Swindon’s Oasis Leisure Centre awarded Grade II listed status

By Nick Batten on 3 December, 2021

The swimming pool dome at the Oasis Leisure Centre in Swindon has been listed at Grade II by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on Historic England’s advice.

The Oasis Leisure Centre, designed by Peter Sargent of Gillinson, Barnett and Partners in 1974, opened on New Year’s Day, 1976. The swimming pool is the best and earliest example of the newly developed building type, which went on to gain huge popularity in the 1970s and ‘80s, marking the cultural shift from swimming for fitness to swimming for fun. Most early of the early examples of these buildings have now been lost to redevelopment.

The 45-metre swimming pool dome is an architecturally striking and technically accomplished structure. Externally, it rises from a grassy bank, while internally, the aluminium spaceframe provides a dramatic setting for the pool and is well-suited to its use, having withstood the corrosive pool environment. 

While the glazing has been replaced, the architectural concept remains apparent. It was carefully planned by the architects to create a fun and attractive leisure space, and the key features of the concept survive, including the free-form lagoon pool with its sloping, beach-like approach, and the infrastructure for a tropical planting scheme. Its design remains synonymous with the early development of the leisure pool.

The listing has been limited to include only the domed pool. The dry-sports side of the building; the waterslides, their launch tower and splash pool; the linking entrance block; and the service structures are not included in the listing.

Ross Simmonds, Acting Regional Director at Historic England, said, “We are pleased that the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport agreed with our recommendation to list the  Oasis Leisure Centre.

“It is the earliest leisure pool which survives in a recognisable form, so it’s important to our understanding of social history in the 1970s, particularly leisure and wellbeing. It’s also architecturally sophisticated, well planned and skilfully engineered. We will work with Swindon Borough Council and the developer to find a successful scheme for its future use.” 

Pictured above: The interior of the swimming pool dome at the Oasis Leisure Centre