DRUNKEN bathers, naturist swimmers and escaped goldfish in the water – just some of the memories of 50 years of fun at Spenborough Pool, which has now closed. Tony Earnshaw reports
When it opened in 1969 Spenborough Pool was considered the creme de la creme – a splendid new facility to usher local sport and leisure into the 1970s.
Fifty years on and the much-loved complex, on Bradford Road in Liversedge, is to be demolished to make way for a £15m new-build that reflects 21st century health and fitness.
The forthcoming Spen Valley Leisure Centre is the first major leisure infrastructure in the north of Kirklees for decades and is due to open in September 2021.
For long-serving pool staff it’s a time of change tinged with sadness. Yet the overwhelming feeling is of pride for a job well done combined with memories of time spent building a genuine community.
Two days before the 33-metre-long pool closed to the public, staff gathered to look back over the years.
For lifeguards David Atkinson and Sue Lane that means a combined service of 75 years.
Customer advisor Janet Barraclough jokily refers to herself as “the new poolie” even though she’s been on site for almost a quarter of a century.
Officially opened by the Duchess of Kent, Spenborough Pool – or Spenborough Baths to some – became a magnet for those used to cramped and old-fashioned facilities.
“It was quite a big thing back in the day,” recalls David, who joined the staff in 1979 aged just 16.
“The old baths had cubicles at the side of the pool. That’s how it was. When they were pulled down to make this it was the creme de la creme.”
David, 56, learned to swim at Spenborough “as a kiddie”.
He arrived as a locker room attendant – “the only job at the time” – and decided to stick it out.
Soon he was teaching swimming as an instructor. Like colleagues he worked as a supervisor, in the sauna and at the track.
“I like people and I enjoy the job so I just did everything. Everybody mucked in. You did it all.”
His comments are echoed by colleague Sue, 51.
“My grandmother used to bring me here every week. She taught me to swim. I joined Dewsbury Dolphins Swimming Club. I enjoyed that so much that I joined the Borough of Kirklees (now the Swimming Academy). My love of swimming began at Spenborough Baths.”
Janet, 61, recalls walking all the way from her home in Mirfield as a 10-year-old to swim at Spenborough.
“You could come for the day then, turn up at 9am and leave at 5pm. We’d have some chips and sauce, go back in and then go home.”
Invariably there have been moments that stick in the mind, some dramatic, some less so. “We’ve never had a proper drama,” says David. “I have done four resuscitations. And people have had epileptic fits in the pool.”
He added: “Some stuff that people do is unbelievable. A guy had been to the pub. He was with his mates. He stripped off, naked, on the balcony and jumped straight into the water.
“We had to get the police to get him out.
“On another occasion we had a guy who brought in a goldfish in his pants. It was inside a little bag.
“He got in the pool and let it out and the fish was off. We caught it but the chlorine in the pool was no good for it and so sadly it didn’t last.”
The demolition is expected to take until February 2020. The new centre will have an eight-lane 25m pool as well as a secondary activity pool with an adjustable floor making it shallow for children and deeper for adults.
A 600sqm gym, exercise studios and changing rooms as well as the pools will be under one roof.
With a smaller staff team required it means David and Sue will be looking for new roles during the construction of the new building.
And whilst there is
sadness and a sense of closure, there is recognition that all good things come to an end.
“It’s an old building and it’s past its prime,” says David. “The new building is what the community deserves.”