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Flourishing Lido Gets Ready For Big 80th Birthday Splash 1930s-style

Published on: 2 May, 2013
Updated on: 2 May, 2013

By David Rose

Guildford Lido opened for the 2013 season on Wednesday (May 1) and has something big to celebrate this summer – its 80th birthday.

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

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

To mark this milestone at the town’s rather special open-air pool, Picnic at the Lido takes place on Friday, June 21, in true 1930s style. The opening back in 1933 will be recreated with the new Mayor of Guildford, Diana Lockyear-Nibbs, taking the first dive into the water, just as her predecessor William Harvey did all those year ago when it opened for the first time.

Guildford Lido soon after it opened in 1933.

Guildford Lido soon after it opened in 1933.

The evening event will include swimming from 7pm to 8pm. There will be a jazz and swing band playing music from the Thirties, and everyone is invited to take a picnic to enjoy on the lido’s rolling lawns while watching the sun set.

Advertisement from the Surrey Weekly Press from 1933. You might be able to find some Thirties-style garments on sale so you can dress up for this year's picnic!

Advertisement from the Surrey Weekly Press from 1933. You might be able to find some fashion garments on sale today in the Thirties style so you can dress up for this year’s picnic!

Go dressed in period clothes – and swimwear! More details on the lido’s website.

On Saturday, June 22, there will be a family fete with lots of games and attractions for the whole family to enjoy. Other developments include the installation of three flumes. It is hoped that the flumes will be in place for the summer school holidays.

Slides were once a feature of the lido – now they will be making a return.

Slides and diving boards were once a feature of the lido – but new flumes will be added this summer.

The group 200-strong group, The Friends of Guildford Lido (FOGL), is delighted with the way that Freedom Leisure (the non-for-profit operator of the lido and Spectrum leisure complex, in partner with Guildford Borough Council) is managing the lido.

FOGL states in its latest newsletter to its members: “The lido complex (including Workshop Gym) made a minimal loss last year of only £6,000. To put this into context, it’s not that long ago that annual losses could exceed £250,000. As over 1,500 people visit on really hot days, it would have taken only one more such day last year to put the place into profit. Those who have been concerned in the past about the future viability of the lido can derive reassurance from this excellent news.”

The FOGL added in its newsletter: ” The surplus generated by the Spectrum easily covers this operating loss at the lido, and the remaining surplus is passed to Guildford Borough Council for reinvestment in leisure services. 

“The operators have been busy sprucing up the site during the closed season. The pool margins have been re-tiled, paving re-pointed, cubicles, steps and walls repaired where needed, plus some tree maintenance performed, as well as the customary lick of paint and tweaks to the showers. In all, the site is having over £600,000 spent on improvements this year.  

“Since the start of last season, the boilers have been automated, and swimmers gratefully noticed that the pool temperature was more constant in 2012 than it had been for several years. Customers were impressed at the steps the managers took on busy days to reduce waiting times in the queues. An ice-cream van had been requested, but the caterers had been unable to arrange one. The presence of uniformed but sympathetic security staff on busy days had continued to ensure that the atmosphere was conducive to a great family day out.”

The friends group will certainly be present at the celebrations this summer.

A packed Guildford Lido. Visitor numbers these days are very high when the weather is good.

A packed Guildford Lido in days gone by. Visitor numbers these days are very high when the weather is good. As many as 1,500 visit on really hot days.

There are also plans for a display of vintage photos of the lido there this summer, supplied to Freedom Leisure by me (David Rose) from my archive collection. Some are featured in this story.

Guildford Lido and Freedom Leisure would love to find someone who was at the opening in 1933.

David Rose adds: “Yesterday, after giving my history talk on wartime Guildford to a group of people at the Four Villages Day Centre in Bramley I was speaking to Barbara Rolston, one of those who goes to the day centre. She mentioned the lido and said that her two half-sisters attended the opening in 1933 and that they stood near where the mayor dived in. Having all my lido photos on my laptop computer, I showed her the one that is featured above, and she pointed out her half-sisters Gwen and Marjory Child. See the cropped image below that features them on the far left. Sadly they both died a few years ago, but they were special guests at an event when the lido celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Gwen and Marjory Child (both far left at the front) enlarged from the picture seen above of the mayor taking the first plunge into the pool.

Gwen and Marjory Child (both far left at the front) as seen in an enlarged version of the picture seen above of the mayor taking the first plunge into the pool.

Alderman William Harvey OBE.

Alderman William Harvey OBE.

A brief history of the building of Guildford Lido and William Harvey’s Work Fund

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 by the end of 1933 building work had begun, 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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test 3 Responses to Flourishing Lido Gets Ready For Big 80th Birthday Splash 1930s-style

  1. Sally Parrott Reply

    May 2, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Thank you to William Harvey.

    His lido is as lovely as ever eighty years on, in fact, it is now even better with heated water consistently at 24 degrees.

    It sparkled like the Mediterranean in the sun today. Paradise in Guildford!

    • Paul Hart Reply

      May 3, 2013 at 12:02 am

      Forecast for the week ahead? Water temperature in the Mediterranean, 18 to 23 degrees; water temperature in Guildford Lido, a minimum of 24.

      Water quality? Again Guildford Lido wins.

      Perhaps Guildford should be thanking William Harvey for a sparkling paradise like the Mediterranean, but better, and (especially during more recent depressions) still more accessible to the people of the area.

  2. John Foster Reply

    May 2, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    Barbara Rolston mentioned her two half sisters Gwen and Marjory Child both of whom I knew, especially Gwen who was married to Lionel Crocker.

    Lionel and I worked together for many years and it was always a pleasure to be in his and Gwen’s company. During his RAF career as an Engineering Officer he did a lot of gliding and after retiring, at about the age of 67, obtained his private pilot’s licence.

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