Cleveland Pools, where generations of children learned to swim alfresco in grand surroundings, has been awarded a multimillion-pound grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The pool complex opened in 1815, the year of the Battle of Waterloo, following the passing of an act that prohibited nude bathing in the Avon.
Laid out in the shape of a miniature Georgian crescent, the site includes bathing pools, changing rooms and a cottage where the supervisor used to live.
The complex is one of only a small number of pre-Victorian sporting centres to survive, and it is believed that the Cleveland Pools could be the oldest swimming baths of its type in western Europe.
In 1978 the site closed to the public and was briefly used as a trout farm.
It has since deteriorated but, although on English Heritage’s register Heritage at Risk, the main features remain intact.
The restoration project, which is being led by a community group, the Cleveland Pools Trust, will conserve the Georgian features and upgrade the facilities to allow for year-round swimming. When complete, the site will include a 25-metre swimming pool, children’s splash area, pavilion and cafe. There are also plans to reinstate a pontoon so that the pools can be reached by boat.
The former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies, who has been a long-time supporter of the project, said: “This is such good news. After hard work and sheer perseverance by the trust and its advisers, it’s looking like we will have a magnificent and unique pool in Bath that we can all enjoy for a proper outdoor swim.”
The HLF grant will cover 85% of the total costs. The Cleveland Pools Trust is now looking to secure the remaining money and is hoping that the public will be moved to donate to make the project a reality.
The HLF is providing Cleveland Pools Trust with a development grant of £366,200 and has earmarked funding of £4.1m for the restoration.