The oldest open air pool in Britain?

In 1875 Lady Arthur Russell had a swimming pool built in the middle of Shere so that her six sons could learn to swim. Later she presented it to the village so that the local boys and girls could also learn to swim. Members of the Russell family still live just outside Shere. In 1899 the pool was handed over to the Parish Council which continues to be responsible for it to the present day. It was then used as a public pool, said to be the first public open air pool in Britain.

In 1954 it was greatly modernised with filtration and a new surround. It also acquired a lifeguard. It continued to be a popular venue, not only for recreation but also helping hundreds of children and adults to learn to swim. Unfortunately by the late eighties the Parish Council found the pool increasingly difficult to run and finance and a lifeguard proved impossible to find. It looked as if the pool would have to close. The village rallied round and raised a considerable sum of money but not nearly enough to run the pool and employ a lifeguard.

In 1989 a local resident, Margaret Ellenger, got together a team of people to save the pool and much hard work was done to replace aged equipment and clean everything up. A lease of the pool was negotiated with the Shere Parish Council. A public pool must have a lifeguard in attendance but this would have be an impossible financial burden so it was decided to operate as a private club. Shere Swimming Pool Club was formed. The Club is non-profit making and charges the lowest practicable subscription so as to remain accessible to all in keeping with Lady Russell's intentions. There is currently a membership in excess of 800 (members and families). The members are welcome to bring guests for a nominal fee. An elected Committee run the Club and all routine maintenance is carried out on a voluntary basis.

Shere Swimming Pool Club has proved immensly popular with a large mainly local membership and also some from further afield. The membership is nearly always full with a waiting list and so the pool is enjoyed by very many people throughout the season from May until the end of September. It is a unique and much loved asset to the Parish of Shere.

Chris Osborn
October 1996