OUR photograph this week shows Salisbury’s first public swimming bath which stood behind the Bishops Mill off Fisherton Street where it was known as the “ha’penny baths”.

The idea of a pool was first suggested at the council chambers in 1868 where the estimated cost of constructing a pool 90ft long by 30ft to 40ft wide was to be no more than £200.

This would be an open air pool, the water coming through a hatch from the Mill stream and into the main bath which would also have dressing boxes down one side and “walk around” planking on the other.

Mr Bothams of the Baths Committee suggested that the scheme might be carried out under the Baths and Wash-houses Act, which gave them the power of renting or buying land for the purpose of carrying out the scheme.

The pool was finally built and included a springboard and diving stage – it attracted a strong swimming club who staged some fine galas and water polo matches.

Our photograph shows one such contest with a cup being presented by Bishop Wordsworth.

The pool was leased every season for many years to Harry Conram who lived in Castle Street. He encouraged children to do most of the work involved with the maintenance, their reward being free swims.

When this bath was closed, we had another unheated open air pool further up the stream.

This was adjacent to the coach park and I believe that at first, water was taken from the stream to fill this too. But when the stream became polluted, water from the city mains was used and in time a heating system was installed.

When this bath closed it also brought to an end the “Seven Thirty Club”, a group of men and women who by special arrangement, swam every morning before breakfast.

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