Grand Opening Of The Geothermal Jubilee Pool, A Memory of Joyce Cooper – & The Romans…

2020-08-30 Reading Time: 3 minutes
The Jubilee Pool, Cornwall, Joyce Cooper in 1934, and (bottom left) the opening day and a celebration at which Cooper and her achievements were remembered - Photo collage courtesy of The Jubilee Pool/Wikipedia

The Jubilee Pool has opened in Penzance, Cornwall, with a boast of being the United Kingdom’s “first lido to be heated by geothermal energy”.

It’s not for the speedy: Swimmers will take a bath in sea waters to be kept at a constant 35°C, using underground heat. That means this in British climes: an open-air pool that will be open all-year round.

As if often the case when such splendid moments are celebrated in Britain, there’s always the Monty Python question: what did the Romans ever do for us?

Engineers who worked on the splendid Jubilee Pool project provided an answer among many when they noted that while the pool is the first lido in the UK to be heated by geothermal energy, “the Romans beat us to it by 2000 years in Bath“. 

The Magnificent Mary Beard On All (or a bit of all) of That…

Nicola Murdoch, head of the Jubilee Pool, told media attending the opening this week that it may not be possible for the pool to stay open during its first winter as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and coronavirus restrictions.

Tribute To Joyce Cooper

In its report of the opening, the BBC notes: “First to swim at the reopened lido were the family of local swimmer and project supporter Joyce Cooper. Ms Cooper had been at the opening of the lido 85 years ago but died before the project could be completed.”

The BBC then fails to note the significant of Cooper, one of the most decorated Olympic swimmers in the pool of British Olympians to have made the ultimate podium in the sport.

Joyce Cooper in 1934 – courtesy, Wikipedia

Margaret Joyce Cooper was born on April 18, 1909 in Troup in what was then Ceylon. She died in Chichester, England, on July 22, 2002 at the age of 93.

Cooper, whose married name was Joyce Badcock, swam for the Mermaid Swimming Club, raced to four medals at two Olympic Games, in 1928 and 1932, claimed European and Commonwealth (then British Empire) titles between 1927 and 1932.

At the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, Cooper raced to a silver medal in the 4×100-metre freestyle relay with teammates Cissie Stewart, Irene Tanner and Ellen King; and bronze medals in the 100 metres freestyle and 100m backstroke, the latter won by home hero Marie Braun, with Cooper’s teammate King taking silver 0.2sec behind gold.

In the 100m freestyle topped by American Albina Osipowich, Cooper was matched by Britain teammate Jean McDowell on the clock, but the judges gave the bronze medal to Cooper in a 3–2 vote at a time when men in suits played a big role in the fate of the swimmers and the shape of the result: McDowell was clearly a match for Cooper and her GB No1 status over 100m freestyle but when it came to the 4x100m freestyle, the men in suits left McDowell out of the race.

Cooper was among women pioneers who competed at the first European Championships open to more than men. She was a part of the Britain relay that claimed gold in the 4x100m freestyle and by the time her career was done had added four silvers and a bronze to her tally of continental podiums, at the 1927 and 1931 championships, in Bologna and Paris respectively.

Representing England, Cooper claimed four gold medals at the 1930 British Empire Games in Hamilton, New Zealand.

At the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, Cooper was a member of the Britain team that claimed bronze in the women’s 4×100m freestyle at a time when American Helene Madison was the star of the women’s show. Cooper also finished fourth behing Madison in the 400m freestyle and was sixth in the 100m backstroke American Eleanor Holm.

Cooper was born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where her father owned a tea plantation. In 1934 she married British Olympic rowing champion John Badcock. The couple’s eldest son Felix Badcock won a bronze medal in rowing at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales, while their younger son Francis ‘David’ M Badcock rowed for the Thames RC and rowed in the 1958 Boat Race.

The Jubilee Pool

The Jubilee Pool is the last part of a £1.8m upgrade of the geothermal facility in a project funded by a community public share offer, in which 1,400 people – 970 of whom are local to the Penzance area – provided £540,000.

In other times, 50 people will be allowed into the water at once but under COVID-19 restrictions, just 15 are allowed in at the same time. The heating works by extracting warm water from a geothermal well, then transferring that heat to the pool before “re-injecting the cooler water back into the ground”.

It is the first facility its kind in the UK and will act as “a showcase for geothermal, low carbon heat supply”, engineers noted. The project was halted for a while by nature: drilling began in November 2018, but hit a stumbling block in April 2019 when engineers encountered “a zone of very high water flow” at 410 metres. That meant that the planned depth of 1,400m (4,594 ft) could not be reached, and additional pumps were required to reach the target temperature.

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