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Fate of 'lost' Northwick Park pool where Churchill bath revealed

PUBLISHED: 14:37 30 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:28 31 October 2019

The Ducker pool as it is today. Picture: David Merrigan

The Ducker pool as it is today. Picture: David Merrigan

David Merrigan

One of the UK's largest outdoor swimming pools was rediscovered in Northwick Park last month after a tip-off from a former swimmer led staff at a nearby hospital to investigate what happened to the famous bathing spot.

The Ducker pool as it is today. Picture: Northwick Park HospitalThe Ducker pool as it is today. Picture: Northwick Park Hospital

Staff at Northwick Park were sent an old aerial shot of the Ducker Pool, which is adjacent to the hospital, by former bather Colin Carroll.

They discovered the pool - which is in an L-shape and included two bridges in its heyday - had fallen into disrepair not long before owner Harrow School, which had used it for swimming events, built a new facility in 1985.

The land was later sold to Nilkanth Estates - a charity linked to the Swaminarayan Mission Hindu sect in the UK - not long after.

That group wanted to build a Hindu temple but the plans were scuppered and instead Brentfield Road's iconic Neasden Temple was built instead.

Before it shut, the pool - a piece of Victorian aquatic architecture - was enjoyed by boys from all walks of life looking to escape the stifling heat of mid-summer, including a young Winston Churchill - also a former Harrow student. It is here he met former Tory politician Leo Amery.

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Leo once wrote: "My first impression of Winston was characteristically forceful when I suddenly felt myself propelled into the water by a foot in the small of my back, while unseen hands reft me of my towel."

By the 1980s, much of the site had become colonised by shrubbery. One former student at a nearby school recounted using the area as a hide-away during gruelling cross-country runs. He wrote: "A small group of us realised that we could leave the course at the point where it ran past the derelict Ducker pool, which was hidden away in a wooded section, and then we were free to do whatever we wanted for the next 30 minutes or so.

"We would follow the line of trees to almost the road, where there was a derelict building marking the entrance to the pool site. I remember it being like a house, certainly brick built, with windows and tiled roof.

"We went through this building and then out into the pool area… there was some rubbish in it, that mostly seemed to have come from around the site - things like the collapsed bridges that used to span side to side and other wooden and metal stuff."

Although overcome by shrubbery and now hidden in woodlands in the north-west of Northwick Park, the Ducker Pool name lives on in spirit with an annual 10km run from Wembley to Harrow-on-the-Hill station called the Long Ducker.

The Ducker was once a pond on Sheepcote Farm. By 1886, Harrow School pupils used it for swimming events and by the early 20th century, the school had bought a large swath of the farmland.

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