Kingsmead Swimming Pool…back in the day

Alex Claridge recalls a childhood spent at Kingsmead Swimming Pool (file pic: Swim England)

In about 1981 my mother gave me four 2p pieces and led me to the crisp machine near the entrance to the changing rooms.

Back then 8p was enough to buy a packet of Monster Munch. I don’t know why that fuzzy memory lingers in the mind. It just does.

I would have only been six years old, a time when life felt like it had no narrative. You just sort of existed.

Memories are a patchwork of pieces woven together.

You went to school in your little grey shorts at school, wore two-piece pyjama sets at home, learned to ride a bike on a field, and got dragged around by the parents to DIY shops like Fad’s under the old multi-storey car park.

Th rule sign which hung inside Kingsmead Swimming Pool

Well, I did anyway.

And I also spent many an hour in Kingsmead Swimming Pool learning how to swim or retrieve rubber bricks from the bottom wearing the aforementioned pjs.

Kingsmead was therefore oddly central to mine and my friends’ lives. We went there once or twice a week, first with a parent, then with school – St Stephen’s in my case – and then on our own.

Some of my friends would roll up their trunks in a towel, stuff it down their tops and cycle eagerly towards this concrete and glass bunker which welcomed visitors of all ages.

Once inside, I remember a little ticket booth which also sold badges for distances of swims and verruca socks.

You could buy a ticket which just allowed you access to the seating area looking over the pool and probably attracted a certain kind of individual, not that I understood that at the time.

I stopped using the little pool after swimming in the vicinity of a giant turd floating in its warm water.

Staff there included a huge gorilla of a man with a great grey beard and tight blue tracksuit trousers.

There was a smaller, paunchy man who wore shorts and hung around poolside. His main job was blowing his whistle at anyone breaking swimming pool rules.

And that leads me to my greatest memory from Kingsmead: the sign warning against the pool’s prohibited activities.

“No running, no smoking, no shouting, no petting, no bombing, no ducking…”

I love that sign. Honestly, who calls getting it on with some blotchy tart in a bikini “petting”.

And who takes fags into a swimming pool? Probably someone in the 1970s, some face with straggly hair who stank of old spice and sported a chest wig gold medallion combo when out on the town.

They used to have discos in the pool in the 70s, after all. They were run by Ian Chambers, who now cuts hair at Steven James in Castle Street. He used to lug his equipment to the top diving platform and play music from there.

Those who recall the watery disco will probably glorify that as Kingsmead’s heyday.

Not in my case. It was the 80s: 8p Monster munch, verruca socks and that gargantuan floater at odds with its surroundings in the little pool…


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