DescriptionWilliam (known as Billy) Thomas Martin was mayor of Wokingham in 1911, 1912 and 1919. Billy was keen to provide an open air swimming pool for the people of Wokingham but was unable to acquire funding from the council so in 1932 he decided to build it himself. He purchased some land and used his landscaping skills to good effect and enlisted his son Cathrow. This was not just a swimming pool, it was a park which had a picturesque arrangement of cascading rock pools. There were in fact two pools, one fifty-five feet long and the other twenty foot long. Between the pools was an ornamental bridge with another bridge which gave access to the lawn. Martin’s Pool won the national award for the best outdoor pool in England for eleven consecutive years.
Cathrow, being theatrically well connected in the West End of London would invite the rich and famous to make an appearance at the pool.
During the Second World War, the pool was commissioned by the army, to serve as entertainment to soldiers based at Arborfield Garrison. Billy offered to lease the pool to the Town Council in 1947 at the end of which the pool would be theirs, however due to a legal issue this was not possible so the council purchased the Pool for £8,052, with a loan from the government.
In 1973 Wokingham Town Council handed over ownership and responsibility for Martin’s Pool to the newly formed District Council free of charge. The District Council later decided to sell the pool for economic reasons to a builder for around £ 2 million. The public were outraged, not just for the loss of the pool but the loss of the gardens, including a giant redwood and several large cedars. The sale went ahead and the plot is now called Poppy Place.
SourceA Short History of Five Wokingham Families by Jim Bell.
“Martin's Pool,” Wokingham's Virtual Museum, accessed September 27, 2020, https://wokingham-tc.gov.uk/museum/document/WTH0485.