Before and after the second world war, the city had no indoor swimming pool for public use. The outdoor pools at Mount Wise and Tinside were popular on warm summer days but too cold for much of the year.   

In 1960, the Parks and Recreation Committee recommended that the City Engineer and City Architect should be directed to draw up plans for an indoor pool in Central Park.  This was endorsed at a Council meeting held Monday, 2nd January 1961 with 29 votes in favour and 28 against.  One councillor, Graham Jinks, who would have voted against the proposal was in hospital with influenza and his reaction was reported by the Evening Herald: “I think a pool of the proportions Plymouth wants would be a white elephant if it was at Central Park.  It is too far from where the existing amenities are.”

The alternative site under consideration was Drake’s Reservoir on North Hill.  The main objections to it were traffic volumes and lack of parking, but many councillors thought a lot of income would be lost if the pool was not in a central position.

By the end of 1962 a site had been selected on the avenue leading from Central Park’s main entrance at Milehouse. 

The Independent 11th November 1962 (The Box accession reference 2732/19)

Plans and an architect’s model were presented to the Parks and Recreation Committee at the beginning of 1963.  Construction began later that year on the first phase which did not include the planned diving pool or teaching pool. 

Evening Herald photo 1963 (The Box accession reference 2732/20)

This photograph shows the framework for the first phase of building which did not include the tall flat roof on the right where the diving pool was to be situated.

Western Morning News 18th January 1964 (The Box accession reference 2732/21)

More photographs of the pool being built and newly completed are in a photograph album kept in The Box’s records under accession reference 1550/19. 

The pool was opened to the public on Saturday, 8th May 1965 with the official opening by Dennis Howell, MP, Joint Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of Education and Science taking place on Friday, 18th June 1965.

The newly opened swimming pool (The Box accession reference 3488/6063)

The building was extended to incorporate a diving pool and teaching pool in 1982; the 17-year delay being due to funding shortages.

The swimming pool was demolished in 2012 after the Life Centre opened.  The work was held up by a few months after a swift’s nest was found on one of the walls.  The rubble was used to form a level area above Wills Field where events such as fairs and circuses could take place and this is now known as the Events Field.

The swimming pool being demolished in 2012 (Andrew Young)

From its inception in 1960, it was clear that the swimming pool would be the first development of a much more ambitious plan to establish a sporting centre in Central Park.