Abstract This article presents the first historical account of the spectacular growth of British leisure centres throughout the 1970s. The first section explains why the concept of leisure became so prominent, and emphasizes the extent of the boom in construction of centres. The second section offers a tour of a pioneering leisure centre in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire. The third provides a history of a firm of architects, Gillinson, Barnett and Partners, who were particularly active in producing leisure centres. The article argues that leisure centres help us to revise a view of municipal government in this period as being sclerotic and moribund; instead the social democratic state is seen as expanding its purview and adapting in response to a range of issues.