Posts Tagged ‘history’

The River Torrens was home for the Gilberton Swimming Club until 1970 when it was banned from using the waterway

Adelaide Now reports:

A 100-year-old swimming club that started in the River Torrens is closing but only after sharing its $450,000 nest egg with the community. Gilberton Swimming Club will spread the money among the Walkerville, Klemzig, Vale Park and East Adelaide Primary schools. The $450,000 sum has grown from about $150,000 the state government paid the club when it was forced out of the Torrens swimming hole in 1970.

Gilberton Swimming Club on the banks of the River Torrens

A ban on swimming in the river displaced the club, which received the money for land it owned either side of the Torrens pool. The homeless club has since funded children’s swimming classes in local pools instead of building a replacement pool of its own. More…

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Jenny Landreth of the Telegraph reports: The joy of swimming in lidos – and what they tell us about ourselves. There are people for whom the notion of a lido …is not appealing at all.  Some people would only consider dipping their toe into an outdoor pool on a Mediterranean summer holiday where the temperatures barely drop below 30 degrees. Some of course would prefer not to share with anyone outside immediate family. Some swimmers need a roof. And for ‘wild’ swimmers, lidos are restrictive boxes of chemically-treated water, offering none of the freedoms that being outdoors should bring…

The Blue Lagoon Bristol 1937

…To my mind, lidos offer three very particular things: freedom, equality, and community. If all that sounds suspiciously French, it’s merely a happy coincidence because the nostalgia that surrounds them feels particularly British. Something in the solidly unpretentious architecture, and something in the water. Something cold. Maybe it should be part of our nationality exam: if you can get in freezing water then turn to your companions and say through gritted teeth ‘it’s fine once you get in’ you are British. There’s nothing, except maybe cake, we do as well as stoicism.

Swimming History in Leicester

When the then Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Josiah Stamp, opened the Morecambe Lido in 1936 he said: ‘When we get down to swimming’ he said ‘we get down to democracy’.  He was right: we are all equal in a swimming cap…  Everywhere else, we’re prodded and pushed, cossetted and coddled, shouted at and sold to, from screens on the buses, in post office queues, up every escalator, and on our phones. Swimming in a lido puts all of that temporarily on hold. It may be a 90metre artificial box of bright blue tucked in a corner of Tooting Common, but when you get into the water you can be right at the heart of your day, feeling whatever it has to chuck at you. The freedom of solitude and the ability to forget quite where you are, while simultaneously celebrating it. These are simple pleasures. The joy of feeling free, and alive.More…

Did you know – The Lido is responsible for seismic shift in the nations attitude towards swimming. Read chapter 5 of the book: Hung Out to Dry – Swimming and British Culture; Lido’s Open, Rivers Close.

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The Observer reports: Swimmers across Britain will greet the longest day by plunging into a pool tomorrow. Many will take that summer solstice dip amid the splendour of a restored public lido or municipal baths as the national appetite for preserving historic leisure facilities grows.

In Penzance, the Jubilee Pool reopened last month following a £3m repair project after storm damage in 2014. The pool, built in 1935, was first reopened in 1994 after falling into disrepair.

The new lido movement, driven by a fresh impulse to swim in the open air, has notched up a series of successful rescues. Among the star sites are south London’s Brockwell Lido, for years threatened with closure, the lido in High Wycombe, shut down in 2010, and one in Charlton, which reopened after a £2m refurbishment in 2013. In Reading, Berkshire, the team behind the restoration of Bristol’s chic Grade II-listed open-air pool at Clifton are doing extensive work on the former King’s Meadow pool, built in 1902 for women and initially fed by Thames water. It has been closed for 42 years. On the south coast, Saltdean Lido, near Brighton, was visited by communities and local government secretary Greg Clark this month to herald its restoration by 2017. Six years ago the pool was due to be filled in. More…


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The Telegraph reports: Organisers of Stert Island Swim, which was first held in 1915, cancel 2016 event after waters are deemed unsafe by EU – despite apparently being cleaner than ever.


