Sunday, 3 November 2013

Two of The World's Oldest Swimming Clubs!

According to the Maidstone Swimming Club website, the Maidstone Swimming Club, Kent, England is the oldest surviving swimming club in the world.  It was founded in 1844 when there was concern over drownings in the River Medway. Rescuers would often die in the water because they could usually not swim to safety themselves. The club used to swim in the river and would hold races, diving competitions and water polo matches in the Medway. The South East Gazette July 1844 reported an aquatic breakfast party. Coffee and biscuits were served on a floating raft in the river, the coffee was kept hot over a fire and club members had to tread water and drink coffee at the same time. The last swimmers managed to overturn the raft to the amusement of the 150 spectators. For more info you can visit their website.


However, I was emailed this picture of the members from Brighton Swimming Club.  The photo was taken by Benjamin William Botham in 1863.  I was intrigued and decided to do some research on the Brighton Swimming Club. According to an article in Swimming Times, January 2002 issue (below), The Brighton Swimming Club is possibly the oldest swimming club because it can prove it's pedigree and also, it is debatable as to whether or not Maidstone Swimming Club was in continual existence since it was formed in 1844.

According to the Brighton Swimming Club website, the club was established following a meeting of swimming enthusiasts at The Jolly Fisherman in Brighton's Market Street, on 4th May 1860. The founder members included George Brown, John Henry Camp (he was a one legged swimmer after having his leg amputated a few years before), Charles Hindley, J. Nyren, W. Patching, R. Ward, and George Worsley. According to the article, a small band of keen swimmers met regularly to bathe from the beach near the Lion Mansions Hotel on Grand Junction Parade during the late 1850s, but did not formalise their group into a club until May 1860. Men who wanted to join the Brighton Swimming Club paid an entrance fee of one shilling and a weekly subscription of two pence (2d) a week.   Visit their website to read the full article  



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