Stokewood Road Baths
Opened in 1930 and originally known as the Northwood
Estate Swimming Baths, the Stokewood Road baths cost the corporation
£40,000 to build and have been the place were countless
local children and adults learned to swim.
the old seafront baths which were demolished to make way for Imax,
Stokewood Road was filled with fresh rather than sea water. Heating
came from the borough incinerator which was in an adjoining building.
The main pool was 25 yards long and 12 yards wide,
with the deep end featuring diving boards ranging from one metre
to five metres high. Fifty wooden cubicles were provided for swimmers
to change in, and there was also a tiered balcony for spectators.
At a time when many houses still did not have properly
plumbed in baths, swimming baths often offered the kind of soak
we now expect at home.
A hot fresh water bath, complete with towel and
soap, cost six old pence in 1938, and it was sixpence extra if
you wanted sea water.
During the winter the pool was covered by a proper
sprung wooden floor and became a dance hall. There was even a
raised stage for the dance band. The space was also used for indoor
bowls and boxing.
At the outbreak of war in 1939 the baths were closed
to the public, protected with sandbags and blast-proof doors and
set up as an emergency first aid and gas decontamination centre.
They were subsequently reopened in the summer of 1940 - although
two days a week were set aside for the exclusive use of servicemen.
By 1942 the building's upper storey was a designated
Rest Centre for aid raid victims. Along with other places such
as the Embassy Hall in Brassey Road, the Winton Rec Bowls Pavilion,
and several church halls and schools, it was a place that air
raid victims could come to for food, clothing, shelter and help
with billets if their own homes were too badly damaged to stay
in. The water in the pool was regarded as an emergency water supply
for the fire brigade.
Around a dozen swimmers got a nasty shock late in
the afternoon of November 1, 1943, when two German bombers swooped
in and bombed Charminster. A bomb hit the junction of Gerald and
Heron Court Roads causing an earthquake-like shock wave to shake
both the building, the water and swimmers. The baths got off lightly
- nearly 700 homes were damaged in the raid, one person was killed
and around 30 injured.
At the end of the war the baths reverted to their
earlier peacetime pattern of summer swimming and indoor activities
such as dances during the winter.
Times were changing though and by the mid-1950s
the council decided to keep the pool open all the year round.
It meant an end to Saturday night dances and homelessness for
the Bournemouth Indoor Bowling Club.
The building underwent some modernisation after
a disastrous fire in 1967, and was then threatened with closure
following the opening of the Littledown Centre in the late 1980's.
A determined local campaign kept the baths open and the council
opted for a £400,000 refurbishment.
Known these days as the Stokewood
Leisure Centre, it offers a variety of health and sporting
activities ranging from swimming, sunbeds and saunas to aerobics,
martial arts, boxing, and workouts in a fully equipped gym.
The buildings are now also home to the Stokewood
Chidren's Centre which aims to support parents and children through
the early years. Here are some of the things it has to offer:
For more details call the centre
on 01202 539591