Matlock Lido closed its doors for the last time on Sunday.
The facility, which has been in business for 73 years, is being replaced by the brand-new state-of-the-art facility, Arc Leisure Matlock, which opens on August 24.
The Lido opened back in May 1938 in a blaze of publicity with local newspapers reporting it as “the most important day in the history of Matlock as a health and pleasure resort.”
Its location was initially controversial because it involved the loss of a small park, the Imperial Gardens, in the town centre. The council pressed ahead, however, and at a cost of £12,000 the Lido opened on schedule.
The official opening programme emphasised the luxury and comfort – a constant water temperature of 72 degrees, a main pool – unusually large – 125 ft long and 50 ft wide, with a shallow end of 2ft 6ins to a deep end of 9ft 6ins and painted pale green to give the impression of swimming in the sea. There was capacity for 500 bathers.
The Lido boasted extensive sun-bathing terraces and spectator seating. In the evenings the entire building was floodlit for entertainments which included keep-fit classes, swimming galas, fashion parades and indoor and outdoor dances, including that quintessential 1930s activity – crooning contests.
Brigadier-General G.M. Jackson of Clay Cross Hall opened the building and the opening included a fashion parade displaying ‘the full range of 1938 bathing modes’.
After the 1939-45 war much of the success resulted from the tireless enthusiasm of the Lido’s superintendent, Jack Soppitt, who took Matlock Swimming Club to heights not scaled by clubs in much larger towns, and persuaded generations of local schoolchildren that swimming really was enjoyable.
By the summer of 1960, the Lido was attracting around 3,500 people on sunny Sundays and almost 50,000, not including school sessions, for the entire season.
In the 1970s the new owners, Derbyshire Dales District Council, decided to roof over the outdoor swimming pool. The cafe buildings which also housed the main entrance were demolished to make way for a Wilkinson’s store.
Since then major restoration work has been carried out to the pool – all indicating the Lido was reaching the end of its useful life.
n Turn to page three to find out how you can win the chance to be the first person into the new pool at The Arc and see next week’s paper for a special feature about the old lido and the new centre.