Great Lengths: The Historic Indoor Swimming Pools of Britain

Like Liquid Assets , its predecessor on lidos, this English Heritage guide to a seemingly utilitarian subject tells a tale of social change, architectural history and swimming derring-do.

The indoor pool was a child of the industrial revolution: mass construction began only after the Baths and Wash Houses Act of 1846. At first, public baths were just places to wash, but swimming soon became an end in itself. By 1914 more than 600 public baths had been constructed.

Elegantly written and beautifully illustrated, Great Lengths evokes the power of historic pools to create a sense of community. And yet, one wonders how many of these monuments are now obsolete – who today wants to swim in a 22-metre pool when our continental cousins expect Olympic dimensions? One just hopes that the best loved pools can be saved for future generations.

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