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History of the Pool

On 29 August 1849, the Bristol Mirror wrote:

"BATHS. We hear that a company is to be formed for the purpose of erecting Baths on the ground immediately behind the Victoria Rooms, Clifton. The plans of the proposed building have already been drawn, and it is said that a very elegant structure will be erected, thus combining the useful and ornamental. The lavatories are to consist of private baths for the convenience of ladies and gentlemen, a medicated bath for the use of invalids, and a spacious plunging and swimming bath."

27 July 1850, the Bristol Mirror announced that the Clifton Victoria Baths would be opened for the use of the public on Monday 29 July 1850 at 6 o'clock A.M. Single admission from 6 o'clock A.M. to 3 o'clock P.M. including two towels would be one shilling. After 4 o'clock P.M. the price of admission dropped to 4d., including one towel. Children under fourteen years of age half price

At some point, part of the building became a Public House, certainly before 15 December 1879 when it was sold by Henry Sidney Wasbrough and George Burges to Henry Wright.

The pool seems to have been a private concern at first, with the following occupying or being tenants:

On 31 December 1880, the pool was bought by the Clifton Victoria Swimming Baths Limited for £2200. The company having obtained a mortgage of £160 from the 4th Permanent Building Society.

Directors of the Clifton Victoria Swimming Baths Limited
Date Directors Secretary
October 1880 J.M. Scott
Henry Lawrence
Oct. Harding
April 1881 Thomas Brooke
W.E. Lawrence
Edward E. Lemon
June 1881 W.E. Lawrence
Thomas Turner
Edward E. Lemon

On 2 June 1885 Clifton Swimming Baths Limited was registered. The company had capital of £500 divided into 500 shares of £10 each. The company also seems to have had a mortgage in the name of William Augustus Frederick Powell for £1800 at 5 per cent.

Directors of Clifton Swimming Baths Limited
Director Secretary
C.W. Cope-Proctor Frederick Augustus Jenkins

On 12 May 1897 Clifton Victoria Baths Limited was voluntarily wound up by Resolution. Frederick Augustus Jenkins was appointed Liquidator.

On 12 August 1897 the pool was purchased by the Corporation of Bristol for £3025, of which £1800 went to William Augustus Frederick Powell, and £1225 to Clifton Victoria Baths Limited.

The pool was mentioned in Chilcott's Guide to Bristol in 1909:

"At Oakfield Place near St. Paul's Road church are the Victoria Baths, The establishment is admirably conducted: the baths are supplied by the Bristol Waterworks Company and the swimming bath is capacious."

In the 1930's the baths become the first electrically heated pool in the UK.

The pool was mentioned in the guidebook Children's Bristol in 1984 as one of the most popular of Bristol's pools.

The Pool was eventually shut circa 1990 after allegedly springing a leak. At the time a council spokes-person told the Bristol Evening Post that the site would continue to be used for leisure and would not be used for housing.

History of the Campaign

In November 1997 Sovereign Housing apply for planning permission to demolish most of the pool to make way for six two-bedroom flats and three four bedroom town houses with off-street parking.

11 March 1998, Bristol City Council grant planning permission, despite 18 letters of objection from local people.

1 April 1998. The Land is Ours, a land rights group, opened up the site for local people to see what they were losing. They get a good response.

8 April 1998, the pool was sold to Sovereign Housing for an undisclosed sum (rumoured to be £81,500).

21 April 1998. The Land is Ours (TLIO) and local people meet in the Alma Tavern. TLIO tell us that the pool isn't lost with the planning permission; it's not over until the pool is demolished. A campaign group begins to form.

16 May 1998. The campaign attempts to hold a symbolic clean up day. Sovereign security guards try to prevent access to the site, but some campaigners gain access. The police are called and the protesters leave the pool, watched by a BBC news West TV crew. A petition is started which eventually gains over 700 signatures.

12 June 1998. The Clifton Pool was added to the list of buildings of special architectural or historical interest as a Grade II* building. This puts the pool within the top 6% of listed buildings in England and Wales and makes the Clifton Pool a building of outstanding national importance.

15 June 1998 - On the Monday after the pool was listed, two workmen attempt to knock down part of the pool wall. Local residents stop them, watched by a BBC News West TV Crew. Sovereign Housing (the Pool's new owners) tell the BBC they were unaware the pool had been listed.

1 July 1998. The Clifton Victoria Baths Management Company Limited is registered at Companies House. The aim of the company is to gain control of the pool, restore it, and open it as a community health and leisure facility. The company will then be run as a non-profit making charitable body.

2 July 1998. The campaign receives the support of the Build Our Pool Association, who have been running the Kingsdown Swimming Club for nearly 20 years.

24 September 1998. The campaign offers to buy the pool from Sovereign Housing.

2 October 1998. Sovereign Housing reject our offer, having made an application for listed building consent to press ahead with their development.

12 October 1998. Sovereign Housing refuse to give us permission to have the pool surveyed. Meanwhile the campaign applies for listed building consent to replace the window above the swimming pool door with one in Bristol blue glass bearing the words 'Save me!'.

March 1999. Bristol City Council and Local English heritage representatives feel unable to reach a decision on Sovereign's plans for listed building consent. The case goes to the Historic Areas and Buildings Advisory Committee of English Heritage.

April 1999. The campaign holds a public meeting to highlight the current situation. The meeting is very well-attended with the campaign receiving many new offers of support.

17 November 1999. Campaigners celebrate as the Planning Transport and Development (Central) Area Sub-Committee of Bristol City Council refuse Sovereign's application for listed building consent. An amendment is also passed instructing the council's planning officers to provide assistance in determining the future of the Clifton Pool. Campaigners tell local journalists that they look forward to a constructive dialogue with the city council, Sovereign Housing and other interested parties.

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©2000 Clifton Victoria Baths Management Co. Ltd.
Clifton Victoria Baths Management Co. Ltd.
Clifton, Bristol, England