When Alexandra Park in Moss Side opened in 1870 in was paid for by Manchester City Council, but situated in the township of Withington, this led to some tension between the Councillors of Manchester as some of them did not agree with investment in this park. Whether that influenced the delay in the park getting an outdoor pool is not clear, but in the Park Keepers handbook of 1915 there is already a lido in Heaton Park. Heaton Park only opened in 1902. The lido was for men and boys only.

On 24th July 1872 there a letter to the Manchester Evening News requesting that boys should be allowed to swim in the lake between 6am and 8am. Another letter followed the next day, stating that boys were swimming in the “filthy water”. This resulted in another 2 letters, one of which deployed the lack of facilities for swimming and the other expressed concern that women’s lives were being lost as there was no provision for female swimmers.

It was not until 1930 that a lido was built on the site of what had been the “Boy’s Gymnasium”. Boys and Girls had had separate gymnasia and these were both moved to the north oval. A beech hedges had been planted round the gymnasia and these were now thick and large and provided a screen. The remains of the edge are now a line of mature beech trees still present in the park.


Wooden changing huts were built. Men and boys had the pool for 4 days a week and women for 2 days. A report in the Manchester Guardian in 1931 noted that new changing huts were to be built in for 60 women and girls to allow for mixed bathing. Mixed bathing has been allowed in some parks but only on Sunday morning. In a report to the parks committee of 1931 it was noted that there was a delay in building the bathing shelter for the women. There was also a letter of complaint stating that introducing mixed bathing into the parks was leading too many swimmers and there was hardly room to swim. According to a Guardian report there was mixed bathing, 6 days a week in all Manchester’s 8 lidos


Though very popular for many years, outdoor swimming in the parks declined through a combination of fear of polio, which was a water borne disease, the high maintenance cost of protecting the water from contamination, broken glass and changing fashions. Sadly we have no photos of the lido at Alexandra Park but it is clearly shown on the 1935 Ordinance Survey map, though missing from subsequent ones.  There is a letter to the Guardian which refers to the lido in 1939

The lido may have closed sometime in the early 1950’s, which seems to be confirmed by Tony Oliver, who with his three brothers, was always playing in the park.   Tony recalls:

“My older brothers would make me wait in the wooden huts whilst they swam”.

But his most vivid memories are of after the pool closed. The brothers used the empty pool as a football pitch.

“One day we arrived as usual and headed straight there. We jumped in only to land in sludge. I lost a shoe and one brother lost a wellington. It’s a good job we were wearing shorts as we had to run home and clean ourselves up and try and hide the mess from our Mother“.


NB –Tony Oliver also supplied the photo of the changing huts and while he cannot be sure these are the ones from Alexandra park, they are identical to the huts he remembers from his childhood.


Article written by Angela Downing of the Friends of Alexandra Park