THE news this week the go-ahead has finally been given to demolish Worcester’s old swimming pool complex in Sansome Walk, which has been closed for nearly three years,  brings the curtain down on one of the more bizarre happenings in local government in the city.

Today, when swimmers can happily zoom up and down the spacious waters of the multi-million pound sports complex at Perdiswell, it is difficult to recall the time when Worcester didn’t have a decent pool. In the decades following the Second World War it was a constant topic of conversation in many quarters.

Sure the city had Park’s outdoor baths in Sansome Walk, but those dated back to the 1850s and although there had been improvements since then, they certainly didn’t cut the mustard when it came to the big, indoor facilities many other major towns and cities seemed to have.

Frustrated by the lack of government support for a new pool for Worcester, a local group was set up to see if it could raise the money itself. Led by Alderman Stanley Marshall, Worcester Citizens Swimming Baths Association put its collective shoulder to the wheel and began rattling the tins. It did jolly well too with dairy farmer John Bennett not only suppling the land at Lower Wick, but also the means of heating the pool via the methane gas from his herd of cows! 

Then just as the Citizens Pool was about to reach fruition, the government came up with the cash for a municipal baths for Worcester on the existing site in Sansome Walk.

Undeterred, the Citizens project went ahead and within short order Worcester had two new swimming pools, one on either side of the river.

The Sansome Walk pool – the one that’s about to be knocked down – was opened on April 29, 1972 by the city’s MP Peter Walker, father of current incumbent Robin, who was then Environment Minister. Welcoming Mr Walker, Alderman Fred Lewis, chairman of the City Council’s baths sub committee, said: “From a safety point of view it is essential that everyone should be able to swim and the pool has been designed to cater for the learner and for every member of the family, providing health giving

exercise and recreation. Every modern facility has been provided for the swimmer and in addition Turkish, sauna and slipper baths are available.”

However, with its history of a lack of facilities, Worcester was not a “swimming city”, despite having a river running through it, and the new complex did not become the massive success it was hoped it would be. Within a decade, new additions were being proposed to boost attendance numbers, among which was a helter-skelter waterslide based on one at Blackpool baths.

This comprised a couple of tubular flumes, starting and finishing inside, but running for the most part outside the building.

Although this feature didn’t happen, the Sansome Walk Baths did have a major revamp in the mid-1980s.

But it wasn’t enough to halt the slide and in 1987, as it suffered another £300,000 loss, Councillor Chris Woodyatt (one time policeman and former Worcester City FC goalkeeper) laid out a plan to close the pool and build another one near the city’s main sports facilities at Perdiswell.

And that’s what eventually happened, albeit 29 years later.

Although considering the time Worcester had to wait for a decent pool in the first place, that was almost overnight.