Project Brighton: Saltdean Lido has had a remarkable life, from war efforts to church rooms

Designed by the architect RWJ Jones, Saltdean Lido is the only Grade II listed coastal lido in the country. Built between 1937 and 1938, the lido has a unique and distinctive streamlined 30’s style. Named by English Heritage as one of the Seven Wonders of The English Seaside it is also listed on the organisation’s ‘Buildings at Risk’ Register.

Along with its sister modernist building, the Ocean Hotel at the top of Longridge Avenue, the lido was designed to be the centrepiece of Saltdean’s seafront and elevate Saltdean’s status in the competitive 1930s British holiday industry.

After its May 1938 opening, Saltdean Lido enjoyed just three summer seasons before ‘The Battle of Britain’ forced the lido to close its doors. The building went on to play a vital role in the Second World War; in 1941, it was requisitioned by the National Fire Service – who also requisitioned the lido’s sister building, the Ocean Hotel. The lido was used as a water tank, and the grounds were used by instructors and fire officers for training exercises. It was during this period that the lido’s iconic neon-lit Art Deco sign was taken down and lost. 

The building went on to play a vital role in the Second World War

Although the pool was closed to the public at this time, an alternative role was found for its changing rooms. Sister McLaughlin, from Kemp Town, Brighton, petitioned the council to have the Lido’s wings sanctified for religious use. Its male changing rooms were used for church services and the female changing rooms became a Sunday School.

After church services ceased, the once iconic ‘beacon of modernism’, lay derelict for decades.

In July 1964, due to mounting pressure from the community, the Lido was re-opened. This time benefiting from a complete restoration by Brighton Council, who also extended the building with a new community centre and library.

After 30 years, the pool closed again, due to mounting maintenance costs. In 1997 it was believed an answer had been found when a group of businessmen took on the site and made remedial repairs. However, the leaseholder then revealed plans to close the pool forever.

The Save Saltdean Lido Campaign was set up in March 2010 by residents after plans were announced to develop the site to create 125 apartments.

In March 2011 an application from the Save Saltdean Lido Campaign to English Heritage to upgrade the building’s status to Grade II* was successful. Later the same year the lido was added to the English Heritage ‘Buildings at Risk’ Register. The lido lease was returned to Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC) in May 2012.

In October 2012, with the lido safe from residential development, the Saltdean Lido CIC (the CIC) was set up with the core objective to provide a sustainable future for Saltdean Lido, and in December 2013 BHCC announced that the CIC had won the tender to take on a 63-year lease of the site. 

The renovation of the Lido has been split into two phases. Phase 1 completed in 2017 saw the main swimming pool and children’s pool re-open to the public. Phase 2 (subject to funding) will see the main building restored back to its former glory with a cafe/restaurant/events space, community spaces and library (subject to funding from the council).

The lido wouldn’t be open at all, however, if it wasn’t due the army of volunteers who help fundraise, work the events and sit on the CIC Board. The most recent fundraising phase smashed expectations, hitting it’s target with a couple of weeks to spare. However, there is still a long way to go to secure the future of the lido, but it is anticipated that if all the funding needed is secured during 2018 that the building will re-open by 2021.

Related topics:

Leave a Comment

Related Articles