Come on in, the water's whiffey

“COME in, the water is lovely” is not an expression you would have heard at some of the open air swimming pools in Ipswich of the past! When we look at old photographs of events from the past they can look so charming, but we must remember that smell is a missing element from the scene!I recently featured open air pools in a recent Kindred Spirits.

“COME in, the water is lovely” is not an expression you would have heard at some of the open air swimming pools in Ipswich of the past!

When we look at old photographs of events from the past they can look so charming, but we must remember that smell is a missing element from the scene!

I recently featured open air pools in a recent Kindred Spirits. I used photographs and memories of the Manor Club in Felixstowe. Pipers Vale and Broom Hill in Ipswich, which were all pleasant and clean facilities.

But Frank Symonds of Derwent Road, Ipswich, wrote to remind me of another largely forgotten pool, which once stood near where West End Road and Sir Alf Ramsey Way now meet. It was little more than a walled off area where the Rivers Orwell and Gipping meet. Frank said “The pool was popular with those who lived nearby.

“Another open air pool was Stoke Bathing Place. When I was a pupil at the Central Senior Boys School, between 1937-40, we were taken there once a week during the summer period. We changed in wooden chalets. The water was very cold and we were always glad to get out, dress and return to school.

“I recall a Mr Pizzy, who was a hairdresser opposite Coe's shop on Norwich Road, who used to get up at 6am every day and cycle to Stoke Bathing Place and swim a couple of lengths. This was before, during and after World War Two. Mr Pizzy used a rotary electrical hair brush. Once when he was using it on me it blew a fuse and the sparks singed my hair. I did not have to pay so I spent my four pence on two bars of chocolate!

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“The view from the Pipers Vale swimming pool was very pleasant, looking across the river to Freston or downstream towards Nacton and Pin Mill, but not so good looking the other way across the sewage works! Just imagine the problems this brought to Stoke Bathing Place, which was a tidal pool of river water almost opposite the sewage works!”

In 1885 the swimming club committee asked the council to improve the sanitation at Stoke Bathing Place. A report said 'A net should be obtained and put over the sluice to stop jelly fish and other unpleasant morsels from entering the bath'. This was also the period of the 'Great Orwell Stink' controversy.

He added: “A rowing club also operated from the Stoke Bathing place and in 1905, at the opening tea and social, a Mr J King made remarks about the state of the river “After pulling down the river for a mile or so a return was often necessary owing to a pungent and at times almost unbearable smell. “According to the wonderfully named Councillor Buckingham Bird, this smell was only decaying seaweed! Who says political spin is a modern idea? A report in the Evening Star for the Regatta in 1906 said “There was but one thing to mar the day's enjoyment and this had reference to the condition of the river, which becomes worse as each regatta comes round. For those on the judging launches whose duties kept them off Hog Highland (now Cliff Quay) for the greater part of the afternoon the river thereabouts was covered by a mass of filth ejected from the sewer, which was brought up by the southerly wind and incoming tide, which was extremely objectionable. Members of the town council or even the management of the sewage works could not possibly, under the circumstances, have been at all doubtful on the often discussed question.

“It seems that members of the sewage committee, who no doubt lived on the opposite site of town, did not agree. In their report they said “The sand along the foreshore is bright and free from deposit. In the same year the County Medical Officer described the river as “a danger to public health.”

An independent expert was brought in from Leeds. He said “The mere progress of a boat drawing less than a foot of water through the channel stirred up a black petrified liquid, the odour of which was almost impossible to breathe.”

One councillor threatened to uncork a bottle of river water in the council chamber.

The annual Ipswich Regatta continued during the 1920s and 30s after a break during the First World War. It lost its support from the Swimming Club who moved their annual festival to Fore Street and St Matthews Baths and the event came to an end.

N

Do you remember the West End swimming pool or the Stoke Bathing Place? Write to Dave Kindred, Kindred Spirits, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP1 4LN.

In 1888 a petition of 1,000 signatures was collected to build a heated pool for Ipswich.

The site of the West End Pool was rejected as the council argued it would be illegal to use public money to heat the pool. The council finally decided to set up a committee.

They took into account that many houses in town did not have washing facilities. Most homes close to the town centre did not have a bathroom. One of the town's big employers was Felix Cobbold, who was vice president of the Swimming Club. Mr Cobbold donated land in Fore Street and £1,200 to build Fore Street Baths. The council made up the total cost of £4,300. There were twelve slipper baths each equipped with mirror, combs and soap. First class baths also had a hair brush!

The opening ceremony was performed by Felix Cobbold in 1894 who was mayor of the town that year.

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