WHO remembers swimming or sunbathing at Dame’s Delight?

Hundreds of people would flock on a hot summer’s day to the open air pool on the south-east corner of the University Parks in Oxford.

Dame’s Delight adjoined Parson’s Pleasure, where men had bathed in the nude since the 16th century.

The myth grew up that women did the same next door, but that was not true – everyone at Dame’s Delight had to cover up.

When the pool opened in 1934, it didn’t have a name, but was quickly dubbed Dame’s Delight – and the name, although never official, stuck.

At first, it was for women only, but later it was opened for mixed bathing.

Among those who made regular use of the pool were women undergraduates and pupils at Oxford High School for Girls in North Oxford and Rye St Antony School in Pullens Lane, Headington.

It was often packed on hot days during the school summer holidays and at weekends.

By 1970, however, when these pictures were taken, it was in a rundown state, having been damaged by floods and vandalism.

Attendances had dropped as heated indoor pools became more popular, and little was done to maintain it.

The Oxford Mail reported that “cubicle doors creaked on rusty hinges, safety rails hung crazily or had disappeared altogether and the water was turbid with twigs and sludge”.

Lady Wheare, wife of the Rector of Exeter College, led a campaign to save Dame’s Delight.

She threatened to tell her daughters to bathe from the Parks’ bank of the River Cherwell – in contravention of Parks’ regulations – to persuade the University to restore the pool.

But the campaign fell on deaf ears and the pool never reopened.

Parson’s Pleasure survived until 1992. Notices advised women approaching the bathing place on punts to disembark and walk to the other side to avoid embarrassment to them – and possibly the naked men.

Has anyone pictures and memories of Dame’s Delight in happier times?

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