Updated: Sep 16
ITV News reports: Henleaze Swimming Club celebrates its centenary this weekend.
The club – the only one of its type in the country – was well-ahead of its time in gender equality and in the philosophy of physical mental wellness.
The club has more members than ever – in fact there’s a three year wait to join.
But the club’s fortunes have been mixed over the decades, as Rob Murphy reports…
The flooded former limestone quarry in north Bristol had been used unofficially for swimming for 15 years.
But, when two teenage boys drowned – followed by a rise in the popularity of wild swimming – the need for safety on the site helped inspire the official formation of Henleaze Swimming Club in 1919.
It was established at the end of the First World War, some of its earliest swimmers were soldiers convalescing at nearby Southmead Hospital.
The club was progressive, allowing women to be members from its infancy.
For decades gangs of children from the nearby Southmead district would break in at night, illicitly fishing, boating and swimming.
They had their own currency, some boys would catch frogs to swap for catapults or inner tubes. Eventually a large gate was put around the site.
The 1960s and 70s were darker days, where the club struggled financially. At one point it had just a few hundred members.
But another surge in an interest in wild swimming helped surge its renaissance in the late 1980s and it has grown to have nearly two and a half thousand members. There is a three-year wait for full membership.
These days members can enjoy early-morning Friday swims. And there is a 200-strong ‘Winter Dippers’ club where people swim in icy waters – wearing just swimsuits and caps.
Discover more about the clubs history: Hung Out to Dry Swimming and British Culture pages 36-7 & 145-8