A heritage expert is swimming in two of Bradford’s closure-threatened listed pools as part of a national tour of historic baths.

Dr Ian Dungavell, director of heritage charity the Victorian Society, took to the waters of Queensbury Pool yesterday and was due at Manningham Pool today.

His challenge, The 1,000 Year Swim, is a celebration of the country’s listed Victorian and Edwardian pools.

Out of 50 listed pools in England, only 14 remain open and Dr Dungavell is backing the Telegraph & Argus Save Our Swimming campaign to retain the pools which consultants had earmarked for closure.

Dr Dungavell, 42, is swimming in each of the 14 pools which remain open, completing one length at each pool for each year it has been open. That is more than 1,000 lengths and in excess of 22 miles – further than a swim across the English Channel.

He said pools like Queensbury, where he completed 117 lengths, were very important as they had served their communities for generations.

“I’m delighted to be visiting Bradford’s listed pools,” he said.

“These pools are anchored in the community and are used by regular, ordinary people. Both are shining examples of the part that historic buildings can play in modern community life. Buildings like this offer people the chance to immerse themselves in living history and provide an important and tangible link to the past.”

He said he was surprised to find that so few listed pools were still open for public use.

“Most of them opened between 1890 and 1910,” he said. “Every-where had one and they were often combined with wash houses. It was a really important showing of civic pride, of local authorities showing they were looking out for people’s interests and that message is still relevant today.”

Six swims and nearly two weeks into the challenge and Dr Dungavell has already lost 5lbs. He said it was vital pools stayed open for health reasons. “We have a terrible epidemic of obesity in this country,” he said. “What we don’t want is a few flash, Olympic-sized swimming pools. It’s smaller community pools where children get started and where older people go. It’s important for their health and as a social network.”

Pools had closed without plans to redevelop them, he said. “When they close these pools it is very hard to find alternative uses. Some get turned into flats, nightclubs or bars or they get left derelict, that’s what we’re worried about.

“Local authorities have got to look at the non-financial cost of closing these pools.

“We must work hard to ensure that adequate funding and expertise is available to keep our remaining historic pools open to everybody for many years to come.”

Council chiefs have rejected a consultants’ report that recommended that the Queensbury and Manningham pools and those at Bingley and the Richard Dunn Sports Centre, Odsal, should be closed.

Instead, the Council’s executive has ordered officers to investigate the cost of providing a showpiece eight-lane, competition-standard pool in Bradford city centre and replacement pools at Bingley and in south Bradford.

e-mail: ben.barnett@telegraphandargus.co.uk