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Lidos Alive aims to look at the lidos in the 'boroughs' of Twickenham and Richmond (which became the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in 1965). – those which have evolved over time and those lost. There has not been a new build lido in our borough since the 1960s.

The word “lido” (pronounced LEE-doh) is a public open-air swimming pool or bathing beach.

It is known that there were beaches along the rivers of Twickenham and Richmond which were the lidos for local people. These too are of interest.

We shall look at the original lido movement with its heyday in the first half of the twentieth century and the current lido revival. This revival has seen lidos saved and renovated and campaigns to bring back old lidos. In this historical context we will look at an example of a modern renovation and compare this to a lido locally.

Archival research is important in this project but the memories and information from those who are, or have been, associated with outdoor swimming will form a valuable contribution.

Richmond College Students - Lidos Alive
Archival research training

The main local lidos were Hampton (by Bushy Park), Teddington Lido, Twickenham Lido and later the outdoor pool at Richmond Baths.

The 1929 Richmond Bridge Lido was discovered by Alan Winter who collects postcards and is a mine of information about local history. Alan was also able to tell us about Bushy Bathing Place, or the Children’s Nook, where he swam as a child.

Mereway Bathing Place was one of the early finds from the British Newspaper Archives (with photos from Twickenham Museum) and seems to have been a major venue for Twickenham swimmers.

Later, Alan unearthed the photo of Tagg’s Island lido which led to further investigations and the discovery of the intriguing Pathe News film.

The outdoor pool at the King’s Canadian School, Upper Lodge Bushy Park, was found via the British Newspaper Archives and followed up by a visit to the local archivist at Upper Lodge.

The Local Studies Library provided the archivists in the team with important background knowledge for Mereway, Twickenham, Hampton, Teddington and Richmond Baths. Documents from the library show that a lido in Twickenham has been in the news for 130 years!

Other lidos visited as part of background research into lidos included Tinside Lido in Plymouth, Tooting Bec lido, in South London, said to be the largest swimming pool in the United Kingdom, Thames Lido in Reading (during and after the renovation) and Clifton Lido in Bristol which has a similar history to Twickenham Lido - except that it was saved and is now a nationally recognised venue for swimmers and foodies alike.

A map of the UK, an ongoing work, shows the location of the lidos investigated during the project, as well as a number of other lidos in the country.

Early information about Teddington swimming pool when it was an outdoor pool, was supplied by Brian Holder, a well known member of the Teddington Society. Other local people also came forward with memories of the Teddington lido.

A photo of Brenda Whittaker’s sister at Hampton Pool was one of the first photographs sent to the project by someone who used the outdoor pools, Brenda’s family were associated with the early Mereway pool and Brenda was swimming at Twickenham Lido on the day it closed – with no notification to those who used the pool, so its closure was very much a culture shock which still reverberates today.

Following advertisements in The Twickenham Tribune we came into contact with Russell Wilfred who has recently donated photographs taken by his father, Frederick Wilfred, to the Museum of London and since then, to Lidos Alive. This was an interesting introduction as Russell’s cousin, Patrick Dyos of The Stomping Nomads, saw the advertisement and contacted the project. Russell now lives in Finland and swims in the lakes but in his early years he swam in Twickenham Lido with his cousin.

Becky Horsbrugh and Julie McCarthy also contacted Lidos Alive with their stories of swimming at Twickenham outdoor pool - obviously an important part of their lives.

The history of the Twickenham Lido site was only recently discovered when an in depth study of the site and much primary research showed that there had been a Richmond House on Twickenham Riverside for three hundred years; first a very grand stately home and later a more modest house. A lido on the site was the result of a petition by local people and became one of the most loved lidos in the borough; part of the social fabric of Twickenham. Since it closed in 1980 campaigns have raged as to the fate of the site and political parties have lost and won elections as a result and surprisingly enough we are currently in the midst of a similar situation.

Another find as a result of The Twickenham Tribune advertisements was a "new" Lido on the Thames at Hampton Wick. A postcard of this 1930s lido was sent in by Paul Barnfield.

Our earliest lido was in operation in 1895 (Mereway Bathing Place) but there was much outdoor swimming on the Twickenham side of the river before this time and no doubt way back into the past. We have Paul’s postcard of a lido on the Thames at Hampton Wick some time in the 1930s but nearby, off Messenger’s Island (Raven’s Ait), the archives of the Surrey Comet confirmed outdoor bathing in 1863. However, it seems that nude bathing was the order of the day, likewise in Strawberry Vale in 1890 (confirmed by the Richmond and Twickenham Times archives).

The Twickenham side of the river seems to have had its fair share of lidos in the past. So far, we have only found one in Richmond, now called Pools on the Park and originally Richmond Baths. We are sure there must have been outdoor pools similar to those on the Twickenham side and if so we hope to find them, and if not perhaps we can find the reason why.

The Art Deco style of many ldos, echoed in the Lidos Alive website, lends itself to a study of lido design and we hope that in the work which may follow that this may be an inspiration to lido design.

Lidos Alive - Richmond upon Thames College Students
Richmond upon Thames College architecture students sketching at Thames Lido

Local architecture students are investigating the styles of lido buildings and we are currently waiting to see their ideas in the form of graphic representations and models. At the same time young filmmakers prepared to interview some of the people who have come forward with their memories. We have an interesting range of participants: local people who used to swim from the beaches along the Thames, those who swam in the make-shift outdoor pools, as well swimmers in the purpose-built lidos. Local historians will also have their say so we look forward to a lively and informative memories video.

To return briefly to our introduction to this project page, Lido is the Italian word for beach. So, we found it appropriate to take the project to Italy – to Rome and the Global Junior Challenge (25 – 27 October 2017) to talk to young people of all ages about various local projects including Lidos Alive.

The Challenge, known as the GJC, is a biannual digital competition organised by Fondazione Mondo Digitale, under the high patronage of the Italian Presidency. During the exhibition members of the team were pleased to speak to students and teachers from Robotica Sistov, an Italian school project, not only about our lidos but also about our town of Twickenham. As well as talking to them about Twickenham and Lidos Alive we were able to present them with a lovely book of photographs “Twickenham” by Andrew Wilson, which had been given to us by Bruce Lyons of the Twickenham Town Business Association to give to participants in the exhibition in Rome.

Lidos Alive

Finally for 2017, as the year comes to a close, Alan Winter has once again found an intriguing postcard of a stretch of the Thames at Marble Hill towpath in Twickenham where many people learned to swim during the first half of twentieth century: Marble Hill Lido, where construction took place to make this an area for swimmers, those learning and those keen on outdoor swimming.

We have asked local swimmers who have been swimming in the area for decades whether there were any outdoor swimming opportunities on the Richmond side of the river, apart from Pools on the Park (Richmond Baths). So far, none have been found; even one keen Richmond swimmer who swam in pools on the Twickenham side has not been able to recall anything on that side of the Thames. Please get in touch with us if you can tell us otherwise.

Lidos Alive Twickenham
Architectural students from Richmond upon Thame College at the Diamond Jubilee Gardens (site of the former Twickenham Lido) 19th January 2018


If you are interested in sharing your memories, either on film or by email, please let us know