A HISTORIAN has made a splash in his attempt to highlight the importance of Swindon’s forgotten history.

Architecture historian Dr Ian Dungavell, the director of the Victorian Society, yesterday visited Swindon’s grade II-listed Health Hydro, in Milton Road, as part of a nationwide challenge.

According to Dr Dungawell there are 50 listed pools in the country and yet only 14 of them are still in use. Most are derelict.

Dr Dungawell, who comes from London, aims to swim in lengths the number of years since each of the 14 were built.

However, he was slightly concerned about the prospect of doing the 117 lengths of Swindon’s 33-metre length pool.

“It’s enormous,” he said. “But you’d never know it was open so it’s a hidden gem of Swindon.”

The Health Hydro is the largest of the 14 remaining pools and Dr Dungavell had to swim 3.8km. He managed to swim 120 lengths in 80 minutes.

“You can see I’m not an athlete, I’m just a normal swimmer,” he said.

“My parents think it’s hilarious that I would do anything sporty at all.”

Despite this, Dr Dungawell remained impressed by the history of the pool.

He said Swindon stands apart from a lot of the other pools he has visited because the council did not set it up.

The Medical Fund Society of the Great Western Railway built the pool, which opened in 1892, thanks to obligatory payments, which came out of workers’ wages.

Dr Dungavell said: “The pool’s architecture is quite plain and that does reflect its history when you think the workers of the railway paid for this from their wages over endless years.

“It’s so totally interlinked into the history of the Great Western Railway.

“In a way it was like a pre-NHS where you had to pay, but had access to the facilities.”

The NHS took over the pool in 1948, but responsibility for it was handed over to Thamesdown Council in 1986.

Dr Dungavell said pools like Swindon’s are under threat from councils who build new facilities, often leading to the closure and eventual destruction of the older pools.

“My aim is to draw attention to local authorities that have these historic pools to show that it’s an important part of Swindon history,” he said.

“The key purpose is to get people to treasure these pools because they’re an endangered species.

“We’re seeing them being pulled down all around the country.

“These facilities are important because they get people swimming and you don’t have to get in the car to get here.”

“It’s just to highlight that these pools are here and you need to use them or lose them.”

The next and final stop for Mr Dungawell will be the Dulwich Leisure Centre, in south London.

For more information about the challenge see the website www.1000yearswim.com.