A historic 207-year-old outdoor swimming pool is set to reopen in Bath, England

(CNN) – With its honey-coloured stone, crescent-shaped changing rooms, still water and idyllic location on the banks of the River Avon in Bath, England, Cleveland Pools looks like it’s straight out of the pages of a Jane Austen novel or episode. Bridgerton.”
But the 207-year-old outdoor pool hasn’t always been so picturesque. It reopened last weekend, welcoming swimmers for the first time in nearly 40 years, the culmination of an 18-year community-led campaign with a more than £9 million ($9.8 million) refurbishment.

The pool was left in disrepair after it was closed.

Ben Birchall/PA Images/Getty Images

The lucky 100 swimmers — who all competed to be there — braved the unheated water under the last rays of the summer sun, enjoying the 25-meter (82-foot), crescent-shaped main pool and a smaller one. , a shallower splash pool.

Built in 1815 to the designs of architect John Pinch, Cleveland Pools is the oldest public outdoor swimming pool in the UK and originally drew water directly from the Avon.

Its first swimmers, according to a local history research paper, paid an annual subscription fee and included an Arctic explorer, watchmakers, surgeons, architects, bankers and a legislator.

In Victorian times, the eccentric Mr. W. Evans, along with his pet baboon, presided over the pools, teaching swimming and wearing a tall hat to protect his head while diving from great heights into the pool, according to Cleveland Pools. website

But facing competition from indoor and heated pools, Cleveland’s popularity waned in the late 1970s.

It closed in 1978 and, despite brief attempts to revive it, was permanently closed to swimming in 1984. For a time, the pool was used as a trout farm before it fell into disrepair and was put up for sale by the council. 2003

A group of local people formed the Cleveland Pools Trust shortly afterwards to protect the site and raised the funds needed to refurbish the pools from various sources, including the National Lottery and the government.

Construction finally began in May 2021, and it was complicated: all materials had to be transported to the site on a barge from the river.

“Not only did we have to navigate the existing pools and quite rough terrain, but we had to bring all our materials and plants from the river,” project manager Mark Tregelles told ITV. “So it’s not something you do every day.”
“I’m proud to have been involved in a restoration that many didn’t think possible. It’s been complex and very difficult. But it’s also been a once-in-a-lifetime project,” said BBC project director Anna Baker. .

From next year, the pools will be heated during the peak summer months using Avon’s energy-converting heat pump technology.