The biggest dive in Drayton: Taking a dip into pool's past

By Toby Neal | Market Drayton | Nostalgia | Published:

For decades it was the biggest dive in Market Drayton. Nevertheless, the locals loved it.

Market Drayton's lido was in a picturesque setting

So much so that when in the 1990s there were proposals to close the town's outdoor pool and replace it with a brand new indoor pool on the same site, there was an unsuccessful attempt to block the new development by getting the lido listed as a heritage asset.

The open air pool in a picturesque location had been officially opened on Thursday, May 25, 1933, and took its water direct from the nearby River Tern. For swimmers in the early years this made it both chilly and murky. They were lucky if they could see the bottom.

Our picture recalls its glory days, with youngsters gathered on the diving board proudly clutching swimming certificates.

Youngsters proudly show their swimming certificates

This print from our archive is sadly undated, but written on the back is: "Pupils from Mount Lane Junior School at Market Drayton Swimming Baths, aged 9 or 10."

It then goes on to list names - note that the following are written on the back as a descending column, that is, one below the other: "Front row, sitting, left to right, Isobel Bratten, Billy Bloore, Margaret Littleford, Stuart Simpson, Diane Weston, Lynda Boddington, Valerie Gibson. Second row, from left, Gillian Griffiths, Jane Thomas, Ruth Noden (it looks like Noden), Gwen Noden, Diane Rowlands, Pat Monk, Mary Whyatt, Frank Ford, Brian Brown. Third (row?, row not actually written), Paul Deny... (last letters obscured), Sandra Chapman (ditto), Celia Barnett."

Diving off that high diving board was quite a dare. But the fun stopped after it was taken away, apparently after somebody got injured diving off it.

The pool at Newtown had been made possible by a legacy of £1,500 from the late Miss Amy Onions and was officially opened by her niece, one Miss J.F. Onions.


It was an Olympic-sized 50 metre pool and it was Market Drayton's proud boast that it was the finest of its type in the Midlands. It attracted visitors from far and wide, particularly, of course, on hot summer days.

However, time moves on, and although the pool was modernised with a new filtration system making the swimming experience rather less basic, having a pool that was closed eight months a year was not considered to make economic sense. In its final period it was running at an annual loss of £75,000.

It closed after many decades of service on September 4, 1994 and a brand new 25-metre indoor pool - half its size, then - replaced it.

This new £1.75 million indoor swimming pool and sports complex on the site was officially opened on November 16, 1995, with special guest Nick Gillingham, a double Olympic swimming medallist, unveiling a plaque, although the complex had in fact already been open for a month, during which it attracted 10,700 visitors.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.


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