For decades the people of York used the same area of the River Foss for swimming and cooling down during the hot summer months. Simon Luck, Manager of Yearsley Swimming Pool, tells the history of the pool...
The very first swimming facility in York, called Yearsley Bath, was opened on 19 September 1859 and was actually situated in the River Foss, downstream from Yearsley Bridge and the Fever Hospital. It was about 100 yards long and had a brick bottom, with wire netting stretching across the river at either end. Stone steps led down into the water from the riverbank, complete with an iron handrail.
Two wooden huts were used as changing rooms. The current Yearsley Swimming Pool was built in 1908 by Rowntree and Company Ltd and gifted by deed to the citizens of the city of York on 4 May 1909. The cost of building the new pool was close to £3,000 and it held 226,890 gallons of water. The inside measurements were 144 feet long by 51 feet wide, 3 feet deep at the shallow end and 6 feet 9 inches at the deep end. Since its original opening, and to this day, Yearsley Pool has maintained a close relationship with The Rowntree factory, now Nestlé UK Ltd. The pool still relies on the goodwill of Nestlé to provide car parking facilities at the side of the building.
Over its long history many pool improvements have been made, however, some of the existing Edwardian features still remain giving the pool character even to this day. In 1949 a water filtration plant was added at the rear of the building. Between 1964 and 1965 the pool tank was enclosed for the first time when a roof was added.
In 2007 over £1.1million was spent on improving the facility - the pool closed for 4 months for a major repair and refurbishment programme. The improvements maintain the character and features of the old Edwardian pool whilst giving the pool a new lease of life for the future. The improvements replaced the roof, plant room and modernised the showering and toilet facilities whilst also making the building more accessible.
In 2012 the pool closed for 3 weeks over Christmas and during this time a new gas boiler plant was added to provide heat to the pool, pool hall and showers which replaced an old steam supply that had previously been used to heat the pool.
Over the years the pool has maintained an enduring appeal and has always been held in great affection by the generations that have been privileged to swim here. The pool is currently used by around 12,000 visitors per month and continues to be used by people young and old - those who are learning to swim for the first time right through to competition swimmers (many of whom have reached world and Olympic standard).
Yearsley Pool is part of York's proud heritage and remains the only Edwardian 50-yard pool in the north of England.