The campaign for the Settle area to have its own swimming pool goes back a long way. It is said that a number of drowning accidents in the River Ribble, some involving young children, prompted calls for the town to have a place where school children could learn to swim safely.
In 1933, the year that the open air pool opened in near-by Ingleton opened, the town council approached neighbouring parishes to help fund and find a suitable site for a Settle pool.
But, despite lots of enthusiasm there was little progress until 1964 when the Settle Community Council, among a number of other initiatives, set up a small committee to investigate the possibility of building a community swimming pool.
The group visited other pools to find out how they ran. They found out that providing school swimming paid for by the local education department was a key way of funding a pool.
Nineteen sites were considered but there were many difficulties in almost all cases related to access, parking nearness to schools and, crucially, the need for planning permission.
The current site was finally leased from the county council; trustees with ‘status’ were appointed; and a local management committee was set up to take the project forward.
Detailed plans were submitted to the county council and the newly appointed Minister for Sport Denis Howell made aware of our ambition. Discussions took place over a government grant of £10,000 and a £20,000 public appeal was launched.
The 1970s were years of high inflation and despite fantastic fund-raising efforts the target kept slipping further away.
By 1974 it was decided it was time to act and work began on the building perhaps not as big as the campaigners had hoped but a local pool nonetheless.
The stone laying ceremony was held on 1st June 1974. Stones laid by Hon. Mrs J.G. Koppel and Maj-Gen T.H. Birkbeck, two of the trustees and introduced by Mr A Bradley, Chair of the Appeals Committee, with 200 people present.
For the first five years a large proportion of the costs were paid by school swimming every morning and public swimming every afternoon and evening. But the pool still ran at a loss and needed the help of Craven District Council which initially made up half the deficit, rising to seventy per cent by 2001.
There were continual efforts to improve the sustainability and energy use of the pool but this was always constrained by lack of money.
The early years
In 1980 North Yorkshire County Council withdrew funding for school swimming. At the same time the pool sprang a leak. The building was shut for three months and in desperation the pool asked North Yorkshire to buy the building – they refused. The pool was then shut each winter for most of the 80s.
In 1991 the pool was reconstituted as a charity with a local committee undertaking the management.
In the early 1990’s a considerable amount of maintenance was required. The roof was replaced, the tank tiled and insulated, the boiler and filter system replaced, the windows double glazed and the changing rooms refurbished. This cost £185,000 with the whole sum raised by public subscription. The pool remained opened on a full time basis, but continued to struggle to cover its running costs.
The Friends of Settle Pool was formed in 1996 to help raise funds for future capital projects and help fund important costs such as transport for school swimming. There's more about this on the Friends of Settle Pool page.
Into the twenty-first century...
In 2014, as pressure on local government finances grew, Craven announced that grant aid would be cut from £30K to £15K the following year and cut completely by 2016. This caused a further crisis for pool finances..
The trustees looked at potential futures for the pool as well as trying to understand ways in which the business and financial management could be improved.
The option of a complete rebuild was rejected as too expensive. Patching up the existing building was ruled out as a recipe for decline. But what was feasible was to leave the pool itself whilst adding new changing facilities, a multi-use dry space and improved catering facilities.
With the backing of Sport England and Craven District Council, together with support from various charitable organisations and, most crucially, the money built up over the years by the Friends, by 2019 the funding was more or less in place for the next stage in the redevelopment.
More than just a pool
But there was one final piece of this complex jigsaw puzzle. A steady source of regular income was needed. And that is where the prospect of a charity shop with related on-line sales came in.
Just as the original founders took inspiration from the example of other successful community pools, so proponents of a charity shop linked to the pool looked to the example of Kirkcudbright in Scotland whose pool was backed by such a shop.
The Settle pool charity shop opened in 2017 and within five years had raised more than £275,000 providing a steady source of income to help keep the pool afloat.
In early 2020, as the country went into lockdown as a response to the covid pandemic, both the pool and shop were forced to close for several months. But nevertheless, thanks in part to government financial backing through covid support, the financial backing for the redevelopment remained in place and in September 2021 work began on the biggest redevelopment work since the original building work in the 1970s.
The plan was to keep the pool open during most of the redevelopment work. But in November 2020 Storm Arwen destroyed much of the old roof exposing the pool to the elements.
A new roof was added to the building programme and, thanks to great fund raising efforts again, solar panels installed at a time when energy costs were soaring.
The redevelopment was completed in September 2022, with new changing facilities, an improved reception and café, and crucially a new dryspace area fitSpace.