It is interesting to look at an old swimming pool to see the way that they have changed over the years and compare it to today’s modern pool. A very good benefactor by the name of George Lawrence built a lido or outdoor swimming pool just prior to the last World War in the Peak District village of Hathersage, that is one of the three remaining in the UK today.
Mr Lawrence made his money producing razor blades in Sheffield when it really was “Steel city”. He had given a great deal of money to many projects in Sheffield and abroad and to the village of Hathersage where he lived. He asked the local council if he put up 50% of the money would they fund the rest for a public swimming pool, the council, like most council’s were strapped for cash and sadly had to decline.
Mr Lawrence was never put off so he funded the pool himself. The speed of work was amazing, it started in mid summer in 1936 and six weeks later was opened to the public with a great fanfare, having been dug out with a local steam shovel and local lorry, horses and carts and plenty of hard working labourers.
The whole swimming pool site with outbuildings changing rooms and bandstand was totally finished in eight weeks. It stands today as a great reminder of what our predecessors could do when they put their mind to it.
Today planning consent alone for such a pool would take months or years. One sad note is that the amazing Mr Lawrence would never allow his name to be put onto anything, and he died as he lived at his razor blade works when it was bombed in the Sheffield Blitz, he had insisted on going in to take provisions and to be with his men as he did every night when the bombers came even though he was stopped at three police checkpoints and told to go back home.
The swimming pool is still working today, although it suffers from a lack of funds due to its high maintenance compared to a modern pool, but is lovingly looked after with help from the council and community, and has been updated accordingly. Indeed in Summer hundreds of people visit it daily to swim in a unique part of history.
Modern swimming pools have moved on somewhat in their design, and the materials are ever changing and the latest filtration and chemical units make sure that the health and safety of the users are paramount. They can be any size and for almost any garden or building and for any number of swimmers but there is still something unique about this bit of swimming pool history. Mr Lawrence would be amazed to see a garden swimming pool today.