A HISTORY expert is taking the plunge at one of Swindon’s architectural gems.

Dr Ian Dungawell, director of the Victorian Society, will visit Swindon’s grade II listed Health Hydro as part of his national challenge to highlight the importance of historic public swimming pools.

Dr Dungawell has pledged to visit each of England’s listed Victorian and Edwardian public pools and swim a length for every year the buildings have been standing.

And in the Health Hydro he will be facing his toughest challenge of the summer.

The Swindon institution, which was opened in 1892 by the Great Western Railway’s medical fund, has a 33-metre-long pool, which will require Dr Dungavell to swim 3.8km, if he is to complete his task.

“I’m delighted to be visiting Swindon’s Health Hydro,” said Dr Dungavell.

“An unusual and impressive building, the pool is a great example of the role Victorian pools ca n play in the 21stcentury.

“We congratulate Swindon Council on keeping this important piece of living history going and hope that what has been achieved here will encourage other councils around the country to save and cherish their historic pools.”

The Hydro was originally a co-operative, with workers paying contributions in return for free treatment when they needed it.

It meant that workers had access to a range of health services including doctors, dentists, pharmacists, a blood donor service, psychologists and opticians.

In fact, the range of services offered at the time was so revolutionary that the centre was visited by Nye Bevan and William Beveridge, architects of the National Health Service, in 1945.

The NHS took over the centre in 1948 and it was used by family doctors.

In 1986 Thamesdown Council took it over and plunged a huge £1m into a grand refurbishment.

When it re-opened the centre boasted new facilities including a natural health clinic, a well woman centre and a health suite, itself full of hi-tech fitness equipment.

Dr Dungavell’s challenge, which began at Bramley Baths in Leeds on July 24, will take in 14 pools in all.

Swimming a total of 1543 laps at 14 pools over the summer, he will cover a distance more than equivalent to crossing the Dover Strait of the English Channel.

Dr Dungavell will be at Swindon Health Hydro from 3.30pm on Wednesday.

For more information about the 1000 Year Swim, call 020 8747 5897.