MAINDEE Baths on Newport's Victoria Avenue is a place where generations of the city's residents learned to swim.

The building, opened by the mayor of Newport, Alderman Mrs Hart, on July 15, 1938, contained two pools (the larger of which was 100 feet long) and could accommodate more than 1,000 people.

Readers were told that its “graceful, modern architecture” would ensure the baths were “ranked among the finest in the country”.

Their facilities were sorely needed, because: “we are living in an age where there is a national demand for physical fitness”.

According to the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, it was “the finest example of art deco swimming baths anywhere in Wales”.

The commission told how the baths “featured a terrazzo floor in the entrance hall, art deco bowl lights and lamps with metal stands comprising female figures holding orbs, and an imperial-type staircase which ascended to the upper floor and observation balconies”.

It added that: “The swimming pool sported a striking roof with seven tapering concrete arches rising from the side balconies”.

Apart from generations of Newport children learning to swim, the pool hosted sports like canoeing and water polo.

The pools also hosted many famous athletes. Gwent Olympic swimmer William John Brockway took his first strokes in Maindee swimming pool and his talent developed from there.

Mr Brockway made his first Olympic appearance aged 19 at the 1948 London Games when he reached the final of the 100 yards backstroke He went on to represent Great Britain again in the 1952 and 1956 Olympic Games, when he captained the team.

In 1954 he won a gold medal in the 110 yards backstroke at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver.

He was born in Bristol in 1928 but, happily for his swimming career, moved with his family to Maindee aged five.

Alongside these human users of Newport’s palatial pool were some flippered visitors in the 1980s.

Before the days of stringent health and safety rules and concerns over animal rights, the people of Newport got the chance to see dolphins swim at Maindee baths in 1983.

The shows, which took place from Boxing Day in 1983 to January 1984 for three weeks, were hosted by TV wildlife presenter Terry Nutkins.

Such days of innocence and wonder were not to last and although the pool’s life of swimming lessons, water polo and canoes continued into the new century, its days were numbered.

The doors of Maindee pool were closed for the final time on December 23, 2005 and the baths were replaced by the new pool at Spytty.

Arsonists struck twice in one day at the Grade II listed building in July 2007. The first fire, which started in the former gym on the first floor, was put out and firefighters left the scene. But three hours later they were back after fire swept through the ground and first floors of the building.

Investigators said both were started deliberately - and probably by the same people.

In May 2008 a buyer paid just £76,000 for the landmark swimming baths at an auction after a short bidding war between three men at a public auction in the King’s Hotel.

Auctioneers Newland Rennie Wilkins had expected the pool to sell for more than £100,000, and there were shocked gasps from the 40-strong audience when the hammer fell at £76,000, after bidders started showing interest at just £60,000.

But two years on, the baths were again put up for auction and a local couple snapped up the building for £56,000.

The new owners planned to transform the baths into a community centre.

It seemed then that the baths would rise like a damp phoenix following the arson attacks.

In 2010 Maindee pool was used for location shots in the BBC TV series Being Human which featured Poldark star Aidan Turner.

Clean up work to restore the grade two listed building was partly funded by the BBC after it finished filming the supernatural drama at the site.

The Argus was hopeful that the venture would be successful, saying: “For too many years this grand Grade II listed building has been allowed to lie neglected.

“Hopes have been dashed before but now this looks like a real opportunity to finally get this building back as a focus for the community.”

Sadly hopes were to be dashed again as this bid to bring life to a much-love Newport landmark were unsuccessful.