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The open-air swimming pool operated for 33 years between 1964 and 1997.
How was the new pool funded?
When the carnivals restarted in 1953, the main aim was to raise funds for a new open-air swimming pool. It took some years to arrange, but the pool was built near the new Priory estate and opened in 1964 under the chairmanship of Mrs Becky Kennedy. The Trustees were Col Jackie Ward (of Chilton Lodge), Jack Williams, Philip Spackman and Dr Humphrey Hope. With the exception of the first few months, it was run for its whole duration by Mr & Mrs Ken and Liz Hall.
What was the pool like?
The aerial photograph shows (from left to right) the football ground, the children's playground, the War Memorial Avenue and the swimming-pool. At the extreme top edge of the photograph are the tennis court and the edge of the cycle speedway track.
The popularity of the swimming-pool varied according to the weather, but on good days it was enjoyed by very large numbers of children and adults. In addition to the main pool with a small diving platform, there was a small toddlers' pool, and later on a large area of grass was made available for sunbathing or playing ball games and table tennis.
The Hungerford Swimming Club was very popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They ran a series of very successful "Water Carnivals", starting in 1966, an event that featured the "Bath Tub Race"!
In 1967 there was the "Tyre Race", and in 1968 "regardless of cost or risk to life and limb" they held the "Bicycle Race in water", and "the Perils of the Greasy Pole" and "the horrifying, death defying Pranks on a Plank"!
Documents relating to the Swimming Club Carnivals: (Click any to see the full documents):
(With thanks to Amanda Johnston, née Hook)
When did the pool close?
The pool closed in 1997 and the land used for a skateboard park.
- Swimming Pool and surroundings, c1964
- Open-air Swimming Pool, c1980
- Open-air Swimming Pool, 1997
Where did Hungerfordians swim before the pool was built?
Prior to the opening of the open-air swimming pool, local people had used a variety of places as a swimming venue.
"The Broads" was a length of the river Kennet just east of what is still known as the "swing bridge" north of the railway station. It was set aside by the Town and Manor in the 1930s, and provided a straight stretch of about 50 yards of river swimming. Separate changing rooms for boys and girls were provided. Jack Williams remembers the school's organised swimming periods which involved a crocodile of children down Fairview Road over the railway and along the north bank of the canal to the river.
Jack Williams recalls that a less "official" area for swimming was in the canal just above Marsh Lock, where there was regular swimming, always attended by the utmost decorum, with boys and girls changing areas carefully preserved. He remembers that despite the canal being stagnant, the water was clean and much warmer than The Broads.
Further notes on the early days of the pool:
Nigel Marsh posted on Facebook (Dec 2014) these additional comments: "My late stepfather Peter Reynolds was the very first supervisor of Hungerford swimming pool.
If anyone has an interest in the pool, its opening is documented in a the item "Hungerford swimming pool opens with a splash, and Linda says 'It's gorgeous'" on page 6 of the Newbury Weekly News 21 May 1964.
There is a large advert on the same page saying that J.T. Gibbs & Co. Ltd. of Bath Rd Hungerford were proud to have been the Main Contractor for the pool. It could be a sign of the times that their telephone number was given as Hungerford 126, also, that the cost of the pool was £14,179 13s 8d.
I think that the picture of the pool was probably taken well after 1964 because my father was told that he and his family would get accommodation with the job. That was true. We lived in a caravan that was parked on the common behind the pool and there was no sign of the house in the above picture then. It seems that life in the caravan was not up to his expectations, and, with a growing family, he took another position with more suitable accommodation by the end of 1964."