Looking for Leytonstone’s Lost Lido at Whipps Cross

One boiling hot morning last week I returned to an overgrown patch of land on the far side of the Hollow Ponds in search of remnants of Leytonstone’s lost Lido. The Whipps Cross Lido was built in 1905 and closed in 1982. It was demolished the following year and the land left to be reclaimed by the forest. I’d gone looking for remains originally with my friend Andrew Stevens, a few years ago on a muddy winter afternoon. That day we mostly found thick undergrowth festooned with used condoms like a plantation of perverted Christmas trees. The location of the Lido had evidently found a new use.

What we hadn’t realised at the time was that the site is quite clearly marked on the Ordnance Survey map, and on this occasion I was able to properly scope the site out. Initially all I found were half lumps of concrete buried in the banks of bushes. Not conclusive enough. But soon I unearthed broken sections of clay pipes, and then large pieces of wire-mesh reinforced glass. Finally the smoking gun of a long length of metal pipe running along a high bank overlooking a large hollowed out area matching the size of the footprint of the pool.

Leytonstone Lido

Stood in the deep end being feasted upon by mosquitos I tried to imagine the scene on a boiling hot summer’s day such as this. The kids racing around the poolside and dive-bombing into the water to the rebukes of the life guards. People have told me of the odour of TCP that pervaded one corner, and of entire days spent here at the Whipps Cross Lido, the queue to get in stretching back to Snaresbrook Road.

The London Lidos that have survived are now treasured assets, with some such as Tooting, drawing in swimmers all year round. Brockwell and London Fields Lidos are ‘places to be seen’. If only Leytonstone’s Whipps Cross Lido could have weathered those dark recession years of the early 80’s – you can imagine how popular it would be today.


  1. Duncan Abbot   •  

    In the summer of 1980 I lived in Forest Gate and the firm I worked for had no work for us to do and so we were “available” or on the bench. The weather was great. My girlfriend, now wife, was a school teacher and on holiday so we spent some great days at WX Lido. It was fun and it beat working!

    The problem was that even on a summer’s day the water was ice cold. It was very nice to paddle about in on a hot day but most of the year it was just not usable.

    It was one of those places I look back at with great nostalgia but it was never going to survive.We are too soft to cope with unheated pools.

    I have got near to tracing where it was a few times when down at WX but it is rather an odd corner of the Forest with a few too many cruisers…

    • JohnR   •     Author

      Thanks sharing that memory Duncan – helps bring the place to life.

  2. Denise   •  

    I had great times here growing up. I still love a hot bovril,When I think of this it brings back happy memories.

  3. Felicity Manning   •  

    Occasionally I would go to the Lido by bus with school friends in the summer holidays where we would sit for hours on the concrete terraces becoming much too sunburnt. But my main memory is of going with my father at 7am on a summer Sunday when the pool was free till 9am I think. We met up with other members of our Church for an hour of swimming in that magical early morning time when there was no traffic noise and a slight mist over the water. There might have been twenty of us in that huge pool, leaving when others began to arrive. I learnt to dive in the circular deep water pool at the end of the main pool. This was in the mid sixties and we wouldn’t have guessed that the life of the pool was nearing its end. Happy days!

  4. Robert Jenkins   •  

    I like this…
    Look at The Fell a novel by robert jenkins… it starts at whipps cross lido… maybe.

  5. Sue Gooding   •  

    I grew up in upper Walthamstow and lived 7 minutes walk away. Every Sunday for 2-3 summers my parents and I and several neighbours went for a swim at 8am. Great childhood memories. I also used to there with friends in the summer holidays, clearly remember the children’s fountain pool, swimming in the deep end and sunbathing/eating packed lunch on the terraces. Also remember the narrow road to the sandy/stoney car park (leading from the Snaresbrook road close to junction with Woodford New road), on hot days the tarmac used to bubble and melt! A lost gem.

  6. Felicity Manning   •  

    Absolutely a lost gem, Sue. We could have been there at the same time! (see two comments back). Yes, I’ve read The Fell on the strength of hearing it begins at The Lido.

  7. Rosie   •  

    Well done! I love your natural exploratory style. I am awaiting a hip replacement and have not had a walk for over 2 years. So watching your video is a joy for me. Thank you so much.
    I do hope that the lido is rebuilt one day. What about crowd funding?