The Stert Island Swim, which takes place every year off Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset, has fallen foul of the EU’s decision to significantly increase the pass-mark for safe bathing waters.

Burnham Jetty North was one of 10 beaches that were previously regarded as safe but have been deemed too dirty for swimming under the new standards, which are roughly twice as tough as the old ones.

He said organisers would “reconsider holding the event in 2017 if the sea water improves or if we’re no longer in the EU and the sea water regulations return to how they were”. More…

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The City of Leicester holds a rich treasure trove of history dating back to Roman times.

Discover a 2,000 year history that will surprise, sadden and hopefully inspire you.

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Enjoy this concise history of British swimming!

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When we think ‘swimming’, we mostly think of cold changing rooms, chilly water, damp towels and the pungent smell of chlorine. Despite the evident joy and enthusiasm of children, indoor swimming is just about as far as you can get from a natural experience. Mind you, prison was never intended to be pleasurable. It may surprise you to discover that Indoor swimming baths were built as cauldrons for poor bathers and as containment for the rowdy enthusiasm of skinny dipping men and boys.

Last year I visited two countries which offer a complete contrast to the British swimming experience. Take Iceland for example, just larger in size than Ireland yet with a very small population corresponding to that of the City of Leicester. The weather in Iceland is much worse though and it hardly even gets light in winter. Even so outdoor swimming is a national obsession and with 123 lidos brimming with hot water and people having fun it’s obvious that swimming really means something up North. Swimming, relaxing in the outdoor Jacuzzi, diving and water slides are a daily pleasure in Iceland. The lido is to Icelanders the place to be, where life is lived and friendships are enriched. With dry warm changing rooms and hardly any chlorine, you should see Iceland, it’s extraordinary.

Later in the year I had my eyes opened wide when visiting Switzerland. At home in Leicester, all our fun outdoor swimming opportunities have been taken away and any dissenting voice on the subject drowned out in favour of the Councils swim indoors policy. Yet in Zurich I swam the city river with its diving boards, chain hand rails, life guards and changing rooms. The water was teeming with swimmers enjoying fresh air and good health.

Wild Swimming in Zurich

Wild Swimming in Zurich

Leicester used to have very similar facilities built into the river and canal. For instance the Gas Works Lido built behind the lock near the old Dunlop Factory, and The Bede House, which now lies sad and forgotten, hidden away like a shameful secret. This Mecca of fun and freedom drew swimmers from across the city. How ironic then, that the remains of one of Leicester’s best riverside lidos where swimming has been outlawed for nearly 80 years stands alongside our statue of liberty!

Another swimming venue to look out for is in Castle Gardens, find the ‘no swimming’ signs and you’ll discover the chain handrails on the canal banks, still their long after Leicester’s swimmers have been chased away. Great swimmers like John/Jack Jarvis! He raced in the Seine in the 1900 Paris Olympics, becoming the first ever triple gold medal winner. Jarvis was a Leicester legend, a man calling himself ‘Amateur Swimming Champion of the World,’ who went on to earn 108 international swimming championships to prove it! Where did he train to swim long distance? You guessed it, in the river Soar in the canal in Leicester right by those no swimming signs in Castle Gardens. Swimming extended all the through the city up to North Bridge with another bathing place just beyond it now laid to rest under St Margaret’s Way.

Abbey Park Lido

Abbey Park Lido

Abbey Park had a riverside lido in its centre, with swimming races held above the weir and water polo matches below it in Tumbling Bay, the steps the swimmers used then are still there today! When you next visit the Space Centre, stand on the new footbridge over the river and look at the remnants of Abbey Meadows Bathing Station on the far bank of the river and discover yet more chain handrails on the canal banks just around the corner.

Kenwood Lido LeicesterIn Leicester we also had two privately owned lidos, Kenwood in Knighton and Leicester Lido on Humberstone Road behind the Trocadero cinema. Leicester had five paddling pools, all now closed with two converted into skateboarding Mecca’s because skateboarding is supposedly safer than paddling, though I’m not convinced myself. Why not take a look at Leicester’s swimming history for yourself?

