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The early years

In Spring 1884 a number of leading business and professional Gentlemen of Colchester met at the Red Lion Hotel and decided on the formation of Colchester Swimming Club. That summer, a swimming competition was organised in the Public Bathing Place between the banks of the River Colne near North Station.

All the events were scratch races, and during the evening the Band of the Colchester Volunteers played for the competitors and spectators. The Mayor presented the prizes. In August 1884 a second competition was held which was to be the inauguration of an Annual Festival. A Life Saving Section was also established, which became very popular.

"Come on in - the water's lovely!"

From 1884 to 1932 all events and competitions against other clubs took place in the River Colne. Being river water the temperature at times was quite cold, and in times of drought the water level was very low, but these circumstances did not deter the enthusiasm of the Members.

During these years canvassing was carried out for a covered indoor pool, but the Club and people of Colchester had to settle for the next best thing, an open air pool sited on the old bathing place, which was opened in 1932.

"Please would spectators NOT run onto the pitch at the end."

A grand opening Gala was held, with swimmers coming from all over England. The programme for this event, which is held in the Club archives, mentions many names still well known in business and the professions in the Town. The gala attracted a crowd of 1,700 people!

The Membership of the Club had fallen to 27 as the idea of swimming in the River Colne became less attractive, but within 2 years of the outdoor pool opening this figure had risen to 243 which created a number of problems for both the Club and competitive swimmers.

"Oi, Ref - stop putting your oar in!"

The new pool was shaped like an egg and only the middle section could be used for competitions! This section was 55 yards long and races had to be judged by officials standing some distance away from the swimmers. Water Polo matches were refereed from a boat.

During the era of the outdoor pool the Annual Festival and Inter Club Galas continued and the East Anglian Swimming League was formed. An arrangement with the Local Education Authority enabled children from local schools to attend the pool on Monday evenings for tuition by Club Members.

"And the award for the wettest swimmer goes to..."

In the latter part of the evening, races for both male and female members were held, points being awarded for entering the events, and resulting finishing positions. A trophy was awarded at the end of the season, to the swimmer gaining most points. Water Polo was also included in the evening's activities, so Monday became the Club night up to the start of the Second World War.

One of the highlights in the swimming world during this period was the annual Long Distance Race between the Hythe and Wivenhoe, which took place in the River Colne. This event was open to males and females and covered a distance of approximately 2.5 miles.

"Can you throw in a couple of floats, Coach? Aaarg!"

In 1934 the Club was able to obtain the services of a professional coach, and training under her direction took place on Sunday mornings and afternoons. Obviously at that time the present day floats were not available, so the heavy duck boards from the changing rooms were used instead.

The Social side of the Club was very active and to generate funds monthly club dances were held, which were very popular. They continued until the first year of the war, when the profits were donated to troop comforts and the local hospital. Until after the war, the Office of Club President was held by the sitting Mayor of Colchester. Since then (until 1990) the President has been the MP for Colchester.

"It ain't half hot, mum!"

In 1953 the Colchester Garrison pool was converted into a larger indoor heated pool. It was opened primarily for the use of troops but eventually outside organisations were allowed access, and the Club were allowed Friday evenings for their training sessions.

The rest, as they say, is History....but can anyone bring us further up to date?



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