For the poor, the swimming pool became the cheapest place to bathe. At the opening of Tooting Bec Lido in London, Wandsworth Borough News reported – regarding hundreds of small boys: ‘heedless of the presence of members of the fair sex, [they] unblushingly undressed and were sampling the quality of the water long before the “big guns” had departed.’
Many bathers walked barefoot across the common prompting complaints to the Council that the facility was being ‘stormed by the riff-raff from slum land.’
Without doubt the waters lost much of their sparkle as 1,500 were bathing each day.
Regarding indoor pools, many included a second class or boy’s bath, in which boys could bathe for a fraction of the cost of a private tub. Even so their behavior needed regulation so that hijinks did not end in complete mayhem.
Although initially built to complement river, lake and canal swimming, concerns over indecency prompted change. No working class man or boy owned a bathing costume, in fact if you look carefully at the front cover picture of my book: Hung Out to Dry, Swimming and British Culture you will notice one youngster carrying the only clothes he has, screwed up in one hand.