Black Rock Swimming Pool

Photo:Black Rock Lido just before demolition in 1978

Black Rock Lido just before demolition in 1978

From the 'My Brighton' exhibit.

Family holidays in the 1970s

Andrew Fishman

Some words about Black Rock swimming pool. I am interested in it as I have memories of it from the early seventies when as a child I visited Brighton with my family regularly for summer holidays.

Rose tinted nostalgia
Of course (rose tinted glasses at the ready), the summers may have been better in those days to the extent that it may well not be economically viable for the council to maintain an outdoor swimming pool, but I am not sure the weather was uppermost in their mind when they were dealing with the marina development consortium back in the 70s.

Why not all year round heating
After all, if they wanted to keep it open all year round they could heat the water as Camden Council do at the Oasis in London - and a very popular amenity it is. Brighton's reputation would have been even more enhanced by an outdoor heated pool which is also open in winter.

Municipal cultural vandalism
The other issue, of course, was the act of municipal cultural vandalism in destroying one of the few 30s buidings in existence in Brighton. The photographs I have seen show that it was classic modernist design and it looks like the architect was influenced by the Bauhaus movement.

This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
For myself and many others, the Black Rock swimming pool provided many wonderful memories from the late 1940s on, and a refuge from the pebbles, litter, broken glass and tar on the beaches. Many facilities were offered: swimming and diving in the major pool or pretending to swim in the paddling pool, table tennis, Jokari, restuarant and bar, showers and spacious changing rooms, rock pools at low tide and excellent diving or jumping into the sea from the groyne at high tide. One was lucky if the temperature of the water in the pool rose above 67 degrees Fahrenheit, but this was hardly a deterrent. Many regulars made the pilgrimage to the 'Brighton Riviera'. In summer, I accompanied my parents every weekend. The pool was managed by Jock Thompson who was a keen supporter of swimming and water polo. Every Sunday afternoon, the pool would be cleared for displays by champion swimmers - for example, Julian Tasker and Angela Barnwell - and keenly contested water polo matches between the Brighton SC team and visiting teams from the London area which provided inspiration to many myself included. Undoubtedly upkeep was costly. Brighton Town Council traded off the pool site as a concession to the Marina developers, with the intention that a swimming facility would be included in the development. Of course, this part of the deal was never fulfilled. Brighton lost a world-class facility.
By Dudley Seifert (11/05/2003)
I cannot understand why local authorities have not taken Black Rock swimming pools into their focus of local planning. In my childhood, we spent most of the summer there, safe and sound. In today's world we are told the beaches are not safe, yet here is a site that was safe. If my memory serves me well, it cost us 9 pence, entry ticket for the day - and a locker number for our clothes, along with a bottle of water and a few sandwiches. When l got older l took my own children there, very fond memories. Our shore line is very rocky and tidal, but Black Rock was a safe haven.
By Sheila Jones (21/08/2003)
Was a kid I spent a lot of time at the Black Rock swimming pool. As I was not allowed to go swimming by my self in the sea. I can not understand how this swimming was left to rot for so many years. As any one who used it will know it was never empty in the summer accept in bad weather. I lived in Whitehawk so it was on my door step, were as I had to walk to and from North Road Baths, even that has gone.
By R H Scott-Spencer (26/01/2005)
I had a season ticket costing 7/6, and visited every day it was open, right through the 50's. When it rained we built shelters with deckchairs. We returned other peoples tea-trays, and collected the deposit to pay for jokari, or for the Brylcreme machine. The venue was a paradise for youngsters and adults alike.
By Don Grant (27/07/2005)
I remember going there many times with my elder sisters. We didn't tell my Mum but we used to bunk in (not pay) all the time...good clean fun.
By Sandy Ebrahimi (nee Richards) (09/11/2005)
1954 awarded Life Saving Bronze Medal from Black Rock whilst a boarder at Blessed Sacrament Convent, Walpole Lodge. Any others out there?
By June Tennant (nee Dixon) (17/08/2006)
I too remember with fondness the times I spent at Black Rock Swimming Pool. I used to have enough money for entrance fee and two bus fares, but we used to walk there and catch a bus back so that we could have an ice cream (Walls ice cream). They were 3d I believe. The chocolate ones were either 4d or 6d. Also if we were short of funds we would go down the beach adjacent to the pool when the tide was out and sneak around the groyne on the rocks and up the beach to the pool. It wasn't long before the lifeguards put a stop to this. I also remember a group of well-muscled men with their girlfriends diving off the groyne at high tide. Also the Sunday afternoon water polo matches. My mother used to work for Brighton Corporation operating the East & West Tea Bars for many years.
By Derek Piper (27/08/2006)

I worked there for one summer as a student just before going to university, 1973. Any of the other mob who 'ran' the place that summer still out there?  We thought the place had a breezy 1930s nautical flavour and so we all gave ourselves nautical sounding titles and even improvised a nautical song for one of the signs around the pool 'Keep this side of the ball floats! Beware! Beware!'.  I never understood why it had to be demolished to make way for the marina, which is next to it and not on the same site, and in my view it was swept away in an act of municipal vandalism that Brighton Corporation should still be ashamed of as the site remained weed grown and rubbish strewn for years.

By Adrian Baron (25/01/2007)

As a child, I was taken to the pool sometimes by my Mother. It was quite a hike from Hangleton. Later on in life, I went there when it was converted into a bar called The Bathing Machine. Does anyone else remember that?

By Neil Underhill (10/04/2007)

I spent many wonderful summers at Black Rock pool.I  remember the only time I've ever been sunburned was when I fell asleep on one of the table tennis tables.
As the Marina started to get built and the pool was close to closing the "Bathing Machine" bar was one of the only places a bunch of 15/16 year old reprobates could get served with booze in 1976. We had a massive punch up there with the marina workers one night which was a bit of a passage of rights towards manhood for a group of kids who thought they ruled the world.

By Paul Hubbard (02/03/2008)

Paul - I did the self same thing as you, I lived in Whitehawk and I was at the pool through all the summer holidays, and if we could not afford it we would bunk in over the gate at the diving board end or just go & dive of the rocks just a few yards to the east of the pool. I was also 15/16 and used to go to the bathing machine with my mates Terry Gregory, Pete Nobbs, Keith McFarlane, Alan McIntyre, Mick Whitney, Charley Fish and many more, all the time, that was before the marina came along. I remember the pub was always full of hairy bikers but they left us alone they could see we where only kids but we requested great music from the D.J. Those were great times for sure.  

By Del Tutt (05/09/2009)

There is a much better photograph of the pool in the Childhood Memories section of this website. This shows far more clearly what was lost. A travesty? A tragedy? Idiocy is more appropriate.

By Dudley Seifert (02/05/2012)

Everywhere on the internet it states Black Rock was demolished in 1978. This isn't the case - from an Argus article from May 1979 it was still waiting to be demolished. I just wondered if anyone here would know the exact date or month it was demolished?

By Carol Homewood (13/04/2014)

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