St Margaret’s Baths 1966 – 1997
Leicester City lacked a venue for swimming competitions for many years and among the post-war projects envisaged for Leicester was a swimming pool which could be used as a major regional sports centre. It was not until 1966 that St Margaret’s Baths was constructed, near to Southgates Underpass, at a cost of £480,000. It was designed and created by the City Architect’s and City Engineer’s Departments and the construction of the building was carried out by William Moss and Sons of Loughborough over a two year period.
The Baths were opened on 11th February 1996 by the Minister of Sport, Denis Howell MP. There was seating for 600 spectators and two swimming pools. The larger of the pools measured 110ft by 49ft, had six lanes and was equipped with diving stages up to a height of 16ft. However, plans to use it for major swimming competitions were quickly dashed when it was found that the pool did not comply with Amateur Swimming Association National Standards.
Despite this setback, St Margaret’s Baths proved to be a popular venue for Leicester people. Often as many as three thousand swimmers would use the baths on a busy day, with twice as many adults attending compared to the older baths in Leicester. The diving boards were extremely popular, especially with the young, and families also found it to be a perfect leisure venue with facilities such as a large spectator gallery, restaurant, sauna and a solarium. Visitor numbers started to dwindle when legislation regarding tighter controls on the use of the diving boards was introduced. The public no longer had free access to the diving boards, which up to this point had been the main attraction of the pool. As visitor numbers dropped, the future of St Margaret’s Baths began to look bleak.
St Margaret’s Baths was eventually demolished in 2000 and since the closure there is no municipal swimming pool in the city centre. Its replacement, the Braunstone Leisure Centre, is some miles away and the nearest venue with diving board facilities is in Coventry. The Baths had also hosted many swimming events but since the demolition of the Baths, such events are no longer held within the city.
With thanks to Bridget Masters.