This past weekend my daughter and I spent some time planning our trip to the United Kingdom in September. One website for a B&B in Penzance said that it overlooked the Jubilee Pool and I immediately wondered why that was a big deal.
Turns out the Jubilee Pool is a lido, which is an open-air public swimming pool. It opened in 1935 and marked the Silver Jubilee of King George V, grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II. Since a pool is definitely more fun and useful than a statue, I think that was a good call.
With a little research I discovered that there was a lido craze in the UK at the time, so Penzance was able to honor the King while also being municipally fashionable. The Jubilee Bathing Pool was one of 169 lidos built in the UK in the 1930s as a symbol of those modern times that are now our history.
This wasn’t your basic outdoor swimming pool. Rather than chlorinated water, the pool is filled with fresh seawater, controlled by gates that allow the right amount of water in and out. That this lido existed, along with 168 others, gives us a glimpse into the culture of the time just before World War II. There is also the architectural importance of the Art Deco styling that was popular at the time. The pool, designed by Captain Latham, has curves that conform to the rocks and the wave patterns of its specific location. Also, it’s huge and shaped like a triangle instead of a boring rectangle.
Unfortunately, the lidos fell out of fashion. International travel, including travel to warm beaches, became more affordable for families. The lidos weren’t always well-maintained and began to deteriorate.
By 1992, the Jubilee Pool was showing her age and a retired local architect formed The Jubilee Pool Association to obtain grant funding to restore the pool. In 1994 the restored Jubilee Pool reopened to huge crowds, proof that if the pool was kept in reasonable condition, both locals and tourists would continue to use this piece of history.
And everything went along swimmingly (sorry, I really couldn’t help that) until February 2014. That winter the UK was hit by a series of severe storms, resulting in flooding, power outages, transportation interruptions and evacuations throughout the country. The coastal areas, like Penzance, suffered strong winds, high tides, coastal erosion and waves at record heights.
These storms caused structural damage to the pool, and that damage revealed other structural issues. Once again, using grants and other monies, the pool was rebuilt at a cost of almost £3 million. It just reopened this month, again to huge crowds, and a little bit of history is saved. Although it won’t be open when I get there in September, our chosen B&B has a view.
So what about you? Would you rather be honored with a pool or a statue?
*Interesting note: King George V died less than a year after the opening of the Jubilee Pool and was succeeded by his son, Edward VIII. Edward VIII served only 326 days as king before abdicating due to the scandal of his marriage to the twice-divorced American, Wallis Simpson. I’m sure you’ve heard of them.