Luton’s first public baths were provided in Waller Street by the town’s Board of Health in 1872. The washing baths were desperately needed for at the time very few houses had bathrooms.
It was in keeping with the morals of the Victorian age that there were two swimming baths, one for men, which was small enough, and the other for women, which was ridiculously restricted.
The baths, almost as soon as they were built, proved inadequate for a town which had no other facilities for swimming.
Councillor Charles Dillingham, a wealthy hat manufacturer and later Mayor of Luton, made it his special mission to persuade the council to provide better baths on the same site as the old.
These were opened in 1913 with one much larger swimming bath, although times had to be set aside when women could use it alone. The pool was boarded over in the winter months to provide the Winter Assembly Hall, which was used for dances, concerts and public meetings.
The town had acquired Wardown Park in 1904 and the council extended the lake to make an open air swimming pool, although it was little used for this purpose.
An outdoor pool was opened in Bath Road, off New Bedford Road, in 1935 and an indoor pool was built next to it 30 years later, which made the Waller Street baths finally redundant.
Known as Wardown Swimming and Leisure Centre, it was closed a few years ago and River Bank Primary School was built on the site.It was replaced by the pool at the £26million Inspire: Luton Sports Village at Stopsley in 2012.