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Posts Tagged ‘Glasgow’

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Glasgow Live reports: Whether its splashing about in the wee pool or on the inflatables as a youngster or maybe just enjoying a leisurely swim as an adult, generations of Glaswegians have long enjoyed sticking on their trunks and swimsuits to head to the public and private baths that populate the city.

So much so, that its probably second in terms of popularity as a sport behind football – at least, that was certainly the case back in the mid to late 19th and early 20th century according to a Stirling University study on the development of sport in the city between 1850 and 1914.

In the 18th century, long before the appearance of swimming baths in the city, swimming as a leisure pursuit was practiced by plenty of Glaswegians in the most obvious place – the River Clyde.

Its popularity among the working classes was down to the easy access afforded to the river, alongside the obvious fact that is was both an activity without cost and killed two birds with one stone in that it was both refreshing and a way to ensure personal cleanliness.

Another reason for success of informal river swimming in the city was the formation of the Glasgow Humane Society in 1790 (the oldest continuing lifeboat service in the UK) – which helped to bring down the number of drownings that were occurring. Read more…

Discover the hiistory of British Swimming

 

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Glasgow Live reports: We chart the evolution of swimming from the River Clyde to the public and private baths that sprung up across the city.

In the 18th century, long before the appearance of swimming baths in the city, swimming as a leisure pursuit was practiced by plenty of Glaswegians in the most obvious place – the River Clyde.

Its popularity among the working classes was down to the easy access afforded to the river, alongside the obvious fact that is was both an activity without cost and killed two birds with one stone in that it was both refreshing and a way to ensure personal cleanliness.

Another reason for success of informal river swimming in the city was the formation of the Glasgow Humane Society in 1790 (the oldest continuing lifeboat service in the UK) – which helped to bring down the number of drownings that were occurring.

The construction of a boat house and a room with life saving equipment reduced the risks involved in taking to the Clyde along with it, as well as the introduction of a life saving officer working out of the boat house and rewards for people who helped people who had gotten into difficulty on the river.

But with fatalities continuing the Council decided to take it upon themselves to build facilities at the river to try and ensure people would bathe at the same (safe)  location.

Not that it mattered much post 1850 – as the increase in river traffic and the move by industries to secure locations next to the Clyde, alongside the polluting of the river, practically put a halt to the popular Glasgow pasttime.

While the Council also passed a law prohibiting river bathing in certain (dangerous) areas and used local police to strictly enforce a rule limiting the amount of flesh you could display as you took a dip.

Things began to change with the opening of an opening air facility in Alexandra park in Dennistoun in 1877 form the summer months and an increase in national (and local) concern for general public health.

Prior to that, one of the first indoor swimming and bathing facilities for the public to use was situated up in the Blythswood area from which Bath Street gets its name.

Constructed by businessman William Harley (who made his money in the cotton trade), the lavish setup and social facilities attempted to attract the upper echelons of Glasgow society.

But it struggled to do so in a time where physical exercise wasn’t regarded as necessary (especially in a 12 hour, six day a week industrial working day) and where few people could swim – coupled with the hard fact that Glaswegians loved a ‘bevvy’ and a bet couldn’t do either in the confines of the swimming pool.

But with renewed interest in swimming in the 1870s into the 20th century, ten indoor swimming pools were constructed in the city (five public and five private), such as North Woodside Pool in 1882 – the oldest public pool in operation today.

Private baths such as the still-standing Arlington Baths proved popular given that the upper levels of society had begun to enjoy making trips to seaside resorts outside of the city on the West Coast and the fact that they offered swimming lessons to members.

Figures show that in 1900, male Glaswegians made 475,000 trips to public swimming pools, with that figure rising to over 700,000 by 1914. Compare that to 30,000 females visiting public baths in 1900 increasing to 100,000 in 1914.

A by-product of the increase in swimming was the rise in popularity in Glasgow of competitive swimming both in participating and as a spectator. With clubs springing up across the city – numbering 109 in 1914.

Cut to today and with Glaswegians more keen on staying fit and active than ever before, we remain pretty much spoilt for choice with 12 public swimming pools to choose from at sites such as Scotstoun, The Gorbals, Tollcross and Maryhill, as well as a handful of private baths.

Enough to ensure both that, like in years gone by, residents are never too far away from their nearest pool and that our love affair with going for a wee dip remains as strong as ever – although doing so in the River Clyde is well and truly a thing of the past!

Discover swimming history in your region…

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