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Pyramids Swimming Pool, Heavitree Road

Page updated 21st June 2015

List of sports centres

The main city swimming pool since its construction in the late 1930's, the Pyramids is still a popular destination for many.

The site was previously that of the Gould Brothers garage and before that, Edward Rogers Thomas & Sons, sculptors, and was close to the Exeter Corporation Transport Office and bus depot, which were the sheds for the electric trams up until 1931.

The City Swimming Baths were designed in 1937 by John Bennett, the City Architect for Exeter City Council, with an advanced design for its time. The foundation stone was laid on 24 May 1939 by the Mayor, Cllr Rowland Glave Saunders JP, who said:

"A lot is heard about physical fitness and it sometimes occurs to my old-fashioned mind that some of the money which is being spent on that object was in the nature of an extravagance. Those young men who will soon be undergoing their six months' training under Army conditions will quickly learn that it is truly possible to keep fit without any elaborate or expensive apparatus."

He added "A splendid antidote to our modern largely sedentary existence and perhaps the finest of all exercises as every muscle of the body is brought into play. When they have ceased spending such fantastic sums on armaments they will be able, for the cost of a couple of bombing aeroplanes, be able to build a new swimming bath," and that "A pool in the suburbs would pay handsome dividends, if not financially then in the health of the people."

He also noted that the electricity for heating and lighting the pool was from capacity released when the Exeter trams were closed in 1930.

It was opened on 24th May 1941 by Mr Glave Saunders who was still Mayor, due to the outbreak of war. Costing £56,000, it was built by F & E Small, largely of pre-cast concrete with a brick front façade and sides – it has a balanced mix of classical and Thirties style art-deco architecture. The 100 ft long, electrically heated pool had enough seats for 500 spectators around its edge. A café and laundry were included in the complex.

During the 4 May 1942 air raid, the fire service was so short of water to extinguish the burning buildings, that they had to run a line to the swimming pool to supply their hoses.

The interior had a makeover in the Eighties with Egyptian tiling and decoration, a new children's pool and improved changing facilities in the basement. This prompted a name change to The Pyramids.

During 2006, the City Council have announced that they are looking to replace the Pyramids with a 50 metre, Olympic size pool, in time for the 2012 Olympic Games. It is probable that the Pyramids would be demolished and the site given another use.

Gould Bros garage on the site of Pyramids.

The Gould Brothers garage, left, was demolished to make way for the Pyramids pool.

The Pyramids logo on the front of the baths.

The Pyramids logo on the front of the baths.

The swimming baths as it was, before it became Pyramids.

The swimming baths as it was, before it became Pyramids.

The muliti-level diving boards

The muliti-level diving boards.

The swimming baths as it was, before it became Pyramids.

The swimming baths as it was, before it became Pyramids.

The muliti-level diving boards

The diving boards, including a low level board.

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