Swimming in Scarborough: Battle of the Bathing Pools

Swimmers have always been welcome in Scarborough. Over the years the town has featured numerous pools – outdoor and indoor included. The North Bay Bathing Pool (which later became Waterscene, Water Splash World, and then Atlantis) has already been mentioned here.

Above: The early days of the North Bay Bathing Pool (source)

Following its creation in 1938, the North Bay Bathing Pool played second fiddle to the better known and older South Bay Pool – a large seawater pool located near the Spa.

Above: The South Bay Pool (source)

Built in 1915, this pool was once a glamorous hotspot complete with diving boards, swimming exhibitions and competitions.

Above: The pool featured on a 1920s rail poster (source)

The pool was also designed to function as a wave barrier, and was subject to the tempestuous moods of the sea. It opened in July 1915 not long after WWI began, and less than a year after Scarborough was attacked by German forces on December 16th, 1914.

Above: The attack on Scarborough was later used to encourage men to enlist (source)

Below: The new pool (source)

Designed by borough engineer Harry W. Smith, the pool measured 330ft by 165ft in size and featured a 32ft high diving board – it was once the largest outdoor pool in Europe. Audiences were treated to a variety of shows, exhibitions and events featuring swimming, diving and aquatic displays.


Above: South Bay Pool in 1922 (from the author’s personal collection)

In 1935 audience seating capacity was increased, diving boards and changing rooms were added and fountains were created for children. However, only three years later the pool had a new rival, albeit a smaller one. The North Bay Bathing Pool, which opened in 1938 measured 250ft by 60ft, was located not far from the quieter North Sands.


Above: North Bay Bathing Pool (source)

This second, smaller pool played a key role in enticing visitors to visit Scarborough’s North Bay, which was rapidly establishing a formidable array of new attractions. Both pools were, at various points, used by Scarborough Swimming Club.

However, in the 1980s, the North Bay Bathing Pool was given a dramatic makeover that would see it take the edge in the competition of the outdoor pools. It reopened in 1984 as Waterscene, boasting the longest water chute in the world. Subsequent re-developments modernised the pool, and the new slides and themed areas were a success in attracting tourists, especially children.


Above: An aerial view of the newly developed North Bay Pool, photographed by Michael Jaconelli (image sourced from here)

The South Bay Pool, after a heyday particularly notable in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, remained popular with visitors, but for numerous reasons (viability, local politics and problems with upkeep are all cited to varying degrees) closed in 1988. The structure stood for fifteen more years, becoming flooded and derelict until the area was finally demolished in 2003. After being filled in, the pool is now the site of a star map.

You can see a picture of the site today by clicking here. Tiny lights show star positions at night, and there is an information board also.

Whilst the North Bay Bathing Pool appears to have emerged victorious in the bathing pool battle (in terms of longevity at least), its days too were numbered. Following two rebrandings (first to Water Splash World, then to Atlantis), the pool eventually suffered the fate of many outdoor UK pools – it closed in 2007, and was subsequently demolished. It is now the site of the Military Adventure Park.

Above: The Military Adventure Park (source)

Holidaymakers can now easily visit affordable resorts abroad that boast not only extensive water parks, but also guarantees of hot sunny weather to complement the experience. Years ago visitors had fewer options, and towns such as Scarborough reaped the benefits.


Above: North Bay Bathing Pool postcard (from the author’s personal collection)

Scarborough still has an indoor pool, and many still swim in the sea. However, it is easy to forget that swimming events and exhibitions once took place across the town, from the underground pool at Gala Land, to Peasholme Park Lake and the boating lake near the Open Air Theatre. There was also Bland’s Cliff Swimming baths (now Coney Island Amusements).

Although most of the aforementioned pools are long gone, swimmers (and paddlers!) will always be drawn to the oldest pool of all – the sea itself.

Do you remember any of the swimming pools mentioned? Or perhaps you know of others? Please contribute comments, corrections, or any information below.


Scarborough Swimming Club History Page

Summarised History Page

Flickr account

David’s account

Lizz Tuckerman’s Page

21 thoughts on “Swimming in Scarborough: Battle of the Bathing Pools

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  16. I was born in Scarborough and lived in Filey Road until I was 10 when we moved out of the area.
    I have fond memories of the South Bay swimming pool. I learnt to swim there. My father was a house master at Scarborough College and every summer the boys used to have diving competitions. Great fun.
    As a family we’d go there for the day. My Dad, a German teacher would always speak German to the top life guard. I remember the tickets we used to get, the smell of the salt water in the pool and as a youngster being amazed at the size of the place.
    I was very sad to hear of its closing and even more saddened when I went back and saw that it had been concreted over!!

    • Thank you for sharing these memories Rachel! Very interesting to read. I started coming to Scarborough after the pool closed, but enjoy looking at pictures and hearing about it from the people who were lucky enough to visit in the past.

      Thank you once again for taking the time to comment.

      Sarah (Stories From Scarborough)

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  18. Not sure when you updated your webpage last, but I believe all the refererenced links above do not now work. Thought you would like to know.
    Paul Yeoman

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