Main contractor Beard has to ship all machinery, materials and plant for the £6.5m job by barge as access to Cleveland Pools is by river.
Cleveland Pools is the UK’s oldest surviving public outdoor swimming pool, built in 1815. The Pools have not been used since the mid-1980s and the building was on English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk register.
The site is described as ‘a hidden gem – so hidden that many residents of Bath itself still don’t know it exists’. It is accessed only via a quiet cul de sac and a narrow path, tucked alongside the river Avon (which originally fed the two pools). For Beard, this means using the river is the only option.
The restoration works follows a 17-year community campaign led by the Cleveland Pools Trust.
Machinery, building materials and equipment required to carry out work on site will have to be loaded up at the nearby Avon Rugby Club, which is being used as a base, and carried up-river on a pontoon pushed by a barge fitted out for the purpose.
Among the work to be carried out is the restoration of two pools – the crescent-shaped main pool for adults and a smaller, shallower pool for children. There will also be refurbishment of the largely unaltered Grade II* listed buildings, the central cottage upgraded to be used as a main entrance and pay point, with the first floor to become a caretaker’s flat.
Work is due to be completed in time for swimmers to return next summer, for the first time since 1984 and will be accessible for all, both physically and financially.
Beard project manager Mark Tregelles said there have been some unusual logistical challenges in terms of accessing the site and starting the job.
He said: “We recognise how culturally significant this development is for the community, and wider region, not only as a Grade II* listed building but also as a space for the community to use and enjoy when it’s complete. We are working closely with the Cleveland Pools Trust to realise their vision to make it an accessible and fun place to be for all users, and also to reflect the rich history behind the nationally important site.
“But it is certainly a different prospect for Beard as we’ve had to do a lot of work in preparation to establish a base down river at Avon Rugby Club, which we will use as a loading site to get everything we need onto the barge and sailed up to the site.
“There can’t be many building projects today which require access by boat. So, we’re pleased to be starting after months of planning, and to draw on years of experience working on culturally important buildings to ensure delivery on time for the community.”
The project was supposed to have started in March 2020 but was delayed when the covid pandemic struck. This is also increased costs.
The Cleveland Pools Trust has found funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Department of Culture Media and Sport, the local council, Historic England and public donations. The overall project costs for the period 2019 to 2025 are now just over the £8m mark with the Trust needing to raise a further £400,000 over the next 18 months to deliver all outcomes.