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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sources

Scarborough Swimming Club History Page

Summarised History Page

Flickr account

David’s account

Lizz Tuckerman’s Page

The Blue Waters of Atlantis

Atlantis started out as the North Bay Bathing Pool, an outdoor swimming pool that originally opened in July 1938, only minutes away from the North Bay in Scarborough.

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

In 1984 the site was redeveloped and rebranded as Waterscene, and a £500,000 investment gave the pool the (then) longest water chute in the world. Like nearby Marvel’s, which also opened in 1984, the new development was pioneered by businessman Don Robinson, director of Kunick.

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Above: Waterscene postcard (source)

The opening was reputedly a grand affair, with Fred Pontin (of Pontins Holiday Camps fame) unveiling a plaque. The pool was apparently the first large scale waterpark in Europe.

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Above: Fred Pontin (source)

In 1987 the site was sold to Kirkpool Ltd, headed by Tommy Hanson. The name changed to Water Splash World before being resold to Edencorpleisure in the following year. The lease was then bought by Scarborough Council in 1992. The site didn’t became known as Atlantis until 1995.

Water Splash World

Above: Water Splash World (source)

Atlantis, like Water Splash World, was arguably more of a rebranding of the original Waterscene attraction.

Unfortunately my only encounter with Atlantis (and its predecessor Water Splash World) came from the outside. We used to pass it on the way to Peasholme Park, Manor Gardens and Kinderland, and I remember how blue it always looked. I was jealous of the children who got to ride the long winding slides and splash around in the outdoor pool. Even though I never went inside, I’m still curious to know about what it was like, and it remains a vivid part of my Scarborough memories.

The reputation of Atlantis was severely undermined by the death of a swimmer in 2001, and following years of financial difficulties, closed in 2007. The site was later redeveloped into the Military Adventure Park, which continues to operate today.

This blog post is only a short introduction to Atlantis and its history, based on limited sources – more details will be added as the research progresses.

See any mistakes in this post? Want to share any additional information or memories? Please comment below – all contributions are very welcome!

Below are some further sources:

28 Days Later features images of Atlantis and its demolition.
Scarborough Hotel and Tourist Information Blog has a short article about the site.
This video shows Atlantis during its heyday, and this video features the original bathing pool (1950s).
Various articles about the site and its predecessors are available online from Scarborough News.