Remembering Cardiff’s Empire Pool

Remembering Wales Empire Pool

We took Owen swimming at Cardiff’s International Pool today. He loved it, and so did we. Going in, we spotted this plaque commemorating one of my favourite childhood haunts: the Wales Empire Pool, which was demolished to make way for the Millennium Stadium.

The Empire Pool was built for the 1958 Empire Games, hosted by Cardiff. As a child, I was in awe of the enormous pool, the impossibly high diving boards and the stark functionality of the building. Swimming a length was a major voyage.

The best memory was the day the drinks machine went haywire, spewing out free coffees. My Cardiff High School class rushed to take advantage!

I actually learned to swim in another long-gone Cardiff pool. Guildford Crescent was a Victorian pool – actually two pools – opened in the 1860s. By the 1970s it was in a bad way. But in the autumn term 1974 I spent part of every morning for four weeks there, and by the first Friday I could swim and went up to the next class. Less happily, the next step was learning to dive, but I never got beyond belly flops. Despite that. I’ll always remember Guildford Crescent fondly as the place I learned one of life’s most precious skills.