During the 19th century, a number of deep limestone quarries were worked in the Southmead area. Sometime after 1903, the site known as Shellard’s or Southmead Quarry ceased production and was allowed to flood. Soon after this, the flooded quarry started to be used informally for swimming and ice-skating. From about 1912, a Mr Curtis charged people to swim at the lake, which became known as the Westbury bathing place or Henleaze bathing pool. It was very popular, with up to 200 people in the water on sunny days, and the whole length of the lake was used for swimming.
In both 1916 and 1917, drownings at the lake were subsequently investigated by the Coroner. Mr Curtis was criticised for the lack of lifesaving safeguards and equipment on both occasions. It is probable that the main leasholder, Major Badock, put a stop to swimming at the lake because of these tragedies. A group of swimmers led by Albert Wain then proposed establishing a club under strict Amateur Swimming Association rules so that swimming could be resumed and managed properly. After an energetic campaign, Henleaze Swimming Club was formed and took over the management of the lake in May, 1919. The club was extremely popular and played a successful part in local and regional swimming, water polo, lifesaving and diving competitions.
1907 Advert for ice skating at lake in the Western Daily Press
1908 Royal Humane Society gold medal awarded to a Mr Turner who ‘after his morning swim’ rescued a fellow swimmer who was struggling
1919 Henleaze Swimming Club formed and leases part of the Lake for swimming
1920 Gents changing area built and first diving stage built.
1924 Major Badock buys the freehold of the Lake and gives the Club a five year lease.
1926 Ladies changing room built
1928 Second diving stage built
1930 National lifesaving shield won by the club
1933 Henleaze Swimming Club buys the lake from Major Badock
1934 Lake dries up in August. Work carried out to improve lawns
1935 Pete Desjardins, world champion diver, gives diving demo at lake. Film made of the event.
1937 Toilet Block built
1939 Competitive events at the Lake suspended due to war. Swimming continues with allied troops granted access.
1946 Existing steel swimming steps installed.
1947 Crowds of people skate at the lake during winter.
1948 Great Britain vs Sweden water polo match held at Lake
1950 Existing steel diving stages built. Front gate built
1960 Existing steel fence separating the Lake from Badock's wood built after several drownings of intruders.
1966 Low membership numbers. Decline of water polo at Lake.
1968 Angling Section formed
1969 Pump installed to prevent flooding. Before this the Lake was allowed to flood in the winter.
1986 All-time low membership (307).
1989 Good summer - membership numbers increase (842)
1991 Competitive section forms separate club – Bristol Henleaze Swimming Club
1995 Long Swims started
1999 First Gloucester County Open Water Swimming Championship held at Lake
2003 Pontoon installed
2005 Nectar filmed at Lake
2010 Club becomes a charity
2013 Disaffiliation from Amateur Swimming Association
2014 Designation as an EU Bathing Water Site. Winter swimming begins. Sauna built. Swimming area extended
2015 Highest ever membership (2310)
If you have memories, photographs or artefacts from the lake's past we would very much like to hear about them. Please email us via the Contacts page
More historic photographs can be found on the Historic Photographs page
The lake about 1912
The Lake in 1915 before the Club was formed
Lake members 1922