Described as one of the most unusual and pleasingly designed lidos of the era, the Jubilee Pool was designed in the early 1930s by Captain F Latham, the Borough Engineer. The pool was opened with great celebration in May 1935, the year of King George V’s Silver Jubilee.
The Pool was built upon a traditional bathing spot at the Battery Rocks near the harbour at Penzance. Cleverly designed to cope with the full ferocity of the Cornish seas, The pool is triangular in shape yet with gentle curves, making it a most pleasant environment.
A guide book from 1938 tells us that: “In many respects the design is unique architecturally, partly from a point of view of necessity in conforming with existing conditions of wave elements and rocks which controlled the outline. Streamlines have been used to the greatest advantage in meeting the direction of the storm waves, while a Cubist style has been adopted in the interior in providing diving platforms and steps… The whole pool is surrounded by high streamlined sea walls terraced up within the interior so as to give aspect and effect. They also serve to strengthen the structure.” These walls also protect swimmers from strong, offshore winds and form terraces for spectators.
The pool was a popular amenity for over 50 years. However, by 1992 the pool had become dilapidated to the extent that its future operation was in doubt. But fortunately a retired local architect, John Clarke, who recognised the pool’s importance came to the rescue. He was alarmed when a proposal to build a copper coloured pyramid structure over the pool was suggested. He formed The Jubilee Pool Association with other local supporters, and thanks to his direct input the pool was listed. In the following two years, John and members of the JPA worked voluntarily with Penwith District Council to secure essential grant funding to contribute to the pool’s restoration over two phases. In 1994, after essential restructural works, the pool reopened to much acclaim, and the jubilant scenes witnessed when the pool first opened in 1935 were repeated some 60 years later.
Since 1994 the Friends kept a watchful eye on the pool, continued to keep it in the public eye and helped ensure it received the vital funding it required to remain open. In recent years Cornwall Council have recognised its importance as a local amenity and national heritage asset.
The storms of February 2014.
In February 2014, severe storms hit Cornwall and the pool suffered serious structural damage. The Friends immediately began campaigning to ensure repairs were made to the pool. They persuaded local stakeholders to support the repair and restoration of this much loved building, with the overwhelming backing of the wider community. Cornwall Council and local councillors were thankfully also very supportive and as a result an application for government funding via the Coastal Communities programme was prepared by Cornwall Council. By this stage however other serious structural issues were identified, and it became clear that the pool required significant investment if it were to survive. Pending the outcome of the grant application Jubilee Pool remained closed throughout the summer of 2014.
Funding and repair
In August 2014, The Coastal Communities Fund granted Cornwall Council £1.95m as a part of a repair and restoration project totalling £2.94m. Match funding was provided by Cornwall Council, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership’s Regional Growth Fund, Tempus Leisure, Penzance Town Council and The Friends of Jubilee Pool. Cormac were awarded the contract to repair and refurbish Jubilee Pool.
The project consisted of the following elements:
Anchoring the pool floor to the rock bed
Repairs to external walls and structure
Stabilisation and repairs to terraces and changing rooms
Replacement of paving and hand rails
Upgrading the pool drainage and electrical systems
These works were completed in May 2016, and Jubilee Pool opened its doors again having been closed to the public for two seasons. Over 40,000 visitors passed through the turnstiles during the 2017 season, and once again Jubilee Pool became the jewel in Penzance's crown.
In February 2017 Jubilee Pool was transferred into community ownership through a new Community Benefit Society established by the Friends of Jubilee Pool.
This new organisation will operate the pool café as a social enterprise with all profits from its activities contributing towards the future operation of the pool.
“The transfer of Jubilee Pool is a great example of devolution in action. Devolution at its most worthwhile is about finding the best long term local custodians of an asset, in this case a pool that is valued and used by the local community. I applaud the Friends of Jubilee Pool for taking up the challenge.”
Cllr Adam Paynter, Cornwall Council.