Plymouth - Part Six

Recently re-opened after years of neglect, the Art Deco Tinside Pool is a landmark of seaside architecture. Once a popular venue for beauty competitions, people also used it for washing in during World War II.

Bathing in the sea off the foreshore of the Hoe has probably gone on since man first discovered he could swim - but it didn't become formalised until Victorian times.

Leisure time is now taken for granted, but it's a relatively recent phenomenon dating from the 1920s, when the majority of the working population first enjoyed the benefits of reduced working hours and paid holidays.

It was around this time that the seaside lido became popular as sea bathing underwent a transformation from a predominantly health activity into a leisure pursuit and through growing interest in the continental obsession with sunbathing.

First opened in 1935 and described at that time as 'one of the finest open-sea bathing centres in the country', Plymouth's Tinside Lido must have been a stunning sight in all its glory. It was built in the fashionable Art Deco style with a classically proportioned semi-circular pool.

The pool was filled with fresh sea water pumped in through three cascades or aerators, giving a complete change of water every four hours. At night the water was floodlit from below and the cascades went through three colour changes.

In its heyday the pool was a magnet for people of all ages and many of the city's children have learnt to swim there.

Imagine what it must have been like to swim as an orchestra played above you on the terraces. Or to watch a parade of glamorous women in swimsuits gracefully walk around the pool in one of the many beauty contests that took place there.

During World War II the distinctive shape of the pool proved to be a useful landmark for German bomber pilots trying to get their bearings as they flew over the coast.

For the war weary people of Plymouth it had an altogether different wartime use. The pool was the perfect place to wash off after clearing up the city's bomb ravaged streets.

Sadly, Britain's lidos fell into decline as a holidaymakers were tempted abroad by cheap package holidays and many were lost forever. Plymouth's almost went the same way and closed to the public in 1992 after suffering years of neglect.

Only a vociferous campaign by local people saved this landmark of seaside architect from an untimely demise.

The pool became a Grade II Listed Building in 1998 and has since been restored to its original 1930s Art Deco glory at a cost of £3.4 million.

From here you need to double back along the seafront - a route which will take you past the Citadel's sea facing walls and back towards the Barbican. Remember to keep the sea on right as you continue the walk.

Carry on along Madiera Road until you reach a viewing area close to Dutton's tea rooms, where you'll find two old cannons.