Leicester 1840 Artist Unknown

Leicester 1840 Artist Unknown

There’s no better place to start than in Leicester’s museums. On New Walk visit the ground floor art gallery, climb onto the stage and right there in the middle you will see a painting of old Leicester completed in about 1840, look carefully and you will see the river swimmers on the river bank and diving from the bridge. Visit the Newark Houses Museum and you can find out about Daniel Lambert a famous Leicester swimmer, see his oversized clothing and furniture, and pictures on display! But what about our modern day, it can’t be safe to go swimming outdoors in rivers and lakes these days can it? It stands to reason that it’s just too dangerous! On my visit to Switzerland, I discovered just the opposite to be true.

I swam through Basal with my clothes packed in a waterproof bag, dodging bridges ferries and barges and discovered that river swimming is Basil’s main tourist attraction. You can swim almost anywhere in Switzerland, Lakes are lined with lidos and bathing beaches one after another. And they are all really needed as everyone wants to bathe. Diving boards, pontoons, sunbathing lawns, children’s play parks, cafes and restaurants, one after another what a holiday. What saddens me though is that the idea for all this came from England, and that Leicester was at one time Swim City! It was the British that led the world back into water after years of religious and superstitious intolerance and persecution. Why, you may ask is swimming in rivers lakes and lidos so popular and successfully across Europe and America when we in Leicester are so sure it’s unsafe? Could it be that we are right and the rest of the world is wrong? I don’t think so, and that’s why I took the trouble to research and write the history of British swimming with a special emphasis on swimming in Leicester. Shocking, fascinating and often amusing the swimmers history centres on my city, where swimmers have truly been Hung Out to Dry.

Hung Out to Dry Swimming and British Culture by Chris Ayriss is available from all good bookshops and online at: hungouttodry.co.uk

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Wild Swimming at Yearsley Open Air Swimming Baths York

Fred Rowntree designed and constructed these swimming baths in 1908 at a cost approaching £3,000. The original design held 226,890 gallons of water and measured 144 feet long by 51 feet wide. The shallow end was 3 feet deep and the deep end was 6 feet 9 inches. It was presented to the city of York on 4th May 1909.

Originally open-air, its roof was added in 1964/5. A major refurbishment was carried out in 2007.

The health benefits swimmers enjoy are amplified even further when swimmers venture outdoors.

Discover the changing history of British Swimming and find out where people who lived near you would go swimming – Our Wild Swimming Past…

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Beccles River Bathing Place 1905

Highlights and Early History of River Bathing at Beccles

Test your knowledge at the end!

1862 WARNING: To Bathers. All persons who are found bathing in the RIVER WAVENEY between the Smelt House and 200 yards below Beccles Bridge after 9 o’clock in the morning, will be PROSECUTED according to law.

1867 COUNCIL: Public Bathing Place suggested.
1873 Saw the purchase of the Old Granary on the banks of the river Waveney in Puddingmoor for the sum of £300. The building was to be used as a dressing room for people bathing in the river. This was the beginning of the history of organised Outdoor Swimming in Beccles. The old bathing place still much used.
1874 Council: Bathing Place should be made deeper. 200 a day used it when very warm; 100 when cooler; 50 a day now (September).
1875 Ladies to have special time for using Bathing Place.
1881 BATHING PLACE: (LETTER): Some years ago a spot about 300 yards up the river was the only recognised place for bathing, but it was hampered by a halfpenny fine to reach it, for ferrying across the river. There was difficulty about getting a right of way to the Bathing place. The Corporation decided upon making a new bathing place. They purchased propertyalongside the river, but unfortunately a bungle was made of the scheme, and the outcome was an old granary fitted up in rough and ready style, and a limited quantity of enclosed water. This was all very well for youngsters learning to swim, but the grand mistake was in ignoring the large number of persons who can swim, and to whom it is no pleasure to be contained to a small breadth of filthy water. The old bathing place is still used by many who desire to enjoy a wholesome bathe. A better spot could not be found for miles around. Until within the last two or three years the ground shelved gradually down to the middle of the river, which is deep, free from weeds, and suitable in every respect for the swimmer. Now holes have been dredged in the shallow side, and it is positively dangerous. Only the other morning a lad, trying to swim, got into one of these holes and was nearly drowned.
1894 108 yards of the river frontage was cordoned off and enclosed with and post and plank fence. The planking was fixed to stout posts, driven firmly into the bed of the river, a gap below the fence allowed the flow to change the depth of water. Cubicles were built for changing rooms: one set for ladies and one for the gentlemen separated by a large communal changing room for youth and boys. For girls there were six or eight wooden huts.
1895 NEW BATHING PLACE used by 30,000 bathers this Summer. Never before has there been such a run on the place as a result of the long and hot summer.
River Bathing Place Beccles
 1922 The Town Council agree to allot separate hours to schools for children’s swimming lessons. The Council also agreed to the installation of 3 spring boards with the centre one to be made rigid (no longer in existence). 1930s The entry fee was 2d for Adults and 1d for children.

