Diving stage, 1935, designed by CE Boast for the County Borough of Croydon.
Reasons for Designation
The diving stage at the former Purley Way Lido is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic Interest: as a virtually intact survival of the largely demolished Purley Way Lido, one of the most technically up-to-date and lavish of the many lidos constructed in the 1930s. Located in an area noted for its inter-war industrial development, it groups with the Grade II listed former passenger terminal and lodge at Croydon Aerodrome, London’s first airport, on the other side of Purley Way;
* Rarity: as one of only four inter-war concrete diving platforms known to survive in England;
* Technical Interest: as a good example of the new uses and sculptural forms the relatively recent material of reinforced concrete was being put to in the inter-war period.
Purley Way Lido was opened on 20 July 1935 by the County Borough of Croydon as part of substantial commercial and industrial development around Croydon Aerodrome, London’s first airport, from the early 1920s. The lido was set in a 4.5 acre site on the south side of Waddon Way and designed by the architect CE Boast. At a cost of £15,600, the lido was one of the most up-to-date open-air swimming pools of the time. It included a cruciform plan, 650,000 gallon main pool (200 x 70 foot on one axis, 100 x 60 foot on the other) with a 15 foot diving pit (with three, five and ten metre boards) and separate children’s paddling pool. At either end of the pool were large Art Deco fountains, lit at night with changing coloured lights. The heated pool, featuring ‘Cullamix’ cast stone surfaces, underwater lighting and an innovative ozone purification system, was surrounded by a shingle ‘beach’ area with potted palm trees. The modernist style two-storey service building along Waddon Way was faced in white concrete with large metal framed windows and pyramidal skylights. It included a large first-floor café and roof terrace. Originally a separate café had been planned for the south side of the site but the main block was eventually considered sufficient.
Despite the council’s hope that the proximity to Croydon airport would make the pool an important international swimming and water polo venue, after its pre-war peak, when it accommodated up to 3,000 customers a day, it entered a post-war period of decline. The heating was switched off and the ozone system replaced with chlorine after ozone was found to damage the skin. In 1979 the pool was closed after its total final summer attendance had dropped to 28,000. The pools were filled in and in 1981 the site re-opened as a garden centre. Later, land to the west of the site was sold to build the neighbouring Hilton Hotel. This resulted in the demolition of the west end of the service building. The remaining part continues in use as a garden centre and does not form part of the listing. Other related structures such as the fountains have gone.
By the 1930s, high diving boards formed an essential part of lido design. Typically a high board offered stages at 3m, 5m and 10m, with separate 1m spring boards alongside. The majority of diving stages were tubular steel. However, where funds were available and where local authorities thought they might be able to attract regional and international diving competitions, some designers came up with reinforced concrete examples in interesting and attractive sculptural forms.
Temporary hoardings advertising the garden centre are attached (February 2013) to the rails either side of the ten metre platform but are not part of the listing.
The diving stage is located to the south of the service building in the garden centre display area.
Built of reinforced concrete, it consists of twin curved supports linked by the three diving platforms and a lower access platform. The two lower diving platforms are splayed either side of the centrally placed ten metre platform, the three metre platform to the east and five metre platform to the west. All the original ironwork including access ladders and tubular safety rails to the platforms survives with the exception of the lowest ladder, removed to prevent access.