Simply Whitstable Logo - Click for home page

Return to Menu:


....with thanks to Chris Vernon-Jarvis
 Tony Stroud and Stewart Tilley

A Forgotten Facility?....


The West Beach Swim Pool circa 1947 - Photo Chris Vernon-Jarvis


Mention 'swimming pool' and thoughts immediately turn to the current indoor pool at Tower Parade. However, that was not the first pool to entertain Whitstable Natives. A much earlier facility adorned West Beach as long ago as the 1940s and, thanks to pictures kindly forwarded from Canada by Chris Vernon-Jarvis, we can take a peek.




The pool was located within the borders of a caravan park. The cover photo above was taken circa 1947 and, as you can see, it was a substantial 'open air' facility - set into a paved sun terrace and extending some 20 metres in length. 

I bet some of you are still pondering over the precise location. So, let's help out with a shot from the beach taken in August 2003....



The caravan site exists to this day. The pool was wedged behind that sea wall on the far right. Well, I say wedged... but that is, perhaps, the wrong terminology because there was no sea wall when Chris's photos were taken. Remember, it was 1947... and we were still awaiting the flood of '53 with an open beach and little protection. Thus, the poolside sunbathing area opened directly onto the beach.

The wall was built in the mid-fifties as a way of bolting the stable door after the horse had drowned. Thus, it was a "made to measure" protection that paid homage to the pool rather than determined its size and shape. 


Private Ownership


The West Beach pool was owned by the caravan site and, as such, it was used extensively by holidaymakers. 

If you study the 1940s scene, you may spot  seeds that later germinated in the minds of entrepreneurs like Billy Butlin and Fred Pontin. The great British holiday camps of the late 1950s were just a few years away. In fact, the caravan site had its own club and staff complement. Chris provides a pen picture of some of the characters involved....


"About 1955 or 56 my (maternal) grandmother bought 25 West Beach and, later, my mother bought 26. We had always spent our Summers there. 

My grandparents were, I think, founder members at the club on the caravan site. The two ladies who ran it were 'Auntie Doris and Auntie Mac.' In those days, cigarettes were acceptable and the two ladies were never seen without one. 

Many happy Summers, Many happy memories."

Chris Vernon-Jarvis


A Public Facility 


Although privately owned , it was open to the public for a small entrance fee. It was also used by local schools as Stewart Tilley recalls....  


"Your recent comments about the West Beach swimming pool brought back memories of it being used by us lads from the Boys' School in the late 1940's. 

I think we had swimming lessons (that's to say a master patrolled around the edge whilst us boys thrashed around in the pool), on a regular weekly basis in the summer. I believe there is a picture in 'Bell, Book & Boys' of the school swimming sports day."

Stewart Tilley


Those swimming lessons led to qualifications and, from Australia, Tony Stroud provides the evidence.....


Hi Dave,

This one is of the past Oxford Street Boys School from the old tin trunk - a bit tattered.... 



Still, it reminds us of the good old days !!! - freezing to death at the seapool with Nobby Clarke in charge. 

Wolfe House For Ever!

Aussie Tony

Tony Stroud


I am sure many people will recall Frank Newsome in charge at the Oxford Street school. 


A Seawater Pool 


But, it wasn't a case of swimming in clear water tinged with chlorine. Tony's reference to "seapool" gives us a clue and Chris provides the background....


"It was just a plain concrete tub filled with sea water by a portable pump."

- Chris Vernon-Jarvis


The pump arrangement continued after the wall was built and I still recall it being used in 1955. Other facilities were fairly primitive too. Take a look at Chris's second photo (left).. 

This was taken looking south towards the unmade road and Seasalter Golf Course. It features a very young Chris jumping into the water under careful supervision from his mother. The hut in the background provided a changing room. However, compared with writhing under a towel on the beach, this was sophistication. 

Of course, the pool is no longer with us. At one stage, it was converted to a paddling pool - with shallow water at the deep "roadway end" and a sandpit at the shallow "beach end". A year or two later, it was filled-in and occupied by extra caravans.

What led to its demise? Well, without further enquiries, we don't know but Chris gives us a possible clue with the little memory below....


"At some stage, the pool  started to leak.  We came down one summer and it was not filled. Apparently, there had been a steady flow of water out onto the beach from the leak.

Auntie Mac Booth's husband, Jim, was on leave (he was a merchant seaman) and I remember him trying to locate the leak.  

In the end, I guess they just gave up or it  was not worth fixing.  I don't know how old the pool was by then... but it must have been 20 years plus at least."

- Chris Vernon-Jarvis


And so, we moved on without a Whitstable Swimming Pool.... until, a few years ago, Canterbury City Council built the "indoor job" behind the Ten Pin Bowling Alley. 

But, don't let the "men in white coats" cart you off when you suggest that the plush Tower Parade facility is not the town's first. Thanks to Chris, we can now prove that we still have all our marbles intact and we even have Tony's certificate as official confirmation... even if we no longer have our pool at West Beach.      


Return to the Menu:

 The Simply Whitstable Web Site