The water was the only place to be as temperatures up to 38.1C made yesterday the hottest July day ever.
Beaches and lidos were packed with sweltering sunseekers desperate for a cooling dip as the mercury topped 100F for only the second time on record.
The top temperature was recorded in Cambridge but tropical conditions baked other parts of the country too – causing tempers to boil over.
Police were called to Brockwell Lido in South-East London when 500 people tried to storm the outdoor pool after waiting more than three hours to get in.
Officers also repeatedly attended Parliament Hill Lido in North London as fights broke out in the queue.
The venue was forced to refuse further entry just before noon due to overcrowding, and an officer was left at the scene to prevent further violence.
The Metropolitan Police said: “Officers were first called to the venue at 09.49hrs when a number of minor scuffles broke out as swimmers queued to enter the lido. Further incidents of disorder broke out throughout the day.”
A spokeswoman said there had been no arrests or any reported injuries, but added: “Police remain in attendance to prevent a breach of the peace.”
Portishead Lido near Bristol and pools at Peterborough and York were also forced to turn away disappointed punters after reaching capacity quickly.
Queues began at dawn at the pool in Faversham, Kent, where the all-time record UK temperature of 38.5C was set on August 10, 2003.
Sunseekers also packed every inch of beach in Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, Blackpool, Margate in Kent, Brighton and Skegness, Lincs.
But in Liverpool shoppers had to run for cover after pounding rain lashed the city centre.
A swimmer drowned off Pevensey, East Sussex, and three people were taken to hospital with burns after four boats caught fire as a patch of fuel ignited in the heat at a marina in Upton-upon-Severn, Worcs.
Two dogs had to be rescued by police after being trapped in boiling hot cars as their owners shopped – one in Leeds and the other in Plymouth, Devon.
There was also misery for commuters as the heat led to huge delays and cancellations.
Thousands were stranded in London after a series of incidents blocked trains running to and from the capital. The extreme conditions caused damage to overhead electric wires, blocking all lines between London and Luton, Beds.
There was also disruption between London and Watford, between Preston and Carlisleand in the Birmingham area.
Commuters were stranded for three hours without air-conditioning when a Virgin train broke down just outside London Euston around 2pm.
Around 600 people were stuck on two trains after damaged overhead electrical cables caused a grass fire on a railway embankment in North London just after 2.30pm.
East Midlands Trains urged people not to travel as trains to Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield and Leicester were stopped.
The Midland Main Line was also shut.
All lines in and out of London Waterloo were blocked after a man was seen chasing a dog along electrified tracks. South Western Railway said: “I can confirm the trespass incident involves an individual chasing a dog down the rail lines.”
Commuters were also stranded at St Pancras station. One, Gary Freeman, 56, said: “On the hottest day of the year it adds insult to injury.”
Commuters were warned to expect further delays going into the weekend.
Nick King of Network Rail said: “Our teams have been working flat out to fix the issues.”
The previous July high was 36.7C at Heathrow in 2015.
The heatwave will end in a washout with thunderstorms this weekend.
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