Contractor Beard has started work to restore the Grade-II-listed Cleveland Pools, the oldest surviving public swimming pool in the UK.
The Cleveland Pools were built in 1815 and their restoration begins after a 17-year community campaign to save the site.
Machinery building materials and equipment required to carry out the works will have to be loaded up at the nearby Avon Rugby Club, which is being used as a base, and carried up-river on a pontoon pushed by a barge because the site is only accessible for vehicles by river.
Plans for the refurbishment of the site include:
- Restoration of two pools – the crescent shaped main pool for adults and competent swimmers and a smaller, shallower pool for children
- Restoration of the largely unaltered Grade-II-listed buildings. Central cottage restored for the main entrance and pay point, first floor to become a caretaker’s flat
- Terrace seating area with shelter from sun or rain
- New toilets and showers
- Refreshment kiosk
- New river pontoon for access via boat services to Pulteney Bridge
- Improved disabled access including an electric buggy to manage the steep entry slope
- Heritage exhibition and learning space within the site
Work is due to be completed in time for swimmers to return next summer, for the first time since 1984.
The project was set to start in March last year when the covid pandemic struck and led to delays and increased costs. The overall project costs for the period 2019 to 2025 are now just over the £8 million mark with the Trust needing to raise a further £400,000 over the next 18 months to deliver all outcomes.
Mark Tregelles, Beard project manager, said there have been some unusual logistical challenges in terms of accessing the site and starting the job.
He said: “We recognise how culturally significant this development is for the community, and wider region, not only as a Grade-II-listed building but also as a space for the community to use and enjoy when it’s complete. We are working closely with the Cleveland Pools Trust to realise their vision to make it an accessible and fun place to be for all users, and also to reflect the rich history behind the nationally important site.
“But it is certainly a different prospect for Beard as we’ve had to do a lot of work in preparation to establish a base down river at Avon Rugby Club, which we will use as a loading site to get everything we need onto the barge and sailed up to the site.
“There can’t be many building projects today which require access by boat. So, we’re pleased to be starting after months of planning, and to draw on years of experience working on culturally important buildings to ensure delivery on time for the community.”
Anna Baker, project director for Cleveland Pools Trust said: “After 17 years of community action, starting construction work is a hugely significant moment which we’re all so happy to see.
“We’ve had fantastic support to get us this far, particularly from our main funder, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, but still have some way to go with £400,000 still to raise. We are looking forward now to seeing the restoration take shape, to be complete by summer 2022, when the community that enjoyed the benefits of this wonderful facility in the past, will be able to once again.
“Beard has brought a great deal of expertise to the project and a real appreciation of what the facility will be used for once it’s complete, which is very important for us in a construction partner.”