1959 Construction of a new Bathing Place adjacent to the old one began and was completed in the same year. The result is what remains today; Beccles Outdoor Swimming Pool.

Diving Boards at Beccles Bathing Place

1975 Saw the installation of Heating for the Pool.

The Swimming Pool at Beccles

1976 “Beccles Swimming Pool is one of the town’s most popular summer sporting attractions providing not only a pleasant riverside leisure spot for local people and holiday visitors alike but also valuable service as a place where people can learn to swim..” For more information click here…


Questions to consider…

When the Romans occupied Britain they built bathing places countrywide. Why did these close, and why was bathing and swimming then discouraged for centuries? (see Hung Out to Dry p 11, 14-16, 41-43)

In 1862 why was it OK to bathe in the river before 9.00 am, but why did you face prosecuted for bathing after 9.00? (see Hung Out to Dry p 7, 96)

Why fence off the river for bathers? (see Hung Out to Dry p 23-24, 119)

Why build a Lido when river bathing was so popular? (see Hung Out to Dry p 129)

Why since then have Lidos closed one after another, and why do those that remain struggle to keep their heads above water? (see Hung Out to Dry p 33-34)

Enjoy find the answers here…

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The Strand Lido Gillingham swimming history

The Strand – Gillingham

From Kent History Forum, Shell remembers: “I loved the Strand as a child, to me it seemed it was my very own personal playground! From the start of summer at the age of five, until the end of summer when I was eleven, my mum was in charge of the boating pool at the Strand, and also kept an eye on the paddling pool next door. She’d stand around in her waders in the water for most of the day, helping people in and out of the boats, charging 20p for half an hour.

Almost every School day from about the age of eight, I was helped on to the 145 bus to the Strand… Got off the bus, and went over to the boating pool, let Mum know I was there, and headed for the swimming pool.

Every year Mum got me a season ticket for the pool, and as children do, rain or shine I’d be in the pool, even if I was sitting on the bar in the shallow end, because the water was too cold to swim in! It was there that I was taught to swim by ‘Auntie’ Rita, the head lifeguard, and was kept an unofficial eye on by the sun-tan ladies.  And if I wasn’t there, I was running around the play equipment, outside…

During the summer holidays, nearly everyday except Sunday’s, I was down there, running around… I had boundaries of where I could and couldn’t go.  I was to stay away from the road, not leave the Strand, not to go past the golf cabin, not to talk to strangers, and not to go onto the beach, without an adult, because it was dangerous.  And the one time I did sneak onto the beach to see my first jellyfish, my dad, who worked for the council, happened to be down the Strand that day and saw me!  Then I really was stuck in Mum’s cabin with nothing to do!

…There were a lot of fun times there, but it’s all changed now.  But every now and then, I still get, “Did your mum work at the Strand” or  a “I remember you, your ‘Auntie’ Pam’s daughter, from the boating pool!”  As most of the regular locals knew my mum as either ‘Auntie’ Pam or Mrs Boating Pool Lady!”


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