Lying three miles east of Brighton, on the south coast of England, is the small town of Saltdean. Despite its size Saltdean possesses two of the finest Modernist buildings in Britain, the former Ocean Hotel and Saltdean Lido. A lido is a public outdoor swimming pool and it was during the 1930s the construction of lidos reached its peak in Britain, and arguably some of the finest lidos were built in this period. Lidos were built across the country, not only on the coast like at Saltdean, but in many industrial cities and urban areas. According to Janet Smith, author of "Liquid Assets" on the history of lidos and open air pools in Britain, 300 lidos and open air pools in Britain have closed, while less than 100 remain in operation.
Saltdean Lido was built in 1938 and was designed by the architect Richard William Herbert Jones, who also designed Saltdean's former Ocean Hotel and residential properties Teynham House, Curzon House and Marine View located on Chichester Road East and Marine Drive. Constructed of rendered, reinforced concrete Saltdean Lido comprises a central two storey block with a curved, main facade facing a large swimming pool. Each side of the building has a wing, giving the Lido a symmetrical appearance. The building's ground floor originally housed a foyer, changing rooms, boiler, fuel room and offices.
Each wing terminates in a two-storey pavilion, with an internal staicase providing access to terraces above, which occupy the upperside of the ground-floor canopy roof. The upper storey of the central block originally served as a café, illuminated by metal-framed Crittal-style windows. A smaller terraced area occupies the roof of the original café, and there is a further rounded block, with projecting canopy roof, with the boiler room chimney set behind. The chimney has a tall flag-pole attached, although in the post-war period the chimney and flag pole were removed.
The Lido was completed in July 1938. However, during its second season the clouds of war were threatening across the channel and, in September 1939, following the outbreak of the Second World War the Lido closed. Throughout the war Saltdean Lido remained closed and served as a water tank for the Auxiliary Fire Service.
The fire service left in 1945 but the Lido remained closed, and was left neglected for a further 19 years. The Lido was taken into public ownership in 1955 at a cost of £20,000. This saved it from commercial re-development, unlike many other seaside lidos which were swept away as their popularity declined with as people's tastes in holiday destinations took more and more people overseas. By 1995 the Lido was closed due to falling visitor numbers and the deteriorating condition of the structure.
After renovations the Lido was re-opened on 23 May 1998, subsequently passing through the hands of multiple operators. In March 2010 the then current leaseholder of the Lido proposed to redevelop the site, including in-filling the pool and building flats. A year later campaigners celebrated as English Heritage upgraded the Lido's listed status from Grade II to Grade II*. However, by the end of 2011 the Lido was placed on English Heritage's "At Risk" register, which identifies buildings at risk because of their poor condition and threats to their survival.
In May 2012 the council took back the lease of the Lido and by the end of 2013 the Saltdean Lido Community Interest Company (CIC) was awarded a 60-year lease to operate the pool by the council. Works to restore the Lido finally began in January 2016, with the reconstruction of the pool, which previously had been sub-divided to provide a shallow paddling pool for children alongside a deeper pool.
Current plans will see the swimming pools reopened in spring 2017. The restoration of the Lido building is dependent upon the CIC securing additional funding to complete the works.
The building was awarded Grade II-listed status on 13 July 1987 and later upgraded to Grade II* status on 18 March 2011.
This is an updated and revised building profile first published on 20 September 2009.
Posted by Richard Coltman on Saturday, November 12, 2016