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Coate Water Diving Platform

A Grade II Listed Building in Swindon, Swindon

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.5423 / 51°32'32"N

Longitude: -1.7467 / 1°44'48"W

OS Eastings: 417661

OS Northings: 182626

OS Grid: SU176826

Mapcode National: GBR 4VP.96X

Mapcode Global: VHB3M.NHYK

Entry Name: Coate Water Diving Platform

Listing Date: 27 November 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1417099

Location: Swindon, SN3

County: Swindon

Electoral Ward/Division: Chiseldon and Lawn

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Swindon

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Swindon Christ Church

Church of England Diocese: Bristol

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Summary

Concrete diving stage completed in 1935 to a design by the Swindon Borough Surveyor JBL Thompson.

Description

A diving platform in Art Deco style, erected in 1935 to a design by the Swindon Borough Survey JBL Thompson in full compliance with the regulations of the Federation Internationale de Natation Amateur (FINA).

MATERIALS: reinforced steel and concrete.

EXTERIOR: the structure consists of a curved, forward leaning tower built around a central stair leading to five diving platforms of different size, shape and thickness (its measurements carefully recorded in the 1935 booklet commemorating its opening), thus offering the diver the use of both spring boards and fixed boards. The top platform contains a flagpole, and formerly each platform was enclosed by plain, tubular shaped metal railings. Since its closure, in order to stop vandalism and people climbing onto the diving platform, the arches at the foot of the diving tower have been partly infilled with concrete blocks and its lowest platform was given a concrete block parapet.

History

The concrete Art Deco style diving platform at the north end of Coate Water in Swindon, with both fixed boards and spring boards, was completed in 1935 to a design by the Borough Surveyor, JBL Thompson. A year earlier, Thompson had designed the Art Deco style Concert Bowl for Swindon's Town Gardens (included on the Register of Parks and Gardens at Grade II), also built in concrete. As recorded in a commemorative booklet, the diving platform at Coate Water was officially opened by the Borough on 22 June 1935. During the ceremony, the diver Miss Cicely Cousins (who later that year became National Diving Champion), gave a demonstration of 'fancy diving', followed by exhibitions from Les and Bram Tomkins. The new diving platform at Coate Water fully complied with the safety regulations of the Federation Internationale de Natation Amateur (FINA), and as such was believed to be the safest type obtainable at the time. FINA was founded in 1908 and continues to be the international governing body of swimming, water polo, diving, synchronised swimming and open water swimming. The shape of the diving tower at Coate Water meant that the boards could be staggered so as to give sufficient headspace for the diver, and the varying platform heights also allowed for all year round diving, taking account of the changing water levels. During the C19 simple diving was mainly referred to as plunging. National Plunging Championships were held between 1883 and 1937. The first diving stage in England was erected at Highgate Ponds in 1893. At that time diving platforms were built in timber with ladders leading to the boards which were lined with coco matting to prevent slipping. Divers first competed in the Olympic Games of 1904. In the 1930s, both plain (straight) and 'fancy diving' was popular. In Britain a dive was originally performed with the arms held above the head in flight (known as the English Header). Later the more visually pleasing Swedish style dive was adopted (known as the Swallow Dive). The introduction of concrete in the early 1930s offered designers scope to create much safer and complex diving stages which allowed divers to perform increasingly graceful and complex dives.
Coate Water was created in the early 1820's as a headwater tank by the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal Company. It was fed by a stream known as the Dorcan. The reservoir and its surrounding landscape and wildlife, greatly influenced the writing of the author Richard Jefferies (1848-1887), who was born and later lived at nearby Coate Farm (a C17 farmstead, now the Richard Jefferies Museum, listed at Grade II).
The reservoir was used for boating from the late C19 and by 1900 a number of boathouses had been built at the north end of Coate Water (see OS map published 1900) In the early 1900s, following the decline in the use of canals, the reservoir was sold to Swindon Borough Council for leisure use. Visitors were charged a small entrance fee and further boathouses and changing facilities were built (now no longer surviving). In 1921, a wooden diving platform was erected at the north end of the lake, surrounded by a swimming and diving area that was separated from the main body of the lake by timber boards.
By the 1930s a small Art Deco style outdoor bathing pool with fountain (now replaced with a children's paddling pool and playground) was built, situated c 50m north-west of the new diving platform. Nearby a Children's Paddling Pool was also created (now filled in) with a shelter. Both local and national diving competitions took place at Coate Water, and the lake was regularly used for water polo and regattas. In 1958, due to a public health and safety concern, swimming at Coate Water became forbidden and as such the diving platform has been out of use since.
In the 1970s Coate Water became Wiltshire's first Local Nature Reserve, and subsequently the lake was declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Public boating continued until the mid 1990s, with the use of the lake now limited to private boating clubs.

Reasons for Listing

The 1935 Diving Platform at Coate Water in Swindon is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Rarity: it is one of only four inter-war concrete diving platforms known to survive in England;
* Architectural and technical interest: it is a good example of a 1930s re-enforced concrete diving platform by JBL Thompson, a local architect, of an elegant, cantilevered design constructed to the latest technical innovations to achieve an optimal diving performance;
* Historic interest: unlike most diving platforms, it is associated with a lake (reservoir) that was landscaped to provide important outdoor sport- and leisure facilities in Swindon during the C19 and early C20;
* Degree of survival: despite the loss of its railings it has survived mostly intact.

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