Winton Forum


Stokewood Road Baths

Opened in 1930 and originally known as the Northwood Estate Swimming Baths, the Stokewood Road baths cost the corporation £40,000 to build and have been the place were countless local children and adults learned to swim.

Unlike the old seafront baths which were demolished to make way for Imax, Stokewood Road was filled with fresh rather than sea water. Heating came from the borough incinerator which was in an adjoining building.

The main pool was 25 yards long and 12 yards wide, with the deep end featuring diving boards ranging from one metre to five metres high. Fifty wooden cubicles were provided for swimmers to change in, and there was also a tiered balcony for spectators.

Bath time

At a time when many houses still did not have properly plumbed in baths, swimming baths often offered the kind of soak we now expect at home.

A hot fresh water bath, complete with towel and soap, cost six old pence in 1938, and it was sixpence extra if you wanted sea water.

During the winter the pool was covered by a proper sprung wooden floor and became a dance hall. There was even a raised stage for the dance band. The space was also used for indoor bowls and boxing.

War service

At the outbreak of war in 1939 the baths were closed to the public, protected with sandbags and blast-proof doors and set up as an emergency first aid and gas decontamination centre. They were subsequently reopened in the summer of 1940 - although two days a week were set aside for the exclusive use of servicemen.

By 1942 the building's upper storey was a designated Rest Centre for aid raid victims. Along with other places such as the Embassy Hall in Brassey Road, the Winton Rec Bowls Pavilion, and several church halls and schools, it was a place that air raid victims could come to for food, clothing, shelter and help with billets if their own homes were too badly damaged to stay in. The water in the pool was regarded as an emergency water supply for the fire brigade.

Around a dozen swimmers got a nasty shock late in the afternoon of November 1, 1943, when two German bombers swooped in and bombed Charminster. A bomb hit the junction of Gerald and Heron Court Roads causing an earthquake-like shock wave to shake both the building, the water and swimmers. The baths got off lightly - nearly 700 homes were damaged in the raid, one person was killed and around 30 injured.

Changing needs

At the end of the war the baths reverted to their earlier peacetime pattern of summer swimming and indoor activities such as dances during the winter.

Times were changing though and by the mid-1950s the council decided to keep the pool open all the year round. It meant an end to Saturday night dances and homelessness for the Bournemouth Indoor Bowling Club.

The building underwent some modernisation after a disastrous fire in 1967, and was then threatened with closure following the opening of the Littledown Centre in the late 1980's. A determined local campaign kept the baths open and the council opted for a £400,000 refurbishment.

Known these days as the Stokewood Leisure Centre, it offers a variety of health and sporting activities ranging from swimming, sunbeds and saunas to aerobics, martial arts, boxing, and workouts in a fully equipped gym.

Children's Centre

The buildings are now also home to the Stokewood Chidren's Centre which aims to support parents and children through the early years. Here are some of the things it has to offer:

For more details call the centre on 01202 539591