And the Duke later revealed that he himself keeps fit, not through swimming, but by power-walking and joked that ‘bits’ were falling off him.
The much-loved City Baths reopened in October following a two-year closure because of essential refurbishment work.
An urgent overhaul had to be carried out on the glass roofs above the Pacific and Atlantic pools of the grade II-listed baths in Union Street.
This in turn triggered repairs across the whole site including a new ventilation system and refurbishments to the changing rooms and poolside area.
Some of the investment needed special planning consent because of the listed status of the 114-year-old building.
It was the Duke’s forebear who stumped up half the original £13,700 cost when the baths opened in 1901 – the remainder having been raised by public subscription.
The current Duke of Westminster told those gathered: “I do hope I’m not back again in another few years to renovate more of this building. I see this as a lifetime experience and legacy that you have left to the City of Chester and particularly to their children and that in itself has got to be a major part of the feel good factor.”
His Grace told The Chronicle afterwards about how he keeps himself fit.
“Not so much swimming, I do walking machines, power-walking,” said the Duke, a talented footballer, who once had trials for top flight club Fulham FC but doesn’t play any more. “I’m too old. I’m knackered,” he joked. “Bits are falling off me!”
Brian McCann, chairman of Chester Swimming Association, said it was ‘fabulous’ the Duke was able to be present as he was when the association took over the running of the baths back in 1978.
He continued: “We have had over two years when the place has been shut and always the worry that may be if we find one more problem, that might be it. So, lots of hard work on the part of the guys out there, lots of uncertainty and what today means is the kids are back swimming.”
Both Newton and Lache Primary School children were using the pool on the day but adults and families are also welcome to use the facilities for competitive and leisure swimming whenever the pools are free. Nowadays people can just turn up on the door and pay their £4 admission fee.
The £3m refurbishment of the baths has been possible thanks to the previous Tory and current Labour administrations at Cheshire West and Chester Council.
Cllr Brian Clarke, Labour cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure, told the small audience how the baths reminded him of his childhood, learning to swim at Manchester’s Victoria Baths.
He added: “It’s more than just a baths, it’s for the children, it’s for the future generations but it’s also – on behalf of the council – it’s one of our historic sites. We cannot lose the heritage of Chester.”
For enquiries about the City Baths call 01244 320898.
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