Last year we celebrated our 50th anniversary! Roll back to the pool’s first opening in April 1962 and Portishead was half the size it is now with a population of just 10,000.
Despite chilly weather, 750 hardy souls braved the opening day, while the Lord Mayor of Bristol (Alderman Charles H Smith JP) took the ‘symbolic’ option of pouring a glass of water into the pool to declare it open – a moment we re-enacted at last year’s jubilee celebrations with the Chairman of Portishead Town Council, Cllr Arthur Terry.
Back in its heyday the pool was a roaring success counting more than 250,000 visitors in its first 2 years of operation. And that’s when the pool was a mere 21 degrees centigrade, thanks to hot water created as a by product at the local phosphorus plant and tankered in four to five times a day. Fortunately when the factory closed in 1969, an oil fired boiler was installed.
Sadly, as life moved into the 21st century, with new indoor sporting and leisure facilities, the pool suffered years of neglect and underfunding until it was finally threatened with closure in 2008.
But never daunted, local supporters fought tooth and nail to keep it open, eventually persuading the council to allow a newly formed Portishead Pool Community Trust to take over the running of the pool for the 2009 season. Even then, the Trust faced an uphill battle with much need for renovation and refurbishment, all in time for a May opening. Fortunately, help came from overseas with the arrival of Extreme Makeover’s Ty Pennington…
The history of Portishead Pool is covered more fully in a leaflet by John Birkinshaw available from Morgan Westley and down at the open air pool for only £1 with all proceeds going to the Portishead Pool Community Trust.