Hung Out to Dry

Swimming and British Culture

Chris Ayriss

The 2,000 year history of British swimming

The History of Wild Swimming in Britain (book)

Hidden within the history of British swimming is the key to understanding our unique culture.


Wild Swimming may seem like a new craze but that's because the British had reason to shun outdoor swimming at home whilst our European and American cousins continued splashing about in the great outdoors abroad.


This book carries you through time, visiting the major milestones that have swung British swimmers in and out of favour over the last 2,000 years. As you will discover our rivers, lakes and beaches once teamed with swimming enthusiasts unflinchingly braving cold water and bad weather to prove their mettle and strengthen their constitution.


We became famous worldwide as a pioneering nation of eccentric swimmers. Yet just as our European neighbours were learning to adopt our watery ways, British swimmers were rounded up, chased out of open water and confined to indoor swimming pools.


Read 'Hung Out to Dry' and understand the British as never before!

The Times

"As the Author Chris Ayriss argues in his book Hung Out to Dry, Britain lags way behind other countries in its approach to aquatic freedom."


Consider the reasons behind Christendom’s war on swimming and bathing, as we examine two perceived opposites: cleanliness and godliness.

Having discussed the powerful influence of religion on the ideas and attitudes of our nation, let us now look at another factor that has shaped the swimmer’s fortune: the popularity of the seaside.

Discover how the science of sunbathing and an eagerness to enjoy the sun, ultimately put the swimmer into the shade.

The exodus of swimmers from the river into purpose-built Lido accommodation, although appearing on the surface to be of great benefit to swimmers, would ultimately have dire consequences for river bathers, and wild swimmers.

In Leicester as elsewhere, swimmers are barred from open water. Yet, as if the official reason for this has been forgotten and despite the fact that water quality in much of its open water is higher than in many swimming pools, the river remains out of bounds to wild swimmers.

History suggests that swimming in the great outdoors is a good thing, yet officials advise us that we would be better to swim indoors. This leaves us with the question; is it possible for adults and children to swim safely in the great outdoors?

2,000 years of wild swimming history
2,000 years of wild swimming history

Hung Out to Dry - the 2,000 year history of wild swimming in the UK. Wild swimming has become very popular in the last few years, yet the rediscovery of outdoor swimming places is unique to Britain. Throughout Europe wild swimming has continued without interruption. Discover why the British turned swimmers away from all but coastal waters and restricted their sportsman to indoor swimming pools.

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Hung Out to Dry - Chris Ayriss
Hung Out to Dry - Chris Ayriss

Swimming History - Book

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Hung Out to Dry Swimming History
Hung Out to Dry Swimming History

British Swimmers once filled the lakes and waterways of England. How did these sportsmen, the pride of the nation, find themselves chased out of open water, rounded up and confined to indoor swimming pools? Discover how pride turned to prejudice as swimmers sparked the development of the unique British culture of prudery.

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2,000 years of wild swimming history
2,000 years of wild swimming history

Hung Out to Dry - the 2,000 year history of wild swimming in the UK. Wild swimming has become very popular in the last few years, yet the rediscovery of outdoor swimming places is unique to Britain. Throughout Europe wild swimming has continued without interruption. Discover why the British turned swimmers away from all but coastal waters and restricted their sportsman to indoor swimming pools.

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