Great Lengths

Placing the pool in historical context, this important account of their development reaffirms the need to conserve them, says Sue Wingrove

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Reviewed by: Sue Wingrove
Author: Ian Gordon and Simon Inglis
Publisher: English Heritage
Price (RRP): £19.99 (paperback)

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Victorian cities vied to build the most splendid public baths, and the Victoria Baths in Manchester was the runaway winning building of BBC TV’s Restoration series. Great Lengths: the Historic Indoor Swimming Pools of Britain traces the history of more masterpieces, from elaborately tiled Victorian swimming palaces to postwar leisure centres, including Edinburgh’s 1970’s Royal Commonwealth pool.

Just 52 of the country’s listed pools remain in use for swimming, some have been converted for other uses and many are threatened. This survey puts them in their cultural, social and architectural context. Case studies are illustrated with archive and modern images, including the iconic 1970s poster asking patrons to refrain from petting and smoking.

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Swimming is our most popular participation sport and this book highlights the importance of conserving Britain’s historic pools.