Hemel Hempstead Swimming Club celebrates its centenary this year, and the 250 members on the books today are just the latest in a long line of swimmers who have trained and competed in the town over the years.
Swimming has come a long way since 1840 when two clay ‘puddling pits’ next to the canal were converted to pools by a Mr Sandars using untreated and unheated canal water, often including fish and other wildlife – today’s swimmers in their heated, covered, chemically treated, pool don’t know how easy they’ve got it!
1913 saw the formation of the Hemel Hempstead and District Swimming and Lifesaving Club, the forerunner of today’s swimming club.
In 1923, nearly 100 years after the first pools were opened, swimmers were spared the pollution and wildlife of the canal when fresh water was pumped into the pools for the first time from an underground aquifer.
In 1937, Churchill’s Baths were opened on the site of the current sports centre and the original pools by the canal were filled in. In 1974 when a new 33 yard pool was opened the club dropped ‘lifesaving’ from its title to become the Hemel Hempstead Swimming and Diving Club before in 1986 it also dropped ‘diving’ to assume its current name of Hemel Hempstead Swimming Club’.
Club chair Joan Keevill said this week: “If you used to swim at the club and have any stories, pictures or perhaps programmes from competitions or any memories of the pools as they used to be, contact or send them to Alan Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org as we’d like to pull together more of our history for the next 100 years.”