Let's breathe new life into lido

IT was once the pride of the town and remains one of Ipswich's best-loved landmarks. Today, as it prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary later this month, JAMES MARSTON visits Broomhill Pool.

James Marston

IT was once the pride of the town and remains one of Ipswich's best-loved landmarks.

Today, as it prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary later this month, JAMES MARSTON visits Broomhill Pool.

PAINT is peeling off the entrance and there's graffiti scrawled on its walls.

As the rusting gate opens, an overgrown fountain cascades not water but dead plants to greet the visitor.

The welcome is no longer warm, and a sign saying “dangerous structure - keep out” warns the visitor that Broomhill Pool is no longer the haven of fun in the sun it once was.

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Broomhill Pool is today a mere shadow of its former glory.

The once gleaming white painted concrete is stained.

Weeds have taken root in cracks in the concrete, and the pool itself is bobbing with old doors, bottles, bins and even an old freezer.

It's a sad sight and in the shower and cold of an overcast day, Broomhill Pool looks in a sorry state.

But despite its dilapidated state, it is poised for a bright future. This month, as it celebrates its 70th birthday, the pool's supporters are determined the facility will once again take it's place as the pride of Ipswich.

Mark Ling, fundraising and publicity officer for the Broomhill Pool Trust said: “The pool was built in 1938 and was one of two in Ipswich, the other being built at Pipers Vale the year before.

“Broomhill stayed open until 2002. It was originally heated to 70F. The boilers were requisitioned during the war and the story goes that they ended up on a ship that was sunk in the North Atlantic - whether it is true or not we don't really know.

“In its heyday Broomhill Pool was one of Ipswich's biggest attractions, and records show that 50,000 to 60,000 people would visit in a season.”

As he walks round the site Mark, 39, is full of enthusiasm for a building that played a large part in his own childhood and that of many of his generation.

The 1970s and 1980s saw as many as 2,000 swimmers a day packing into Broomhill during the heatwaves and as many as 50,000 to 60,000 swimmers during the 90 to 100 day opening period.

Mark said: “I remember coming here when I was about seven in the summer of 1976. It sticks in my mind. It was a fabulous place.”

With a children's pool as well as the main one, Broomhill is a well known Ipswich landmark.

Mark said: “The pool tank is still in good condition and the whole place is restorable. It has an unusual 15ft diving pit. There used to be queues around the block to get in.”

Owned by Ipswich Borough Council the pool, is one of a number of lidos built in the UK in the 1930s.

Mark said: “It was a safe place for a day out during the summer holidays. There was supervision and it was very popular. It is sad to see it like it is today.”

Despite the problems faced by the building the Broomhill Pool Trust is optimistic that the 70th anniversary year of the pool will bring good news.

Mark said: “We have spent the last seven months preparing a bid to the East of England Heritage Lottery Fund. We've done everything we can and we think we have a strong case but there are no guarantees. We have submitted our bid and the fund will give us an answer in about six months time.”

The trust, which is asking for £2million from the fund, has already been pledged £1m from Ipswich Borough Council.

Mark said the restoration, which would include a heated pool, is expected to cost £3.9m.

Mark said a further £900,000 would come from other charitable donations.

He added: “A feasibility study has proved the pool is salvageable, restorable and viable as a business.”

Broomhill Pool supporters are celebrating the 70th anniversary with a fundraising barbeque and an open day on April 26.

Trust chairman Mike Cook said: “Ipswich has a terrific history and culture but not enough attractions. “Broomhill Pool is one of 11 grade two listed lidos in the UK. It would cost £1m to demolish so it doesn't make sense to get rid of such an asset.

“It is a unique building and a unique part of Ipswich's heritage. It has a stunning location and is a natural sun trap.

“If you look back to the aims of those who built Broomhill Pool they have changed little in the last seven decades from what we are proposing for the pool today.

“We are cautiously optimistic and upbeat and confident for its future.”

Were you a regular at Broomhill Pool? What are your memories of the venue? Should it be restored? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstar

letters@evening star.co.uk