CIRENCESTER Open Air Swimming Pool celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.

The pool was due to open for the season today, but has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the hope the pool can re-open later this summer.

So we delved into The Standard archives to flavour some of the stories from the past 150 years.

In 1859, Mr Thomas Cox and his fellow entrepreneurs embarked on the project to create a Public Bath in Cirencester, countering opposition from such as the millers to the use of the water. Eventually, in 1869, the Cirencester Baths Company Limited was formed, proposing the Bath as a sanitary agent for a population of 6,000, deriving income from annual subscribers and the public, anticipating a handsome dividend on the capital invested.

In May 1870, the Swimming Bath, ‘as fine as any in the kingdom’, opened, with good attendance from the general public, although the cold easterly winds initially deterred the ladies from frequenting the ‘Corinium Baths as Roman ladies did of old’.

The successful 1874 Gala was the first of many over the years up to the First World War, during which a Swimming Club was established and Water Polo matches were played against teams from Cheltenham, Stroud and Gloucester.

In 1908, Cirencester Urban District Council took over the Baths, which were emptied of water on a Saturday evening and refilled during Sunday from the adjoining well.

Hardy bathers in the early part of the week endured ‘icy cold water’ until it gradually attained a more tolerable temperature.

The council decided to improve the facilities and, in 1931, hosted a re-opening ceremony heralding the installation of a heating system to maintain the water temperature at not less than 60 degrees (around 15 degrees celsius), a shallow pool for young children and dressing boxes for both males and females to enable arrangements to be made for mixed bathing ‘under proper regulations’.

A kiosk opened soon after selling soft drinks, buns, cups of tea and cigarettes.

1936 brought a technological development eloquently described in the The Standard as attributing to ‘an unusual glint on the water which was of an unaccustomed limpidity.’

The ‘water’s pellucidity’ resulted from a new purification plant, placing the Cirencester Baths in line with the best in the country.

The article explained that the water is filtered in a huge tank containing 11 tons of special sand, then ‘aerated’ to give it life, before being sterilised via a process of chlorination, ‘a process so delicate that its results are calculated in decimal points’.

“The result is conditions as hygienic and salubrious as modern science can make them, while bathers experience a tonic effect entirely lacking before.”

Over the following decades, the Swimming Club and Water Polo teams continued to thrive, promoting Life Saving and encouraging people of all ages to learn to swim.

Local schools used the facilities, leaving some pupils with enduring memories of enforced chilly swimming lessons.

In the 1970s, further repairs were needed and, in 1972, the council built the indoor swimming pool, proposing to close the outdoor baths.

Substantial opposition culminated in the council handing the outdoor pool over to the ‘Open Air Swimming Association’ for a peppercorn rent and this formidable group of volunteers somehow ensured the continuing operation of the pool and developed a more structured organisation.

In 1983, Charitable Status was granted and succeeding Trustees continued the sterling work to make the operation more sustainable.

A major fundraising exercise in the 2010s, generously supported by many organisations and individuals in the community, culminated in the opening of new changing rooms in 2016, followed by the addition of pool covers (to help reduce heating bills) and improved access to the site for disabled people.

If you have stories and photographs you are happy to share with the Pool, visit