The History Behind Ruislip Lido

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 sucess and thrived for many years. 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 lifeboat scenes from the film A Night to Remember were shot there, 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.

....but then.....

The council made a small charge for entry in to the Lido and it was packed. But 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.

Re-birth...in the 1990's

However, the Lido, today, has seen something of a comeback. The main building that, in 1994  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 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 the 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.

And now....(2018)

The Lido is almost back where is was, certainly by way of visitor numbers, and entry remains free. 

There are more car parks than ever (but actually they do not work as well as the ones that were there in the 1960's when parking was allowed on a massive field so capacity was almost limitless...and of course less people had cars). Indeed the visitor numbers on hot weekends are causing serious issues on the roads locally. 

There are new children's play areas including a "Splash Park" and "Pirate Ship"

The railway is still there running all the way from one side to the other. 

The (man made) beach is as popular as ever. 

There are new cafe's and toilets etc. 

The place is thriving, at weekends it can be HEAVING.....

....And on the Monday after the voulenteers can be seen in there picking up all the rubbish, clearing away all the barbeques that have now gone out (BBQ's are NOT permitted) and generally sorting the place out.....

I see a cycle of events repeating itself.....