The Mystery of “The Swimming Pool”

This topic comes up from time to time and is still a perplexing mystery as to what it actually is.  Part of the problem with getting to the bottom of what The Swimming Pool is, is that we aren’t necessarily talking about the same thing.  So some people reminisce about swimming in a pool on The Welcombe Hills as children but are we discussing this pool or other pools?  For example we know there was once an open air pool over at the Welcombe Hotel and also one that was in the grounds of Clopton House itself.

Mike Anderson (who runs the nature website has created this photo below with notes to outline exactly where it is so we’re all talking about the same thing:

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Below are some pictures of the site we took a few days ago :



It’s deep enough to be of concern to the Health & Safety people





Not something you would want to swim in particularly



The shallow end with steps



Is it a tank or a swimming pool?


The conversation has bubbled away on Facebook for some weeks.

General theories

A swimming pool

The main argument against it being a swimming pool is simply that it’s such an odd place to site a swimming pool! It also has a higher bank on one side. Although not an expert on installing pools, I would have thought that if you went to the trouble to dig out a big swimming pool the designers would have spent an equal amount of time landscaping the area around it.  It certainly isn’t conducive to lounging around.

The argument for it being a swimming pool are that it clearly has steps and it appears to have a shallow end.  Why would someone creating a water storage tank go to the trouble of putting in steps and constructing with an incline?

An ancient water storage tank

Some people have said that it could be ancient, of Roman origin. There were numerous settlements in this area over the past millennia (read this great post on the abandoned villages of Welcombe Hills).  We would love a historian to give a viewpoint on this.  Could a concrete pond survive for this long?

A feeder tank to supply Clopton House

My money is on this.  Mike’s photo seems to indicate an irrigation arrangement that feeds water from the hills into a series of storage tanks that would have fed the main house.  There has been a grand house on the site of Clopton House since 1450 (read the wikipedia here).  The house was rebuilt in the 1700’s and then had a substantial extension added in 1840 – large houses like this were big operations, like businesses rather than simply a place to live.  They required significant man power to keep then running and there would have been a need for a lot of water for cooking, cleaning and livestock.  Furthermore some cursory research has shown that swimming pools as a concept only really took off in the 1850’s when the masses moved to the cities. Even then, they were primarily used for hygiene rather than leisure.


Thoughts very much welcome on this topic – and to properly solve the mystery does anyone have any photographs of it being used as a swimming pool?

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