The History of Ruislip Lido
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Construction and early history
What we all today know as Ruislip Lido started life in 1811 as Ruislip
Reservoir and was built as a feeder for the Grand Junction Canal, later, in
1933, to become the Grand Union Canal (Company), and thus our nearest canal
being known by the name it has today.
The area selected was initially a shallow valley flanked by Park Wood to the
south and a now non-existent hamlet of Park Herne to the "north",
where the latter was demolished to make way for the reservoir as it was built.
The whole area of the "lido" covers a little over 150 acres and the
area of water itself can best be described, as "pear shaped", somewhat
appropriately perhaps, for reason that follow.
John Rennie was the main engineer working on the construction, Hugh
Mackintosh the constructor. On 5th December 1811 the project was announced as
complete, by Rennie, and fears of problems with it leaking due to a sandy bed
were not founded.
Those familiar with the geography of the area will realise that the canal is
actually some distance from Ruislip and this required a channel to be made to
feed the water from the reservoir to where it was to enter the canal at Hayes,
some seven miles long. Exiting the reservoir in an underground pipe to the
"west" the channel passes, generally, under Bury Street, under
Ladygate Lane and on towards Tile Kiln Lane, whereupon the route is less clear
until it surfaces again in Austins Lane, Ickenham. From here it runs
into the fields adjacent to Northolt aerodrome and then under the A40 almost in
parallel with the Yeading Brook (having already, at some point
"crossed" the River Pinn). Once under the A40 it entered the waste
land opposite Northolt Aerodrome, again with the Yeading Brook for company,
before making its way to Yeading and then on down to Hayes, entering the canal
at Hayes Bridge. The full length of the feeder no longer exists
and parts of it were built on in the 1970's, fear of flooding these properties
is thought to be the reason why the water level in the Lido, since 1990, has
been kept artificially low, another thought is that by having lower levels
should there be extensive rain in the area water can be diverted to the Lido
from Northwood and alleviate flooding there.
You can read all about the route of the feeder from the Lido to Ickenham on
this excellent page written by Paul Turner who has
painstakingly traced it and photographed it.
It is thought that the feeder first ran in water in 1816. The
feeder was man made and did not use, or make use of, any water from any natural
waterways. However, what it did do was collect local floodwater and this turned
out to be polluted and contaminated both the canal and local drinking water
supplies. The whole concept of this reservoir being used to supply water to the
canal was scrapped in 1851, so it lasted only 35 years in the guise of the
purpose for which it was built. Today the canal is fed by the River Colne and,
nearer the Thames at Brentford, the River Brent and so the reservoir is no
longer needed. Indeed, the canal could have been fed from these rivers right
from the outset were it not for the local millers who did not want water
diverted from them to the canal. Hence the reservoir was only constructed
to appease their wishes.
Development as a Lido.
In 1933, when the Grand Union Canal Company was merged with
the Grand Junction Canal Company work began to develop the area as a Lido, it
already having been used for skating (when frozen) and swimming in the 1920s. A
modern main building was built in the art-deco style 1936 by George W Smith and
a swimming area constructed in the reservoir in front of this, which was done by
laying a concrete base in (under) the water flanked on either side by piers is a
"horseshoe" shape. The main building itself contained, principally, a
cafeteria, the buildings either side of it housed on one side the turnstile and
ticket area and on the other side changing rooms. In May 1936 the Lido was
formally opened by the Earl of Howe.
The Lido was a success. In the 1970's was to become a victim of its own
success. Attractions during its heydays include rowing boats,
motor boats, paddle boats, children's playground, a beach (latterly having a
fenced off swimming area), miniature railway and Ruislip Lido became renown as a
water skiing area, with the world championships being televised from there. It
was also used as a set for various films including The Young Ones with Cliff
Richard (and Summer Holiday?) and the Titanic sank in there in the film A Night
to Remember, and it is possible that one scene from "Oh What a Whopper" was
filmed there. In the sixties and seventies during balmy summer days
the Lido was heaving with people coming there from all over West London.
Tickets from the train, from 2005
The Titanic model that "sank" in the
(old) Railway Station
Take a ride on the railway!
|See Cliff Richard at The Lido
Demise of the Lido
In the 1970's the then council realised that the Lido was a
valuable assets and decided to increase admission charges out of all proportion
to what they had been previously. People stopped coming. One by one all the
traders left, unable to make ends meet with the reduced numbers attending. The
skiing left, the rowing boats, the ice cream vendors and the swimming stopped.
The place began to get very rundown. Then the council realised that the person
being paid to collect money from those entering the Lido was not even collecting
the cost of their own salary, and so scrapped the charge, by then it was too
late, the Lido was finished as a major attraction. The council, realising this
added a new major attraction that would pull people in from all around London, a
giant chess set with pieces two feet tall! The pieces quickly ended up being
lobbed in and that was the end of that. So the Lido became an afternoon stroll,
with no attractions except the miniature railway and the litter strewn beach. At
its peak the 158
buses which ran there were so full extra ones were laid on, this was replaced by
the 114 with "a lido extension at certain times", but by now this had
been withdrawn. Worse was to come when in 1993 the main building was damaged by fire and knocked
down in 1994. The old Lido was gone - for good.
Rebirth - sort of.
The Lido, today, has seen something of a comeback. The main
building that was razed to the ground has been replaced by a pub/restaurant, The
Waters Edge, the
miniature railway is flourishing having been extended and now runs from one side
all the way to the other, previously it was just a small figure of eight, now
rides serve a real purpose. The children's playground has been regenerated and
you can once again buy an ice cream or have a cup of tea in the shop run by the
same volunteers that run the railway. But there hangs the rub, volunteers. The
Lido, from being a thriving business, is now "run" by volunteers. It
stands today as a poor relation to the old one, before greed got in to the heads
of those that managed it. It still makes a superb walk on a pleasant day, it
still is an area of outstanding beauty given its proximity to London, and
railway is better than it has every been. At weekends it is popular as a picnic
area, free to get in and with some attractions people still make the effort. But
the crowds around the swimming area are gone, replaced by Canada Geese, and
piles of their droppings, the rowing boats have gone, as have the paddle boats
and the crazy golf. Local children have, today, been robbed of a small part of
their growing up.
(Footnote) In 2013/4 new car parks and visitor centres
were added, it really is making a comeback!
Other Ruislip Online pages
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