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30th November 2020

The History of Oakham School Swimming Pool

Swimming has had nearly 140 years of history here at Oakham School. Before a proper pool was built, students used to go to a “brook where there was a water hole in which swimming was just possible”. The first pool was built and opened in 1884 as part of the Tercentenary celebrations. The laying of the foundation stone was placed by A. C. Johnson (the patron) and happened at 12 noon on 29 July “in a field below the Cricket ground”. This original pool was 80ft long, 30ft wide and with a depth of between 3 and 6 ft. The bricks of the pool were blue Staffordshires and the bottom was reinforced with concrete. An asphalt path enclosed the pool. Overall, the cost of the pool was £465.

The Tercentenary Swimming Baths.

By 1934, the pool was in need of improvements and so work began in the February of that year. By May, the pool had been extended by 10ft and the depth of the pool was increased by raising the upper wall height by 6 inches. The ashphalt surrounding the pool was replaced with concrete in order to “prevent surface water draining into the bath itself”. A filter was installed to purify and sterilise the water and a suction pump enabled the total circulation of the pool’s water every 10 hours. The refurbished pool was opened on 23 June 1934 by the Olympic diver Pete Desjardins.

A photograph of the refurbished swimming pool in 1934.

Minor adjustments were made after this date to the pool and the surrounding area such as a new metal fence in 1938 and the installation of a “tubular steel diving platform” in summer 1954. The latter was thanks to kind donations from the Woodall Duckham Company. Before this new board, the previous diving platform was simply wood.

A very icy diving board!

A new wall encircling the pool was built in 1961.

Until 1974, Oakham School’s pool was completely outside. This changed however in 1975 with the opening of the new indoor swimming pool.

Photographs from the Oakhamian Magazine of the opening of the new swimming pool.

This new pool was 25 metes long, 9.15 metres wide and 3m deep at its deepest. A level deck rim meant that if the pool was full, there would be a drainage channel at the side to absorb any overflow. There was a fixed 2m board and a 1m springboard for diving. It was described in the Oakhamian Magazine in Summer 1974:

“The wall looking over Doncaster Close will be partly (double) glazed, and the south wall will overlook an area of paving and grass between the pool and Ancaster, with direct access from the pool. The pool itself will be finished in white marblite, the natural colour of water making it appear a pale blue. The roof will be opaque, with, it is hoped, some form of solar collecting system on top to assist with the heating.”

The swimming pool in the 1970s.

This new pool was opened by Dr M. W. Leivers on 23 May 1975 and was an addition on the west end of the Sports Hall.

The swimming pool today.

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