Swimming Shorts: The Rebirth Of Hillingdon Lido

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 89 months ago

Last Updated 03 January 2017

Swimming Shorts: The Rebirth Of Hillingdon Lido

Uxbridge Lido — or Hillingdon Sports and Leisure Complex, as it's now called — is one of London's great resurrection stories.

The Gatsby-esque whitewashed pavilion, with its 50m competition pool, opened to literal fanfare on 31 August 1935, with trumpets from the Royal Air Force, the ceremonial 'putting in motion' of the aeration fountains, and a freestyle display from the magnificently-named Mostyn Yanto Ffrench-Williams:

People instantly fell in love with the lido, and for decades it thronged with swimmers. Like this lot:

And this lot, in July 1952:

But, as was the case with so many of London's lidos, interest dwindled and finances plummeted. In 1998, the lido closed, falling victim to tumbleweed and graffiti, and winding up like this:

Fortunately that wasn't the final chapter in the pool's story. Thanks to a campaign to bring the lido back to life, it was reborn again in 2010, as marked by this plaque at the reception:

The lido is now returned to its former glory:

The pavilion's been modernised and extended, but vitally retains its 1930s sass. Sun loungers add a further touch of vintage glamour, meaning you can dip in and out of magazines/the pool over the course of an afternoon. The whole experience feels less leisure centre, more holiday resort.

The water's unheated, which can be a bit of a shock at certain times of year. There's an indoor pool, but save that for the winter months. And those aeration fountains are once again bubbling away at either end of the pool. It's touches like this that make Hillingdon's lido special.

It's also great to see so many kids spending their Saturday afternoon here; they're the ones who'll make the sure lido continues to keep its head above water over the coming decades.

Getting here can prove a trek, especially if you're not west London based, but it's worth it. And if you're getting there from Uxbridge station, you also get to enjoy the clerestory stained glass windows of Erwin Bossanyi en route:

Hillingdon Sports & Leisure Complex, Gatting Way, Uxbridge UB8 1ES