Glorious sunshine marked 80 years to the day that the Peterborough Lido first opened its doors, and it was only fitting that the ribbon was cut by the city’s new mayor whose father had paid to keep the swimming pool going.
In fact, Councillor David Sanders did more than just open the Lido in Bishop’s Road on his first official engagement as Mayor of Peterborough, he was even game enough to jump in with his suit on to mark the occasion.
Alongside the mayor was his predecessor as first citizen of the city, Cllr John Peach, and 80-year-old William Marriott, who looked in tremendous shape as he prepared to make it seven decades of swimming in the outdoor pool.
At least for William, jumping into the pool is a more enjoyable experience now than compared to when he was a boy.
“At that time there was no heating,” he said. “I used to go in and it was very, very cold.”
There were no such complaints this time around though.
“I love coming down, it brings back so many memories,” said William, who lives near Central Park. “I’m so fortunate to be able to come down. At that time it was a meeting place for everyone as there was no-where else to go.
“I used to come down one morning a week to learn to swim. I’ve been coming down ever since.
“I was a member of the Peterborough Swimming Club and club chairman for many years. And I swam for the county for many years. And this is where it all began.”
As expected after 80 years, there have been a few changes since William first dived into the Lido.
“I remember the café. I used to get a penny cup of OXO and a round of bread and jam for a penny,” he added. “And if you had more pennies you could get a cup of Bovril for two pennies.”
The 80th anniversary of the Lido also saw a weathervane and plaque put up in memory of Walter Cornelius, a former lifeguard at the pool and strongman who broke over 50 world records with his incredible charity challenges.
The weathervane depicts Walter, who died in 1983 at the age of just 60, trying to fly across the River Nene with homemade wings in his most famous stunt.
A campaign had been launched in support of the project to raise £5,000, and addressing the crowd which had gathered in anticipation of a free swim on the Lido’s opening day this year, his friend Chris Allen said nothing made Walter happier than a sunny day and a packed pool.
“He was the Lido in his day,” said Chris. “He was the Simon Cowell of Peterborough - not with money but with how popular he was.”
The idea for the weathervane came to Chris this time last year, and he was pleased that his friend’s presence would permanently reside at the Lido.
“He can still be lifeguarding us,” he said.
“I imagine that Walter is looking down on us now and grinning from ear-to-ear. Never a man to shun publicity, he would be so excited to see he has been honoured in this way and will happily fly over our Lido for ever.”
Cllr Sanders’ dad Neville, a former leader of Peterborough City Council, had paid to keep the Lido open for two years when it was under financial pressure, and then helped it become a listed building.
Cllr Sanders said: “It has a very special place in my heart. It’s an absolute honour that it’s my first engagement as mayor.
“The Lido is rich in history and remains an iconic landmark in the city.”
Stewart Francis, a trustee at Vivacity, which manages the Lido, opened the ceremony by telling the audience: “This is actually a very historic day. You are witness to history because it was exactly to this day 80 years ago at 2.30pm in the afternoon that the Lido opened.”
Mr Francis said back then the programme cost one penny and included a person doing “fancy swimming.”
Aside from free entry on the Lido’s opening day, a 1930s band was also brought in for the occasion.
Moreover, as part of this year’s event, Vivacity has announced it will be offering free swimming to all children under five at the Lido and at every other one of its swimming pools across the city.
The Lido will be open daily from 9am to 7pm throughout the summer.
A family ticket for four is £16.50 or £26 with food (includes a burger and a drink each).
Entry to the Lido is £5.80 for adults and £4.10 for children.
For more information call 01733 864 761 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
See more at www.vivacity-peterborough.com/lido.