For the love of jumping off the top board Written by Mark Ling, Chairman, Broomhill Trust

Published on July 16, 2023

For the love of jumping off the top board -

Dear Ipswich, How are things with you?

I can trace my family line back several centuries from East Suffolk. My great (x3) Grandfather was coxswain of the Thorpeness lifeboat, his crew is attributed to saving many in peril.

My Gt Grandparents moved from the east Suffolk coast to Ipswich in the early 1930’s. They were keen to find work, housing, and schools for their large family. My Grandad was a true Suffolk Boy, he was a raconteur, and he loved Suffolk and Ipswich. Whilst he was born in idyllic rural east Suffolk, he valued Suffolk’s urban capital and saw it as the absolute trump card in Suffolk’s pack.

My Nan’s sister, Auntie Joyce was like a 4 feet 8 inches Margaret Rutherford. Everyone knew her in town, and in later life, Ipswich Bus drivers would often pull over regardless of the location to pick her up and whisk her into town. Despite her short stature, she was a very good swimmer, teaching my dad and uncle how to swim in the County/Borough’s recently built flagship pool at Broomhill.

My dad played water polo, representing Ipswich and Suffolk. He spent much of the 1950s and early 1960s with tight trunks and quiffed hair, posing on the sun terraces at Broomhill Pool. My Mum and Dad did much of their courting at Broomhill and bought their first house at Sherrington Road opposite the pool. My brother was born in 1965 and I was born in 1969.

Many in Suffolk unfairly deride Ipswich, but in my experience, I had it all. Across the road at Broomhill Park, we played outside, all day, amongst Scots pines, oaks, sandpits, and roots. Behind the house was the “Dump” a wasteland (part of an old brickworks), levelled out in the early 1970s with soil from Civic Drive spiral car park, forming a recreational field with swings and slides. There was also Broomhill Library, a quirky building, (built as a decontamination unit for WW2), where I read all Edward Ardizzone’s “Tim” books, inspired by Ardizzone’s young life in Ipswich.

However, above all else, I yearned for Spring and the seasonal opening of Broomhill Lido.

As a kid and even now, I was struck by the enormity of Broomhill. Vast on every scale: over 50m long, 8 lanes wide, 15 feet deep, a large separate children’s pool, a grandstand for 700 people (affording views across all western Ipswich), lawns at the entrance, an art deco style buffet, and then finally the five diving boards each a metre higher. The measurements meant nothing; the sheer scale spoke for itself.

As a kid and even now, I was struck by the enormity of Broomhill. Vast on every scale: over 50m long, 8 lanes wide, 15 feet deep, a large separate children’s pool, grandstand for 700 people

Broomhill was “alive” in a multitude of senses. You could hear the pool before you got there. A mass correlation of joyous chatter and delight. Next, you could smell the pool; fresh, vivid, and inviting. Your anticipation rose as you entered the modern-style entrance and turnstiles towards the iron railings. Against a lush woodland backdrop of the park, you were hit with a powerful stark white stadium, contrasting against epic skies. Light danced and dazzled mesmerically on the turquoise blue pools … all that before you even entered the water!

The position of the lido was a natural sun trap and the sun terraces radiated heat. You would lay a towel to mark your spot, hide your Tupperware box of jam sandwiches underneath, and then begin the ceremony of entering the water. Broomhill Pool was built in 1938 as a heated outdoor pool. The water was maintained at 70F allowing extended seasonal opening. However, the boilers were requisitioned for the war effort in 1941. After that, the water was notoriously cold in the Spring. Everyone had their way to enter the water; ladies would tip-toe, arms and hands waving like Hawaiian dancers. Children would literally run straight in, and the teens would pose and then enter from the top board.

Broomhill was a social melting pot, a place to make friends for life, fall in love, relax, play in safety, and keep fit. For me and many others, it was – and is – Ipswich’s happy place.

Broomhill Pool is just one of seventeen Grade listed lidos left in the UK. It is a founder member of the Historic Pools of Britain and is widely recognised as one of the finest lidos in the country. It is also one of our town’s most iconic and loved buildings. So, when I returned to Ipswich in 2004 after a decade or more of working and travelling away, I wanted to join those campaigning and working to save this Ipswich icon. The Broomhill Pool Trust has had an epic 20+ year campaign. As a recap, the pool’s restoration was costed at £7m in 2017, funding had been guaranteed by the three stakeholders: Ipswich Borough, National Lottery Heritage Fund and Fusion Lifestyle (the operator). Works were due to commence in April 2020… just as COVID struck. A £2m+ uplift is now required to bridge the COVID/lockdown + Ukraine war inflationary gap. However, the Trust has continued to lobby and cooperate with the stakeholders, and we are hopeful that a positive outcome may now finally be in sight.

A successful scheme would put Ipswich on the map for all the right reasons.

Broomhill area of Ipswich also has a fine heritage. I would encourage others to dig into your local Ipswich past because every part of our town has an incredible history. The lido is built within Broomhill Park, being the original home ground of Ipswich Town Association Football Club, who played their games there from 1878 to 1888 before moving to the Ipswich Rugby Ground at Portman Road. One of the founders and first captain of Ipswich Town was George Stuart Sherrington. His younger brother William Staunton Sherrington also played for the club. Their illustrious older brother Charles Scott Sherrington became a Nobel prize winner in medicine, was knighted, and was awarded an Order of Merit (one of Britain’s highest honours). When I was a kid, we thought it was normal to see Sir Alf Ramsey in Valley Road, and Sir Bobby Robson walking his dogs on Broomhill Park.

For me, my family, and many others, we have valued our upbringing in Ipswich, the great assets and services our town provides; the great schools, colleges, university, libraries, hospital, doctors, healthcare, magnificent parks, recreation grounds, sports facilities, housing provision, estates, companies, employment, our rivers, walks, wildlife, infrastructure, port, rail, roads, highways, Orwell Bridge, our history, heritage, architecture, art, music, shops, food, pubs and bars, culture, community, our locality, our access to Suffolk’s east coast and Constable country, Ipswich Town FC, Ipswich Witches, our other great sports clubs and provision, and our people and townsfolk. My Grandad’s generation were supporters of Ipswich Town AND the town of Ipswich, and that’s my philosophy too.

Mark Ling
Chairman, Broomhill Trust

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