Seawater baths, opened in 1833 on a site used for seabathing since 1755, but with visible fabric renewed between 1930-3.
Reason for Listing
Lymington Sea Water Baths, opened in 1833 on a site used for sea bathing since 1755, but with visible fabric renewed between 1930-1933, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Early date: it appears to be the third earliest surviving swimming pool in the country and is the earliest operational one;
* Rarity: it is one of only five functioning seawater lidos in England and is the earliest of them to have been built;
* Architectural interest: a Modernist rectangular shuttered concrete pool impressive in scale, retaining two metal aerators and a paddling pool and sandpit;
* Degree of survival: intact except for the diving platform which few pools now retain;
* Group value: adjoins the listed original Bath House of 1833, now Lymington Town Sailing Club Headquarters (Grade II);
* Designed for setting: a dramatic natural setting with views over the tidal Lymington River and countryside.
There is a record of sea water baths in Lymington in 1755 owned by a Mr Milford. Mrs Beeston took over the baths in November 1772 following her husband's death, used an inlet from the salterns and in 1784 was advertising her "strengthening sea baths". The building was the subject of a pen and watercolour drawing by Thomas Rowlandson. In 1825 the writer David Garrow recorded two bath houses at Lymington "one in Bath Lane, known as Legge's Baths and another beyond called Beeston's baths". The latter charged "for a warm bath 3s 6d; shower ditto, 2s 0d; cold water bath with guide; 1s 0d; without guide, 6d. Every care and attention to the comforts of those involved and the convalescent will be found strictly observed." A male guide kept bathers afloat with the use of a rope.
In 1833 The Lymington Bath and Improvement Company was formed, extending the baths by enclosing a large tract of mud land and raising £6,000 through £25 shares and donations. A bath house was built with separate wings for ladies and gentlemen and a circular upper room for social gatherings. This was described in 'A new guide for Lymington, 1841' in the following terms "The main building, erected from the elegant and gratuitous design of Mr. William Bartlett, of this town; and the machinary [sic] fixed under the direction of Mr. John Silvester, civil engineer, affords every convenience for hot, cold or vapour bathing: one wing for the use of ladies, the other for gentlemen". At the western extremity were the large open-air baths and the adjacent grounds were used for archery and other sports.
In 1855 the baths were sold to George Inman who owned a boat building company further up the river. The 1871 six inch Ordnance Survey map of Lymington shows the 1833 bath house, already shows the outline of the sea baths to its present extent and also a small detached building to the south-west of the bath house. The 25 inch First Edition Ordnance Survey map of 1884 also shows these structures, the baths labelled 'Baths'.
In 1886 the Lymington Sea Baths Company leased the sea baths from Inman. On the 1897 Ordnance Survey map the baths are called 'Public Baths', the north east corner has been altered and a structure labelled 'Boat House' erected there. The baths appear to have horizontal divisions and a smaller enclosure in the northern half and for the first time a small breakwater is shown on the north-west side. On the 1909 edition the baths are labelled 'Sea Water Baths' but there are no further changes.
The baths passed through several different owners until 1930 when they were taken over by the Lymington Corporation. At this time Lymington Borough was advertising Lymington as a holiday resort and at the council meeting of 12th September 1929 the council secured an option on the swimming baths for £2,000 as an amenity for residents and visitors. On the 6th January 1929 the council applied to the Ministry of Health for a loan of £2,050 (including £50.00 legal charges) and in 1930 the Ministry of Health approved a grant of £2,000 to enable Lymington Borough to purchase the baths "to improve the well-being of the public". On the 3rd May 1933 'preceded by the Town Band the Mayor officially opened the Bath after improvements'. Photographs show the Mayor and Town Councillors on the balcony outside the C19 changing rooms and bathers opposite the diving board. Minutes of the council meeting of 11th September 1933 record a letter of appreciation for facilities at the swimming baths from the Medical Officer of Health at Bermondsey who described the baths as " the finest sea baths seen anywhere." Advertisements show there were two Water Polo Pitches and separate Ladies, Gentlemen's and Mixed bathing pools. The concrete structure of the sea water baths appears to date from this period. The 1932 Ordnance Survey map shows little alteration from the 1909 map and was probably surveyed before Lymington Corporation made changes. 1950s photographs show concrete breakwaters across the baths.
In 1946 the 1833 Bath House building, which had by this date fallen into disrepair, was taken over as Lymington Town Sailing Club Headquarters. In 1974 the 1833 Bath House building, now Lymington Town Sailing Club Headquarters, was listed at Grade II.
The sea water baths were closed in 2008 for repairs but reopened in 2010.
DATE: the sea water baths are shown approximately with their current outline on the six inch 1871 Ordnance Survey map but the visible structure probably dates from circa 1930 after the seawater baths were bought and improved by Lymington Corporation and the improved baths were officially opened 3rd May 1933. The architect is not recorded but, as with other contemporary open air baths, is likely to have been the Borough Surveyor. Post-1933 pool-side structures are not of special interest.
MATERIALS: the sea baths are constructed of shuttered concrete.
PLAN: the baths comprise a roughly rectangular structure aligned north-east to south-west but tapering to the south-west. The walls are 100 yards long by 50 yards in width. There is no bottom as the bath is filled directly from the sea and river.
DESCRIPTION: there are concrete steps with tubular metal handrails along the north-west and south-east sides. On the south side built into the southern edge are two rectangular pits, a sand pit and a children's paddling pool. About two thirds along the eastern side is a concrete breakwater stretching partly across the baths consisting of a concrete platform supported on four concrete piers. There are two metal aerating fountains in the pool.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.