By: Richard William Herbert Jones
Three miles along the south coast, east of Brighton lies the small town of Saltdean. Despite its size Saltdean possesses two of the finest Modernist buildings in Britain, the Ocean Hotel and Saltdean Lido. A lido is essentially a public outdoor swimming pool and accompanying facilities. The construction of lidos in Britain reached its zenith in the 1930s. Over one-hundred and fifty lidos were built across the country, not only on the coast like at Saltdean, but also in many industrial cities and urban areas.
Saltdean Lido was built in 1938 and was designed by the architect Richard William Herbert Jones, who also designed Saltdean's Ocean Hotel and residential properties Teynham House, Curzon House and Marine View along Chichester Road East and Marine Drive. Constructed of rendered, reinforced concrete the building comprises a central two story structure with a projecting curved facade facing the swimming pool. Either side of this central block are two wings linking a pavilion at each side, forming a symmetrical design. The pavilions provide access to the first story terraces which form a deep canopy over the ground floor of the lido. The first floor of the central block features large glazed windows. Above the first floor is a smaller terraced area with canopied roof, chimney and flag-pole. The ground floor housed the foyer area, changing rooms, boiler, fuel room and offices. The first floor featured terraces and chair stores in either pavilion. The central block served as a café.
The lido was completed in July 1938. However by its second season the clouds of war threatened across the channel and following the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 the Lido closed. Throughout the war the building remained closed and served as a water tank for the Auxiliary Fire Service. The fire service left in 1945 but the Lido remained unopened and neglected for a further 19 years. The Lido was taken in public ownership in 1955 at a cost of £20,000. This saved it from being substantially altered in plans proposed to the local authorities. Again in 1995 the Lido was closed, this time due to falling visitor numbers and deteriorating condition of the structure.
The Lido was re-opened on 23 May 1998, although since then there have been a number of operators. The main ground floor serves as a health and fitness centre. The swimming pool was sub-divided to allow a shallow paddling pool for children, and a tall central mast erected.
The building was awarded Grade II-listed status on 13 July 1987.