We usually see them fully dressed, speaking in the council chamber at Oxford Town Hall and dealing with city affairs.

It is not often they are pictured in swimming costumes and trunks on the edge of a swimming pool.

The four city councillors above – left to right, Nigel Thomas, Barbara Gatehouse, Andrew Smith and Lord Mayor John Parker – were celebrating the opening of the new £3m Temple Cowley pool in 1986.

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No wonder they were smiling – the building project had taken 14 months longer than expected.

The other picture shows the four boys who were first through the door when the pool opened to the public a month later.

The early birds were, left to right, Philip Thornton, 14, of Napier Road, Clayton Toms, 12, of Hollow Way, Glenn Dick, 12, of Wilkins Road, and Kevin Peacock, 12, of Cholsey Close.

They had arrived at the pool at 7am to make sure they were first in the queue.

The city swimming pools officer, John Bolton, let them in free when the pool officially opened two hours later.

He said: “They had obviously got up early to be here and I felt I could not let them wait for two hours. So I took their names, sent them home and told them to come back later.”

Oxford Mail: The boys later took their places at the head of the queue and were joined by 40 other swimmers waiting for the doors to open.

The four councillors had taken to the water a month before the opening to test the new pool.

Mr Thomas, chairman of the city recreation and amenities committee, said after his dip: “The water is terrific. It’s the best pool I have ever swum in – and I’m not just saying it, I mean it.”

The constant delays in the building schedule had caused considerable anger among councillors, council officers and swimmers.

But the Oxford Mail sounded a fairly hopeful note when it reported the councillors’ appearance at the pool and announced the opening date.

It said: “With an army of trained attendants already installed around the poolside, gleaming new paintwork and tiles and a tasteful scattering of foliage, nothing now could possibly go wrong. Could it?”

The new complex, which replaced an earlier building opened in the 1950s, included an eight-lane, 25-metre swimming pool, a small pool for children and a deep diving pool as well as a sauna and fitness room.

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It also featured what was described as a futuristic roof, which had been brought to Oxford by road from Newcastle.

In 2014 Oxford City Council decided to sell the site to housing association Catalyst Housing for 47 homes for £3.5m.

Campaigners trying to save the pool hoped for a reprieve but the council went ahead with its decision.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

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