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History: Summers of long ago at former Brentwood swimming pool

PUBLISHED: 15:13 11 July 2019

Brentwood’s first community Open Air Swimming Pool opened in the summer of 1935.

Brentwood's first community Open Air Swimming Pool opened in the summer of 1935.

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This week, Enjoy Brentwood More's history columnist, author and vice-president of the Brentwood Writer's Circle, Sylvia Kent explores the story behind Brentwood's former swimming pool.

These days, Sainsbury's in Brentwood is one of the busiest stores in the town, but up until the 1970s, it was a place of leisure and relaxation, particularly for the young.

This was the site of Brentwood's first community Open Air Swimming Pool, opened in the summer of 1935.

Building the pool had been on the council's agenda for many years following the Great War.

Money was tight and the pool was considered a frivolity. Then somehow, magically the funds were found.

Work began and on Saturday August 3, 1935 councillor Daniel Cornish, chairman of the (then) Brentwood Urban District Council, arrived to perform the official opening.

A place had been designated, known as 'Debtors Field' in North Road.

To a backcloth of flying flags, Cllr Cornish read out a telegram of congratulations from his vice-chairman, Brentwood School's headmaster, councillor James Hough.

Declaring the pool open, the assembled VIPs joined him on a conducted tour of the building, including the state-of-the-art pressure filters, pumps and the chlorinating machinery which purified and cleaned the water every few hours.

The pool was ready for bathers, but the children who so desperately wanted to pay a visit to their sparkling Shangri-La, had to wait until the Bank Holiday Monday as no one was allowed to "test the waters' on the Sabbath.

Little did the dignitaries know, but some lads managed some skinny dipping after hours when no one was around.

"I queued up that Bank Holiday Monday morning," remembered the late Marjorie Booth.

"We got there early as everyone had been talking about the pool for months.

"There was a sort of excited ordered, chaos, with lines of children queuing along North Road, with towels under their arms.

"I had my brand new swimming costume knitted by Mum especially for the occasion.

"Problem was, when wet, it drooped down to my knees! You could only get white swim-caps then, but we didn't mind.

"Funny to see white bobbing heads crowding the water - we were ecstatic that we had a pool on our door-step.

"A special birthday gift at the time was the famous yellow season ticket costing 7/6 which allowed us in at any time.

"That pool was where many of us first learned to swim. With a bottle of Tizer and jam sandwiches, we'd stay there the whole day at weekends.

"The café was not finished when the pool opened, but when it did, it was crowded.

"Mr Harvey was the manager and Mrs Smith ran the ticket-office. Many will remember Charlie carrying a huge bunch of keys to open the steel-lockers where you kept your clothes."

The pool was demolished in the late 1970s, replaced by a small shopping complex called Hunters Walk.

This, too was demolished, superseded by Sainsbury's store and car park which now covers the area.

But whatever development progress occurs in the town, those early wonderful swimming recollections are still clear in many residents' minds.

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