Between 1929 to 1933 Portsmouth City Council, as owners of the land, created gardens, a tennis court and a hard levelled area intended for roller skating and dancing. Hilsea Lido was officially opened on 24 July 1935.
Sadly due to a road widening scheme and a level of neglect there is little evidence of the grandeur of the original site.
The swimming pool, cafe and splashpool were designed by the City Engineer, Joseph Parkin. The total cost for the complex, built in the Modernist International Style, was £36,000. Constructed over 7 months in 1935 as an employment initiative, it was to provide leisure facilities for the new housing developments in Hilsea. The Hisea Lido pool is 67m long, 18 metres wide and 4.6 metres deep. It was designed to provide drama and spectacle with three diving boards – the highest being a spectacular 10 metres, water slides and water polo.
The main swimming pool could accommodate up to 900 swimmers and more than 1000 spectators. Opened from 7am until 10pm from the end of May until the beginning of October, the complex included night illuminations and a PA system to entertain the crowds.
Original admission charges into the main pool were 6d for adults (approx. 2.5p today) and 3d for children. The splashpool cost 1d for entry, car parking was 3d and parking your bicycle cost 1d – these facilities are free today!
In the 1930s the site hosted national diving championships and water spectaculars, including formation swimming and displays by the League of Health and Beauty. Up to 1000 spectators came to enjoy these amazing and magnificent events.
Originally the water was pumped from Portscreek, filtrated and then aerated through the water fountains before entering the pool. This system operated every 8 hours. It’s thought that because the tidal water of Portscreek was never of any great depth the water would be warmed by the sun prior to entering the pool (or perhaps people were just a bit hardier then!!). Water now comes directly from the mains.
In 1975 Hilsea Lido featured in the cult film and rock opera classic “Tommy”, written by The Who and directed by Ken Russell – sadly we don’t have any photos from this event, but if anybody else does we’d love to see them.
If you’ve seen the film you’ll know Hilsea Lido looks fantastic, especially with the fountains operating and the lagoons in use.
There are families in Portsmouth who have used the facilities at Hilsea Lido through the generations from 1935 to today! Hilsea Lido holds a host of special memories for people from far and wide – from sunny summer childhoods spent with friends, to meeting future partners at dances held at the Blue Lagoon, to visiting the site with children and grandchildren.
Hilsea Lido Pool for the People Trust are working hard to ensure that future generations can have special memories of times spent at Hilsea Lido!