St Anne’s Baths – a Family Outing

It’s the place I miss the most in St Annes; the one place I want to go to – but can’t.

The St Anne’s open air baths was the best place to go to on a hot, sunny day; several generations of my family can attest to that.

It was build in 1916, mid WW1 and must have been a welcome respite to the horrors of that time. It closed in 1989, having given over 70 years of service. It is a loss felt by many. 

My family photo box has a newspaper clipping of the baths as I remember them; angled from the flat concreted paved sunbathing area. I remember my mum whacking on the Ambre Solaire and toasting herself.

I can picture being in the changing room cubicles, as if it was yesterday. 

I recall that the shallow areas were pretty busy on a hot day but the pool itself seemed huge and could fit a good many people in. It was bright, painted white and blue. At the conservatory type cafe, you could buy ice creams. Going there was just the best day out.

On one occasion, however, it wasn’t so wonderful for me. I must have been around the age of 3. Looking at all the swimmers and their effortless strokes, I decided I would give it a go. Walking away from my mum, into deeper water, I believed magically that I would be able to swim. 

The floor of the pool slanted down, I can still remember the granular texture of the painted concrete on the soles of my feet as I inched downwards. 

I slipped. Suddenly I was into the deeper bit, unable to get my footing. My head was underwater and I could only see bubbles and blue as I thrashed away, helplessly. 

 

This seemed to go on for an eternity until I was hauled by a strong arm, into the air, spluttering. 

A life guard had seen my struggles, difficult as it must have been, with many children splashing about. I was returned to my mum.

Since this, swimming underwater has never been comfortable for me; in fact, I swim like a cat in the water, with my head as far out of it as possible.

It felt like it was a small unnoticed thing at the time, but my life was saved by that eagle-eyed young man. If you’re still around – I owe you a huge thank you!

My nan also brought me to the baths with her sometimes. She adored the place. As a child, she was a competitive swimmer and swam at the baths regularly, possibly even daily. She told me how she liked to dive off the high board. It looked scary to me so I was impressed by my plucky nan.

Her name was Jean Saxon. In my family photo box is a clipping from the Lytham St Annes Gazette with a picture of her in the St Anne’s Council School swimming team, after winning a competition at Lytham Baths. Jean is standing on the LHS. I believe this was around 1926.

I wonder if any of the other girls are recognisable to other locals? Hilda Morris, Marion Wilkinson, Cissie Entwistle. 

When Jean Saxon grew up and married, she went to the baths with her husband, Roy and daughter, Toni. 

Jean and Toni are photographed at the baths in 1938. Some people look quite dressed up to be out for the day in a swimming pool!

These last few years has seen some scorching summer temperatures and this seems set to continue. With this, I expect that I am not the only one who laments the passing of the wonderful St Anne’s Baths. 

By Debra Preston Helle

Leave a Reply