Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Sport - Swimming

see also Health and Hygiene - Baths and Bathing

The Morning Herald of Monday last contained the following announcement:-
    "SPORTING NOVELTIES. A SWIMMING RACE twice across the Thames by AQUATIC JOCKIES will take place at Cremorne house, King's Road, THIS DAY"
. . . . . . Upon entering the grounds, we observed a number of faces familiar to us, amongst which were the Duke of Dorset, the most noble the Marquis of Waterford, Lord Waldegrave, Count D'Orsay . . . "Here come the jocks!" saluted our ears . . . We turned round and beheld a file of stark naked adults, marching round the grounds, in order to show themselves, prior to plunging into the bosom of old father Thames. These were the aquatic jockies. "What a unique exhibition," exclaimed Miss Turner. "Louisa, love, you've got no eyes," said the pretty Miss Phipps, "eunuch, indeed, why you must be blind." "The amateurs may join in the procession," said the superintendent; and in a jiffey, a multitude were unrobed. The Duke of Dorset was the first to fall into the line. His Grace's skin had a shrivelled, yet very glossy appearance.

The Town, 1840
[from a clipping - no further info., ed.]

THE LONDON SWIMMING CLUB. - "London, which was once described as 'the clubbiest city in Europe' is not, perhaps, as generally aware as it ought to be (says the Daily News) that is possesses in the 'London Swimming Club' an association exclusively devoted to the cultivation of one of the most generally useful of all our athletic exercises. The club was established about seven years since, with the laudable object of exciting an interest in the public for the art of swimming and of stimulating its cultivation by the holding of periodical races, in which the elite of the club should show as to what perfection the art could be brought, and amateurs of all ages might strive for prizes, graduated according to the amount of their proficiency. ... The Lambeth Baths was the scene, on Monday evening, of an animated fete, into which the club had contrived to include a number of aquatic amusements of a strikingly novel and amusing character. There was, first, a 'hurdle-race' for a cup, contested by youths under sixteen who had never previously won a prize ... the hurdles consist of poles floated on the water .... Next there was an egg-diving contest .... Next there were trial heats for a silver Leander medal, trial heats for a goblet, and an extraordinary 'pole-walking' competition by members of the club. ... the great feature of the programme was the race for the captaincy of the London Swimming Club ... The whole distance swum was 400 yards, in ten lengths of the bath ...

The Penny Illustrated Paper, 29th September, 1866

With regards to another intended public improvement, it remains to be seen how far our comfort will be increased by the forthcoming opening of the floating bath to the west of Hungerford Bridge. At first sight it is certainly not perfect. Why is it covered at the top with glass? Why does not the water run through it, as is the case with each of the floating baths on the Seine? As it is, the new structure appears to be nothing better than a huge covered tank; and, unless we should be agreeably surprised, as we trust we may, the Thames floating bath promises to be anything but that delightful rendevous in hot weather which has been so long promised us.

The Penny Illustrated Paper, 26 June, 1875

see also Charles Maurice Davies in Mystic London - click here

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Swimming. —The principal Swimming Clubs in London are as follows
ALLIANCE, City of London Bath, Golden-lane, Barbican. 1s. per quarter.
AMATEUR, St. George’s Bath, Buckingham-palace-road. 10s 6d. per annum.
CADOGAN, Chelsea Bath, 171, King’s-road, Chelsea. 10s. 6d. per annum
CAMDEN, St. Pancras Bath, King-street, Camden Town. 2s. per month.
CYGNUS, Addington-square Bath, Camberwell. 10s per annum.
DREADNOUGHT, Victoria Bath, Peckham. 1s. 6d. per quarter.
EXCELSIOR, St. Pancras Bath, Tottenham-court-road. 2s. 6d. per quarter.
ILEX. Lambeth Bath, Westminster-bridge-road. 5s. per annum.
NORTH LONDON, North London Bath, Pentonville. 2s. 6d. per quarter.
OTTER, Marylebone Bath, Marylebone. 10s. 6d. per annum.
REGENT, St. Pancras Bath, Ling-street, Camden Town. 1s. per month.
ST. PANCRAS, St. Pancras Bath, Tottenham-court-road. 2s. 6d. per quarter.
SERPENTINE St. George’s Bath, Davies-street, Berkeley-square. 10s. per annum.
SOUTH LONDON, Lambeth Bath, Westminster-bridge-road. 1s. per month.
SOUTH EAST LONDON, Victoria Bath, Peckham. 2s. 6d. per annum.
WEST LONDON, St. Pancras Bath, Tottenham-court-road. 2s. per quarter.
Racing frequently takes place at the various baths, and, in the season, in the Thames and Serpentine; indeed, some enthusiasts even race in the latter unsavoury water at Christmas. There is a floating bath on the Thames at Charing.cross.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

