Millwall Park Open-Air Swimming Pool

In the 1970s, the view from Stebondale St. over Millwall Park and the Mudchute looked like this.

Photo: Peter Wright

30 years previously the view looked like this (photo by Mrs. Smith and the Island History Trust Collection), taken from the upstairs rear window of a house in Stebondale Street. The large construction in the foreground is Millwall Park open-air swimming pool. Just visible between it and the Mudchute is the roof of the rope-walk.

The pool was built by Poplar Borough Council, and opened in 1925, having cost £10,495. It was 150ft by 60ft and it stood within a walled enclosure 200ft long and 90ft wide, which also contained forty dressing boxes, nine dressing shelters and a number of ancillary buildings.

The rear of houses in Stebondale St, with Christ Church in the background.

On completion the pool was handed over to the LCC, which was responsible for its administration and finance, the costs being shared equally by the two Councils. A filtration plant was installed in 1930 and charges for bathers were subsequently introduced; until then admission had been free.

The following three photos are courtesy of the Sale Family – the late Frank Herbert Sale is standing on the diving board in the first photo.


In the following photo, the Builder’s Arms is visible in the background. The pub, at 99 Stebondale St. was damaged beyond repair during WWII.

Photo: Island History Trust Collection / G. Thurgar

During the first night of the Blitz, the bombing which destroyed most of the houses in Stebondale St. also damaged the swimming pool.

Photo courtesy of David Lloyd. c1960

The shored up swimming pool would remain in place until the 1960s, when it was demolished to make room for a One O’Clock club and a short-lived adventure playground.

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2 Responses to Millwall Park Open-Air Swimming Pool

  1. Lorane says:

    What a strange coincidence! I have just started reading Poplar Memories by John Hector and his book mentions an open air swimming pool on the Isle of Dogs. I thought it was a mistake until I asked around. My husband remembers it as a ‘playground’ after sustaining WWII damage. I asked my Mum and she confirmed it as a working pool. I thought the only open air swimming pool was Victoria Park Lido…..and now you have written about it and published photos. Amazing that no-one had ever mentioned it before and now I read about it twice!

    On reading the book it appears that there were more facilities for the local people in the 20s and 30s than in the 60s.

  2. Harry Sprackling says:

    Hi. This was a favourite place for us to kids to play in the late 1940s. There was a big bomb hole almost in the middle of the pool and when it rained it became a small paddling pool. The cubicles were very good for hiding. After coming from the pool we could explore the old pub very near the gates just before it got demolished. It was also very easy to get into the creek of the mudshoot and catch our newts and tadpoles which were in an abundance in the warmer months. About the same time as they decided to demolish the pool it was turned into a couple of hard court football pitches known locally as “The Rec”. That was the time of all the prefabs being built in that area. It was a very safe area then with no problem with us kids visiting each other after dark. A great place to grow up.

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