Each Sunday morning during the winter and on Monday evenings and Friday mornings through the summer we meet for yoga by the sea in Scarborough on what is now called the 'Star Disk' an art installation opened in January 2006 with fibre optic light points which glow at night to show the 42 brightest circumpolar stars as seen from Scarborough. I can't say I have ever seen it glowing, I'm not sure if that is because the ability of the fibre optics to glow has waned or if I am just never there when it is dark enough to see them.
The star disk replaced a somewhat more impressive attraction that stood on this site for 88 years. Until recently I assumed everyone knew what had gone before but chatting at class the other week I realised that some are unaware that this area used to be a swimming pool.
The glorious outdoor south bay bathing pool first opened in 1915. The idea for the pool was developed by Harry W Smith, the Borough engineer responsible for the introduction of so many of Scarborough's tourist attractions including Peasholm Park, the Floral Hall (also long gone) and Northstead Manor Gardens.
Originally the pool was a tidal pool with low walls for the sea to wash over and top the pool up at high tide. There was no heating and the pool was regularly used as a training pool for those getting ready to attempt a cross channel swim. At one time it was the largest outdoor pool in Europe - 330ft wide, containing nearly 2 million gallons of sea water. Facilities included a bandstand, cafe, on site laundry (back then people hired their swimming costumes & towels, you can see the towels hung out to dry at the bottom of the picture below) and room for 3000 spectators.
In the 1930s the pool walls were raised up and a chlorinated filtration system using the fountains in the picture below were added to help circulate & filtrate the water. Also installed at this time was a 32ft high diving board which led to the pool becoming a leading diving centre. The 1948 Amateur Swimming Association Championships for swimming and diving were held between the south bay and north bay pools.
An external walkway was added around the outer pool walls in the 1950s, this still remains today. In it's heyday hundreds would flock to the pool each day both to swim and to watch the shows that were put on by bathing troupes and diving showmen, here's a little video of the pool in it's heyday:
Sadly the boom in foreign holidays meant that visitor numbers steadily declined from the 1960s onwards and by the late 1980s the council decided that it was no longer viable to keep the pool open, closing the doors for the last time in 1989. The buildings and the pool were then left to decay and become derelict before finally being bulldozed in 2003.
In 2006 the council also closed Atlantis on the North Bay side, with the current boom in cold water swimming it feels like we are sorely missing an outdoor swimming pool in Scarborough. I don't think I ever swam in the South Bay pool although I did swim in the North Bay pool a lot in the 80s and 90s. Just as I love to do yoga outside there's also something pretty special about swimming in an open air pool. For now I'll have to make do with swimming in the sea and using this historical space for our yoga by the sea classes in Scarborough.
Let me know if you have any memories of swimming in the old outdoor pool.