Swimming History Picture of the Week: Cygnet River Swimming Baths, Amersham

Cygnet River Swimming Baths, Amersham

This article was written By Nicholas Salmon for the Amersham Society newsletter in 1992

The history of the baths goes back to 1886 when Squire Drake gave the town permission to erect a bathing structure and widen the River Misbourne at the Missenden end of the town.

This announcement was followed by a hastily arranged Parish meeting convened on 23rd July 1886 to decide on the best means of proceeding. At this meeting Mr. Darlington was commissioned to widen the river and put up hoardings around the baths. It was also agreed to purchase a temporary structure to serve as changing accommodation and this was stored at the end of each season in a loft kindly lent by Mr. W. H. Dumbarton.

The cost of using the Coldmoreham Pool for local residents was 2s 6d (12p) per annum. For this price they had the exclusive use of the pool between 7 and 10 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m. On the other hand the Misbourne – in the days when it actually flowed – was extremely cold and it was not unusual for bathers to find themselves sharing the pool with aquatic visitors: even the occasional pike!

During the early part of the Century a number of improvements were made to the pool. In 1911 £10 was spent on extending its length to 50 yards, while permanent ladies’ and gentlemen’s cubicles were built during the 1920s. To supervise the swimmers a caretaker was also appointed.

The rudeness and high-spirits engendered by the mixture of young people and water is nothing new.

From the start the authorities had difficulty controlling the bathers.

As early as 1st October 1895 the Parish Council Minute Books reveal that it had been ordered “that the Clerk communicate with the police as to the bad language and conduct of persons using the bathing place”. Quite serious disturbances were caused when large numbers of Chesham youths descended on the pool during hot weather and picked fights with their Amersham counterparts.

As late as August 1929 it was reported in the Bucks Examiner that the girls had a “grudge” against the boys as the latter had longer hours: “Consequently when the girls get in they are reluctant to get out and do not hesitate to keep the boys waiting.

On the other hand the boys ‘have their own back’ where possible and both boys and girls give the caretaker and his wife no little trouble”. More…

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