokesperson for Freedom Leisure, that operates the lido for the borough council, said: “The original changing rooms served the community well for the last 90 years. We hope the new ones will be enjoyed by many future generations to come.”

Flashback to 1933: The then Mayor of Guildford, William Harvey, takes the first dive into the new lido.

A brief history of the building of Guildford Lido and William Harvey’s Work Fund, by David Rose

In November 1932 the then Mayor of Guildford, William Harvey, launched a scheme, probably the first in the UK, to raise money and create jobs for unemployed people.

It was known as the Work Fund and Guildfordians who were earning a wage, or who were suitably well off, were asked to contribute in whatever way they could to support it.

It was brilliantly simple and money rolled in. One of the first schemes was to provide work for 40 men pulling up weeds in the sports ground in Woodbridge Road.

It was calculated that by estimating the total number of unemployed people in the borough of Guildford (about 650 out of a population of 40,000), each man given employment through the Work Fund would receive a minimum 35 shillings (£1.52) a week for about 35 hours’ work.

There was a collection box at the Guildhall. With the money came messages. For example, wrapped around three pennies was a piece of paper that read: ‘A working man’s daily bus fare’. Old gold was also asked for, which could be sold to benefit the fund. Local firms helped to swell the funds along with churches, the rotary club and the local branch of the Royal British Legion.

Men who benefited from the scheme carried out a number of different jobs around the borough, but the most fundamental was the building of Guildford Lido.

Having fun at Guildford Lido in days gone by.

Having fun at Guildford Lido in days gone by.

Cover of the official programme for the opening of Guildford Lido

Cover of the official programme for the opening of Guildford Lido – swimming pool, sea bathing beach and tea lawns!

Discussions about building it had begun in 1930. However, there was some opposition by members of St John’s Church in Stoke Road who were worried that people bathing at an outdoor pool would upset those worshipping inside the church.

However, the plans were passed and building of the lido began, with men employed through the Work Fund using their skills alongside other contractors and tradesmen.

The lido cost £13,700 to build and was officially opened on June 21 1933, by the Mayor, William Harvey, who was the first person to dive in and take a swim. On that day 8,000 people packed into the lido.

Entry charges were: Sundays and weekdays (excepting Tuesday and Saturday mornings) 6d (two and a half pence) per person; Tuesdays and Saturday mornings 1 shilling (five pence) per person. On bank holidays the entry fee rose to 9d (four and a half pence) per person, children 4d (two pence). A monthly season ticket cost 7 shillings and 6d (38 pence).

‘Light flimsy costumes’ were banned and the car park was free except on gala days.

The Work Fund closed in 1933. Some £10,000 had been raised and more than 150,000 hours of work had been provided.

In the 1934 New Year’s Honours List William Harvey was appointed OBE and was also given the freedom of the borough of Guildford.

He ran a successful ladies fashion shop in Guildford, originally in the Playhouse Arcade (now Tunsgate Square) that later transferred to the High Street. Harveys of Guildford later became a branch of Army & Navy stores, and today is a House of Fraser store.

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