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Thames Lido, Reading
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Thames Lido, Reading
Built in 1902, the Reading Lido had stood derelict for 40 years on its side beside the Thames in Reading Kings Meadow, a large open park in central Reading.
Like the Clifton Lido before it, the building required substantial refurbishment, much of the existing roof timberwork and a fair bit of the brickwork being seriously damaged by years of water ingress.
Planning and Listed building applications were dealt with quickly and supportively by Reading Borough Council and work on repairs began in winter 2014. The repairs are now complete and work is proceeding on the construction of new fabric to accommodate a restaurant, pool facilities and a spa. These are housed partly within the existing building and partly in a new building to the west, an extension afforded by the removal from the flood plain of the existing land extremely unlovely playing fields changing rooms. A replacement building, outside the flood plain is nearing completion next to Napier Road, a rather more suitable and convenient location next to the car park.
Thames Lido itself has a new dedicated car park from which a newly planted avenue of trees leads to the restored octagon entrance. Like the Clifton Lido, the spa thus has its own entrance and reception, the restaurant and function room being separately accessed from Kings Meadow Road to the West.
Also like the Clifton Lido, the existing building is entirely screened from the outside by a surrounding wall; it was originally the Ladies Swimming Bath. Inside the wall, the pool was surrounded by open roof spaces which are being adapted to the new Lido uses, some of it enclosed, while traditional poolside changing rooms remain open although covered by the monopitch roof which surrounds the pool. Although preserving the sense of enclosure, the new arrangement will afford glimpses of the interior to boaters passing through the lock, and through the new glazed entrance on the west side.
During the repair, the newly enclosed areas have been insulated and the north and west side enveloped in new construction. All rainwater is collected in large below ground tanks thus greatly reducing water usage and costs. The building has been completely re-roofed as has the tiled south range; behind its parapet wall a south facing slope has a large evacuated tube solar thermal array to help reduce energy use and costs.
Works to the basement are nearly (July 2016) complete and the new west wing should be complete early in 2017. Many of the lessons learned from Clifton have informed discussions made in Reading although the building and the setting are very different. Clifton Lido is set in the heart of an affluent densely populated urban area, while Kings Meadow Baths stands by the Thames in an open park in a less affluent town, albeit one surrounded by towns and villages of spectacular affluence and handy for Heathrow Airport and courtesy of Crossrail and a half hour journey to Paddington.
Everyone hopes that the restoration of this delightful and ideosyncratic building can secure its future for many years to come.