  8. John Parker   •  

    “A plantation of perverted Christmas trees”. That is discriminatory and homophobic”. 🤬

  9. David Rate   •  

    I used to cycle there in the summer from my home in Babbacombe gardens. I was about 8 so around 1957. I used to arrive at 6am, remember the lifeguards dressed in white cleaning. Happy days

  10. Cole Moreton   •  

    Coming very late to this, but thank you so much for searching around, something I’ve always meant to do. I swam here many times as a child, I remember the water as vast and cold and the pool floor as painted bright blue. It was magical to swim with the trees swaying in the breeze all around. I still think of it as the perfect lido of the imagination and compare all others to that place.

  11. Stephen Jarvis   •  

    Being a Walthamstow lad born and breed, I remember the lido very well and getting a boat out on the Hollow Pond. One mystery that has been exercising my mind of late, is the disappearance of the gun that was placed on Whipps Cross roundabout, set up with its barrel pointing down toward Lea Bridge Road. It was a deck cannon of quite some size that had come from a 2nd World War German battleship, a rather an incongruous sight, and I could never see the connection to that part of London. There is an army barracks/TA centre. plus the 68 ICCY Signal Squadron located right on that corner, so perhaps that’s the connection? Anybody out there with information as to where it went?

  12. Hilary Thomson   •  

    I only went there once but have never forgotten it. In 1979/80 I was sharing a house with friends in Lytton Road, Leytonstone and we walked to the pool one hot summer evening. I only remember a huge circular pool with steps, very art deco. We had the whole pool to ourselves. I was amazed that there was an attendant to give us baskets to put our clothes in. There was a fabulous pink sunset over the pool. I moved away shortly after. Years later I was talking to a cabbie who lived at Whipps Cross. I described the lido but he had never even heard of it. I was stunned to realise it had closed down. The open air pools near where I was brought up (Eltham Park South and Dansen) also closed years ago. Thank goodness there are still some great lidos in London.

  13. Richard Vaughan Bird   •  

    I lived by Whipps Cross and often visited the Lido when young I never did learn to swim but I often used to jump off the top of the diving section ( 10 feet from memory?) but always wore my mask and flippers to survive! No danger for an 7/8 year old – nuts!!!! Good fun though

  14. Steve Jarvis   •  

    I remember going to the Whipps lido as a boy, in fact, the whole of the Whipss Cross/Hollow pond area was a bit of a playground. I do believe that the pond was dug-out by the unemployed in the 30’s to give them something to do, thereby creating the hilly environment, great for adventurous bike riding. Then of course there was the fishing and rowing.
    One thing that does puzzle me was the gun placed on the Whipps Cross roundabout,, but why was it placed there, the barrel pointing down Lea Bridge round toward the Bakers Arms. It was a deck cannon from a 2nd World War German battleship. There was, and still is a signal regiment based on the corner there, but other than that, there was/is no connection with the army or navy to that location. The gun was moved some years ago. What happened to it, was it just scrapped?

  15. Kelvin Gosling   •  

    I was at Royal Wanstead School between 56 and 1960. A master Mr Geear would take those wishing to go for an early morning swim. His delight was lining us all up on one side and getting us to jump in on mass. The Lido was a short walk across the rough land to the pool. Kelvin Gosling

    • Hilary Thomson   •  

      What a great memory, Kelvin. Open air swimming in lidos was such a big feature of our summers, growing up in London. My daughter lives near Tooting Bec lido so I think I’m going to see if I can go there, for old time’s sake. I swim at Hampstead Ladies’ pond occasionally but there’s nothing like the glittering blue water of a real ‘open air’ as we used to call them …

  16. Stephen William Jarvis   •  

    Hello, I remember Whipps lido very well, packed when the weather was fine. The only thing I found was that the shallow end at 3 1\2 foot was a bit deep for nervous non swimmers like myself.
    If I may change the subject, does anyone know what happened to the German battleship deck cannon that was mounted on Whipps Cross roundabout with the barrel pointing down the road towards The Bakers Arms. Can’t imagine why it was placed there unless it was something to do with the signals regiment that is based opposite. There is also a war memorial set back behind iron gates on the same corner. The gates are always open and flowers are still being laid there.

    Steve Jarvis.

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