The banner image is part of an oil painting displayed at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1951 by Frank Boothman. [11]

Swimming in the reservoir was for some time very common, but has never been risk or concern free.

  • We've found no references to "Life Guards", but several dramatic rescues.

  • In 1853, we know there was a depth of at least 30ft in ”the deeps” [1]

  • Swimmers have drowned in the reservoir. Bucks Advertiser 18 Jul 1925 described it as having a reputation as a death trap. [12]

  • There were cholera outbreaks in the area in the mid C19 [3][4]

  • There were “hygiene” issues relating to Halton Camp especially during the World Wars.[2]

  • Concern over Polio in 1950s [3]

  • A build-up of sludge, aquatic vegetation and debris including discarded fuel tanks from WW2 [2]

  • Algal blooms due to excess nitrogen 1900-1978 while the Wendover Sewerage plant was operational.[2]

  • Blue Green algae blooms including 1989 and 1990 [2][7]

  • Discarded / lost fishing line and hooks [5]

  • also of course the wrath of the anglers and swans to contend with [6]

Swimming Party at the Reservoir in the 1920s; Village lads and RAF Apprentices

Our first real documented evidence of swimming in the reservoir was in 1853, when Francis Hardy was reprimanded for allowing recreational use of the reservoir before 5 O’clock on a Sunday as stipulated by Rev. Isham when he applied for a license for The Golden Perch. [8]

In Alfred Rothschild’s time, local people were encouraged to use the reservoir for relaxation and enjoyment. Swimming was allowed and a diving board erected at the deep north bank end.

Large numbers of soldiers from Halton Camp enjoyed this exercise in the Great War. It should be noted that there were major problems with the capacity of the sewerage infrastructure owing to the huge influx of military personnel.

The Diving Board C1920. [3]

Ironically, the only photograph we have of the diving board, shows it being used for fishing. A poor quality photograph (we are on the lookout for a better quality version) taken during the drought of 1948 only shows it's sawn off stumps.[10]

Bucks Advertiser 18 Jun 1948

The "Halton Lido" era

It's not clear whether the expression "Halton Lido" was ever an official designation, but it is a phrase regularly used by the Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News between the August Bank holiday of 1937[15] and the summer of 1950.

From local news coverage, it certainly seems an appropriate term, with plenty of bathing and picnickers around the reservoir.

To the consternation of some locals, in 1947 German P.o.W.s. were still to be found, swimming in "Halton Lido".[14]

The Prestwood Anglers Standoff with Swimmers.

In 1949, The Prestwood and District Angling Club, perhaps unwisely, one weekend during a heatwave erected a sign and attempted to enforce the rights they had acquired when they leased the Reservoir from The Inland Waterways Dept. of the Ministry of Transport. Round one went to the Angling Club, but substantially lost the second round in the court of local public opinion and 50 bathers and numerous picnickers defying their attempts to evict them. By Monday the temporary notice board had become slightly obliterated. It was “swimming as usual”.

In 1954, hostilities seem to have broken out again between swimmers and anglers from Prestwood and District Angling Club, with a strongly worded article in The Bucks Examiner under the headline "Swimmers - Please Stay Away"

“One swimmer can spoil a day’s fishing for us” the Secretary of the club, Mr. W Craven, told the “Examiner” and all the work put into improvement of the banks is wasted” he said.

“We don’t mind if they use it for swimming any other time, but they do stir up the mud and make it impossible for us to fish there during our season.” He pointed out that while the angling Club was ready to meet the swimmers on friendly terms, swimming further down the river was a much better proposition for them because of the danger in swimming in a reservoir.

It isn't clear what he is defining as "further down the river" and we've found no mention of a swimming club he could have negotiated with. [9]

Frank Boothman's "Bathers at Weston Turville Reservoir must have been painted during this era and clearly shows that swimming had not been eradicated by 1951.

Bucks Advertiser 15 Jul 1949

Frank Boothman's "Bathers at Weston Turville Reservoir C1951


  1. ^ Field magazine 29 Jan 1853

  2. ^ Weston Turville Reservoir by Tessa Taylor

  3. ^ Weston Turville a History by Hamish Eaton

  4. ^ Wendover, Our Place in History by Margaret Gosling

  5. ^ "Something In A Cardboard Box" by Les Stoker

  6. ^ Bucks Examiner 21 May 1921

  7. ^ Bucks Herald 09 Aug 1990

  8. ^ Bucks Chronicle 03 Sep 1853

  9. ^ Bucks Examiner 21 May 1954

  10. ^ Bucks Advertiser 18 Jun 1948

  11. ^ Royal Academy Summer Catalogue 1951

  12. ^ Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News 18 Jul 1925

  13. ^ Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News 15 Jul 1949

  14. ^ Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News 06 Jun 1947

  15. ^ Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News 06 Aug 1937