By News Reporters
In the summer of this year members of UCLH’s sport and social Club in Gower Street who turned up to swim in the club’s pool were disappointed to find it closed because of maintenance problems.
In the autumn news emerged that the much-loved swimming pool at the 52 Club was to be closed permanently. At the same the club announced to users of the gym and sports facilities that there would be no showering facilities for six weeks while the changing rooms were upgraded. Despite being only three lanes and 18 metres long the pool was very popular many people took swimming lessons there.
Residents at a liaison meeting in November were told by representatives of UCLH that the cost of repairing the pool would be around £1,000,000 and that this was not a price they were prepared to pay. The residents at the meeting, some of them associate members of the 52 Club, argued that the swimming pool provided much needed recreation for hospital workers and provided an important preventative health service. Residents asked why when UCLH had so much unused property and land in Fitzrovia that they couldn’t find the funds to refurbish a pool that was very much part of the life of the sports club.
UCLH’s representatives said the decision had been taken to close the swimming pool after careful consideration but stressed that the current refurbishment of the changing rooms due to be completed by the end of the year would be welcomed by all users.
In a letter to Fitzrovia News, in September Ann Goodburn a member of the 52 Club had written:
This wonderful building should not be closed but should become a listed building and maintained for use. The 52 Club enjoys a membership of 1500. It offers a range of facilities to the NHS Trusts in the area and to the residents of Fitzrovia. It is run by a team of really friendly staff.
In 1974, when the Board of Governors of UCH acquired the lease of Bonham Carter House the opportunity arose to provide all the staff with unrivalled facilities for a Sports and Social Club.
This was possible because the previous owners of the building, Bourne and Hollingsworth of Oxford Street, had in the 1920s designed and built it for their live-in staff, a residence which was unique for staff welfare. The recreational facilities included a swimming pool, various games rooms in the basement, a ballroom and library.
Investment over more recent years has maintained its art deco character.
In the early 1990s the collapse of part of the ceiling of the swimming pool led to an expensive programme of repairs. The resulting 1920s style pool with polished metal and new lighting proved well worth while. The BBC have used it for fashion shows and legend has it that a scene from Dr Who was once shot in the pool. In 2005, the newly tiled pool was complimented by new saunas.
I am sure I shall not be the only person who will miss this great facility in Fitzrovia and hope the Management Committee and Trustees of UCLH Charity are successful in securing the necessary funding to repair this great asset to our community.