One of Britain’s greatest swimming pools and the standing stone that inspired Tolkien being saved for new generations

Two landmarks of very different nature have received boosts which should help them survive many more years: the elegant Saltdean Lido near Brighton, and a country boundary stone near Oxford that's been a local landmark for centuries. Carla Passino and Annunciata Elwes report.

Art Deco Saltdean Lido in East Sussex will benefit from a £7.5 million restoration, with work now under way, after a local campaign group opposed a proposed redevelopment that would have seen its permanent closure.

Its pool, purpose-built beach and sunbathing lawns had only been open three years (entry sixpence) when the Lido was requisitioned by the National Fire Service in 1941 for training exercises. Restored in 1964 after years of postwar dereliction, it remained a popular attraction for decades. It’s hoped that repair work to its eroded concrete walls will see its removal from the Heritage at Risk Register.

‘The handsome Saltdean Lido was inspired by ocean liner and aircraft design and is architecturally probably the finest in England,’ says Duncan Wilson, Historic England chief executive.

‘Heritage and wellbeing are so closely linked and I offer my congratulations to all the volunteers that have campaigned to see the Lido reimagined.’

Saltdean Lido — one of only three lidos in the country with a Grade II* listing — should re-open in late summer 2023.

courtesy Saltdean Lido CIC

Meanwhile, a determined group of volunteers is working to save a landmark that may have inspired J. R. R. Tolkien’s Three-Farthing Stone in The Lord of the Rings. Two miles from Moreton-in-Marsh, the 15ft-high Four Shire Stone marks the boundary where three counties — Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, and Oxfordshire — meet (it was four, hence the name, until the boundaries of Worcestershire were changed).

Tolkien must have passed it as he drove from Oxford to his brother’s farm near Evesham, so it may have sparked the idea for the place where Samwise Gamgee casts the last of the dust from Galadriel’s garden. But it’s not only the literary connection that makes the stone interesting: from the 18th century, the stone was the backdrop to prize fights, because boxers could jump the county boundaries to escape prosecution.

The Four Shire Stone near Moreton in Marsh.

Despite its Grade II listing, the landmark has not been well preserved — in 1955, it had to be rebuilt after a lorry slammed into it — so local chartered surveyor James Hayman-Joyce decided to take a hand. ‘I vowed that, when I retired, I would do something. Covid got in the way, but I formed a committee with four others and we are now fundraising.’

The group obtained listed-building consent for the work and found a stonemason to start the restoration in May: ‘Quite a lot of the stone will require replacement. It is covered in algae and lichen, which will be cleaned off with a hard brush and water,’ explains Mr Hayman-Joyce. The railings around it are also in a poor state and the committee may replace them, if funds allow; for more details and to donate, visit www.fourshirestone.org.uk

The Four Shire Stone near Moreton in Marsh.