A LEISURE centre will host free taster sessions and family fun to celebrate a milestone date this weekend.

Woodhouse Close Leisure Complex at Bishop Auckland marks its 50th anniversary with an open day tomorrow (Sunday, February 11), between 9am and 3pm.

There will be the chance to try out new aqua fitness classes featuring bikes and trampolines and family activities will include Ready, Sett Splash and inflatable and float sessions, an obstacle course and arts and craft activities.

To book contact the leisure centre by phoning 03000-261322 or email leisure-woodhouse-close@durham.gov.uk

Councillor Tracie Smith, the council’s Cabinet support member for tourism, culture, leisure and rural issues, said: “I’d like to wish a huge happy 50th birthday to Woodhouse Close Leisure Complex.

“The site will have welcomed generations of local families over its 50 years while developing into the hub of modern leisure and fitness facilities we see today.

“We hope as many people as possible come along to help us celebrate on Sunday and we look forward to them enjoying the complex’s facilities for many years to come.”

In celebration of the 50 years, anyone signing up for a swim membership before Monday will get a 25 per cent discount.

The centre first opened to swimmers in October, 1967 but was officially unveiled by county council chairman Alderman Bob Middlewood as Bishop Auckland Swimming Baths at a ceremony on Saturday, February 10, 1968.

It had been built by Bishop Auckland Urban District Council at a cost of £300,000 after more than three decades of lobbying successive Governments for help.

According to a programme from the opening ceremony, local politicians had sent delegations to London “on a number of occasions with the object of trying to convince Ministry Officials that Swimming Baths in Bishop Auckland were vitally necessary and that considerable revenue was being lost to the Town owing to the inhabitants being compelled to travel to Durham and Darlington".

It tells how, after the council made the case for baths at a Public Local Inquiry in 1936, the offer of a grant for the building of a pool had to be withdrawn because of the “national emergency” that was the outbreak of the Second World War.

The site’s opening featured the Bishop of Durham and a display by Olympic diver Brian Phelps.

The facilities have changed over time to suit demand, and today the complex has two pools, a gym, sauna and steam room and hosts exercise classes and children’s parties.

In the last five years, it has welcomed more than a million visitors.