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Tinside Lido – Plymouth’s Art Deco Waterfront Gem

Plymouth is all about the sea, and the interaction between people and the water. Not for nothing is this ‘Britain’s Ocean City’!

The use of the sea by boats for trade and for adventure as well as leisure is clear to see, but, below the Hoe, Plymouth’s waterfront has a fascinating pattern of development and use as a point of access to the water by swimmers and sunbathers – and this has been so for over a century, since Victorian and Edwardian Britain developed a love for a ‘day at the seaside’.

Of course Plymouth was not the only place to have a pier or promenade, but it is hard to think of anywhere that combined these things with walkways, gardens, a lighthouse and of course a Lido!

A Lido is an open-air swimming pool and fresh air and salt water were seen as having great health benefits in a Britain with little indoor plumbing. Public baths (such as those off Southside Street behind the Gin Distillery) were exactly that – not swimming pools!

The 1920’s had seen the working classes begin to be paid more and to be given holidays – after all, people felt that they had suffered an appalling war and now wanted to reap some benefit. Plans for improvement began to be formulated, and in the 1930’s Plymouth began to open up the frontage of the Hoe, from the Citadel to West Hoe.

The Victorian footpaths and railings which still criss-cross the slopes were insufficient for the demand, and so Madeira Road was linked around the Citadel to The Barbican, when a clearance was made of the old Elphinstone Barracks and Emigration Depot which stood below the Citadel on Commercial Wharf.

Slums were being cleared around the Barbican, and new flats erected. The Mayflower Steps had its iconic stone ‘archway’ put in place.

The split-level road and walkway promenade below Smeaton’s Tower was completed as was the semi-circular (9 and 180 feet in diameter) jewel in the waterfront crown a saltwater Lido swimming pool. The pool in Art Deco style opened in September 1935.

With its terraces and sheltered spots, cafes and beautiful clean appearance, the Lido was a hit, and was regularly packed, as old photos show. Many of Plymouth’s older generation spent many a happy sunny day there, swimming, diving and showing off.

Of course, the idea of getting as close as possible to the sea had its problems; Plymouth is always prone to storms (hence the breakwater) and when the Sou’ Westerly blows hard at just the wrong angle, the waterfront suffers…

The Lido closed in 1992, as it had become just too damaged and worn-out to be safe or attractive. The sea was breaking up the various concrete structures, and the dream of a repair and restoration seemed for a long time just a dream. But a local campaign to Save The Lido grew steadily in strength and following a Grade II listing in 1998, funding of some £3.4 million was secured and works commenced.

In 2005 the Plymouth Tinside Lido opened once more in all its restored glory and every summer (particularly one as hot as this years’) sees it fill with people; friends, families, children, locals and visitors. It is consistently voted in the top 10 of Europe’s outdoor pools! Here you can step back in time, enjoy the fountains and the floats as the sun shines off the sea and the sky and the great white edifice. There’s even a sun deck which is one of the best places to soak up the sun around the city.

Many things changed after World War Two, and much more has changed since – but Britain’s Ocean City offers the world an opportunity to step back in time and follow a trail of heritage from Drake’s Sutton Harbour, through the Mayflower, below a great fortress, into Edwardian leisure and a world-class waterfront – and nowhere exemplifies this better then Tinside Lido.

When was the last time YOU visited?

Find more info at https://plymouthactive.co.uk/centres/tinside-lido/

Opening Times

(2 May to 18 September)Subject to change due to special events.

3 May to 29 May, 6 June to 24 July and 5 September to 18 September
Monday to Friday – 12noon to 6pm
Saturday & Sunday 10am – 6pm

30 May to 5 June and 25 July to 4 September
Monday to Sunday – 10am to 6pm

Bank Holidays (2 May, 2 June, 3 June, 29 August) – 10am to 6pm

Late night opening every Monday, Wednesday and Friday till 7.30pm from 1 June.

Images by Mike Kinsey

Overlooking Plymouth’s spectacular seafront, Tinside Lido is consistently voted in the top 10 of Europe’s outdoor pools.
Overlooking Plymouth’s spectacular seafront, Tinside Lido is consistently voted in the top 10 of Europe’s outdoor pools.


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