Ilex Swimming Club. - This club was founded in 1861, its members being drawn from the ranks of amateur rowing, yachting, canoe, cruising, athletic, and football clubs. It is managed by a president, vice-president, captain, secretary, and twelve committee-men. these offices are all elective, with the exception of the captaincy, which is annually swum for in the Thames. Members are elected by ballot, one black ball in five excluding. The subscription for active members is 10s. per annum, or £2 2s. for life; non-active members pay 5s. per annum, or £1 1s. for life. The head-quarters of the club are at the Lambeth Baths, where most of its races take place; colours, black and crimson.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames, 1881

Swimming.--The races for the amateur championship of Great Britain took place originally in the Thames, the course being from Putney to Hammersmith, but in 1874 the venue was changed to Hendon. Mr. Horace Davenport was for some years amateur champion. The recognised professional championship course is two miles in the Thames, from Putney Aqueduct, and the title is now held by E. T. Jones, of Leeds. The Lords and Commons' Cup, annually swum for in the Thames, from Westminster to Putney, was a challenge cup, value £30 to be held three years. It was won outright by Mr. Horace Davenport.
    The following clubs hold their principal race - the captaincy race - in the Thames:
    AMATEUR.-Meet at the Fitzroy Bath, Tottenham Court-road on Friday evening. Subscription, 10s. 6d. per annum.
    ATLANTIC-Meet at the City of London Bath, Golden-lane.
    BOROUGH OF FINSBURY.-Meet at the Central Bath, St. John-street, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
    CAMDEN-Meet at St. Pancras Bath, Camden Town, on Thursday evening. Subscription, 1s. per month.
    CYGNUS. - Meet at Addington-square Bath, Camberwell, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Subscription,10s. per annum.
    EAST LONDON - Meet at Poplar Bath. East India-road, on Tuesday evening. Subscription, 1s. per month.
    ILEX.-Meet at Lambeth Bath Westminster Bridge-road, on Monday evening.
    PACIFIC-Meet at Central Bath, St. John-street, on Monday evening. 
    SANDRINGHAM. - Meet at Metropolitan Bath, Shepherdess-walk, on Tuesday evening.
    SOUTH LONDON - Meet at Lambeth Bath, Westminster Bridge- road, on Wednesday evening. Subscription, 1s. per month.
    SOUTH-EAST LONDON - Meet at Victoria Bath, Peckham, on Tuesday evening. Subscription, 2s. 6d. per annum.
    SURBITON.-Meet at Messenger's Boat-house, Surbiton, during the season.
    THAMES.-Meet at Putney during the season.
    WEST LONDON.- Meet at Fitzroy Bath, Tottenham-court-road, on Tuesday evening. Subscription, 2s. per quarter.
    WHITEHALL - Meet at Floating Bath, Victoria Embankment, on Tuesday evening.
    ZEPHYR - Meet at Fitzroy Bath, Tottenham-court-road, on Wednesday evening. Subscription, 2s. per quarter.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames, 1881

Swimming Association of Great Britain (The) comprises the following clubs: Alliance, Amateur, Bangor (Co. Down, Ireland), Burton-on-Trent, North London, Regent, South-East London, West London, Birmingham, Brighton, Dewsbury, Eastbourne, Huddersfield, Jersey, Newcastle, Otter, Portsmouth, Surrey, Tyldesley. Subscription: London clubs, £1 1s. per annum; Country clubs, 10s. 6d. per annum. H. I. Barron, hon. secretary. Head. quarters: Goswell Hall, Goswell-road, London, E.C.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames, 1881

    There is also the Christmas morning swimming race by members of the Serpentine Swimming Club, of course weather permitting; what I mean to say is, let the weather be ever so rough and cold, if the frost has not been too severe and the course is clear of ice, the race comes off-about a hundred yards, I believe, and quite far enough too, for the competitors are very glad to get out and dress; they have plenty of attendance from their friends, who supply them with liberal drinks of hot rum and milk to drive the cold out, If any of my readers have any doubt as to the authenticity of this race taking place (it certainly sounds incredible), I would refer them to the Sporting Life newspaper or the Secretary of the S.S.C., Mr. Rowlly, and they will soon be assured on the matter. The summer morning bathing is much more pleasant to stand about and witness. I have seen some fine short distance handicap races given there by the above club during bathing hours. Some of my readers may remember Dave Ainsworth, the champion short distance swimmer, an old member of the S.S.C. Of course he was always scratch man in a race. I have seen the limit man in a hundred yards race apparently within twenty yards of the winning flag before the starter, with watch in hand, has given Dave the word "Go". He has gone off the diving plank like an arrow, and ploughed through the water after the style of a little steam launch-pass a dozen, and nearly, if not quite, win. I have witnessed these races many times with great interest.
    A race introduced since my time, but most certainly worthy of mention for its humane idea, is the Lord Howard de Walden's "Clothes Race" (everything on - no undressing); it is generously encouraged with prizes given by that nobleman and also by Mr. Burdett Coutts. Other gentlemen also present prizes to be competed for in the ordinary races. Last, but not least, is a handsome cup presented annually by the proprietors of The Daily Telegraph newspaper, known as the "Daily Telegraph Cup."

Edward Owen, Hyde Park, Select Narratives, Annual Event, etc, 
during twenty years' Police Service in Hyde Park,