Welcome to Rivacre Valley, a local nature reserve just outside Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. A pleasant patch of woodland for walking and enjoying the local wildlife. But that’s not all…
From 1934 until 1985 it was the home of the fabled Rivacre Baths. A huge outdoor swimming pool (public baths as they were then more commonly known). This was a popular attraction, bringing in folks from as far away as Liverpool!
In 1932 the scheme for an open air pool was submitted to the Ministry of Health. The original idea was to construct the pool at the bottom of the valley and use heated water from the nearby Bowater’s Paper Mill, situated along the Manchester Ship Canal. However, this was abandoned due to unsuitable topsoil. Instead, a site at the top of the valley was chosen. Many criticised this whole choice of location, due to it being too far off the beaten path.
In 1934 the tender of £11,869 for the construction was accepted by the Council. The building work was undertaken by Harry Fairclough Ltd of Warrington, according to designs by Council Engineer C.W. Davis. In August the pool was opened by Cllr George Astbury, Chairman of Parks & Cemeteries before massive crowds.
Christened “The pool in the Garden”. Maureen Dodd (age 10) is the first person to jump off the diving board, followed by a swimming gala and mannequin parade. In it’s first month of opening, 36,000 people were admitted. The council decided to keep it open all year long, due to it’s massive popularity. For decades the baths were a major attraction, and many people still talk about them to this day. But it was not to last forever…
Due to the advent of indoor swimming facilities in the area, Rivacre Baths gradually fell out of favour. The Council looked into converting the site into a lesiure and recreation area, but no money was found to support this proposal. The baths were closed in 1981, and demolished and filled-in in 1985.
Visiting the site today, unless you were told about this, you’d never know how much of an attraction the place used to be. This is the car park of the Nature Reserve, it stands to the west of the old baths, as seen on the map on the previous image.
This road seems to have been resurfaced at least once, before being partially covered with earth to form a narrow footpath. This used to be where the entrance to the old baths car park stood.
This was the car park. Rather small for a popular attraction, but when it opened in the ’30s I expect most visitors arrived by bus or on foot.
This clearing is where a large part of the pool stood, although it would have extended beneath the trees in the middle of the clearing as well. A large artificial embankment has been constructed between this clearing and the modern housing estate on Poole Town Road beyond. It’s possible this embankment was created using left over fill from the demolition.
This park bench lies in the middle of the clearing, in memory of Sir George Astbury, English Justice of the Peace, of Backford, Chester. And Lady Harriet Astbury.
Another view of the clearing where the pool once lay.
A pathway runs through the trees to the rear. Beyond here, the land suddenly falls away from this flat space, perhaps marking the edge of the site of the baths.
Local history is all around us. I’ve lived on the edge of Rivacre Valley all my life, although I was born just before the baths were destroyed. I used to listen to the older generation talk about how great the baths were, and yet I’d never found any trace of it in the valley itself. Once I found the old map in the GIF I was able to create the overlay and find where the baths once stood. All in all, a fun little adventure and a fine way to spend an afternoon.