The new McGregor Baths and Institute opened in March 1886, they measured 16 yards by 9 yards and were for use in the summer only as, during the winter, covers were to be put on and they were to be used for balls.
In June of that year a public meeting was called to discuss the formation of a swimming club at the baths. Two meetings took place and Rule 1 stated that the club would be called Tamworth Amateur Swimming Club. Rule 2 stated that it would “Teach swimming gratuitously, promote lifesaving and organise competition for prizes”. Today’s swimming club has the same name and its objectives are still very similar although they are put in rather more modern English.
The club, originally, was for gentlemen only and it would meet on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The club drawers which were turkey red with a fleur de ly motif were required to be worn by every member.
The club fee was 2/6d (12 1/2p) for senior members and 2/- (10p) for members under 16 years of age. The entrance fee of 5/- (25p) would cover the cost of the drawers.
The first meeting of the club took place on 1st July. The Captain, a Mr R.H.Griffin gave a Challenge Cup to be competed for fortnightly, the committee deciding that the distance for the cup was to be 10 lengths of the pool. At the same committee meeting it was decided that members should be prohibited from diving off the changing boxes!
In August of this year an exhibition was held by the club in the ‘Art of Natation’ which included ornamental swimming, diving, athletic polo, plunging, fast swimming and a duck hunt! Another exhibition was performed in September.
The club closed for the winter in October but the A.G.M. held the following year showed that the first year had been very successful with 62 senior and 8 junior members. Mr McGregor was elected the club president.
In 1887 swimming baths opened in Lichfield, and Tamworth club members gave an entertaining display. Club members also gave entertainment in the baths at Tamworth when Masters Ernest and Eddie Griffin, sons of the Tamworth jeweller who were aged 5 and 7, gave a display of life saving.
The next year was plagued by problems at the baths, which were closed for much of the year but in 1889 activities resumed although there were still problems with the baths. Some swimming in the river took place instead including a race for half a sovereign.
The club continued to thrive and in 1895 its colours were changed to blue and gold. These are still the club colours today. Sir Robert Peel (4th Baronet) was very interested in the club and in August acted as a referee at a gala and presented the prizes.
School swimming competitions were a very early innovation in Tamworth with a Scholar’s cup being presented in 1896.
Sir Robert Peel (4th Baronet) gave the club a magnificent silver cup in 1905 to be competed for each year over a distance of 100 yards. It was never to be won outright. This was competed for at a gala held at the baths in August of that year. The gala was a sell out with long queues outside the doors of the McGregor baths. It was won by a Mr I Newman in a time of 1minute 12 2/5 seconds. A similar race today would take about 40 seconds. At the same gala the Mayor gave a talk and stated that he hoped Tamworth would soon have a bath where swimming could take place all the year round.
It was many many years before this happened, the indoor baths eventually opening in 1971 . This cup was competed for regularly until it was given to the safe keeping of the borough and is now on display in the Old Town Hall. The annual report of 1905 said that the club was in poor shape financially and had a balance of just 13/6d (65p) at the start of the year.
Water polo was a very important club activity some matches taken place in Drayton Manor lake. One took place in 1906 as early as April so the swimmers must have been a very hardy bunch!
The Open Air Pool opened in May 1937 and for many years the club operated in the summer only.
In 1947 the club subscription was increased to 3/6 (17p) for seniors and 2/- (10p) for juniors. Accounts in 1948 showed a balance of £34. 3. 4d.
The club continued to progress as a summer only club although members did go to either Burton or Erdington baths every two weeks during the winter. Water polo was a very prominent part of club activities. Many cups were given to the club in the forties many by Mr and Mrs Herbert Dean.
The silver cups are in the old Town Hall now for safekeeping but the Victor Ludorum which was purchased by the committee and the Victrex Ludorum donated by the chairman Mr L Wharton in 1948 are competed for every year. A memorial trophy was given for the swimmers who died in the 1939 to 1945 war.
In 1952 the club gave a donation of £1.1s. 0d (one guinea) to the Olympic swimming fund, four years later the donation was increased to £5. 5. 0d for the next Olympics. This was quite a lot for a small club and there was great controversy when it was suggested that club fees were raised by 6d (5p) a year.
At the A.G.M in 1955 Mr A.G. Young resigned as the club treasurer. He had been a member since 1899 and thought “that he had done his bit!” Unfortunately Mr Young died in 1957 when a wreath was sent by the club.Galas for club members and for the pupils of Tamworth schools were a prominent part of the swimming year and this continued until Tamworth schools had their own pools. Water polo which had been so prominent ceased to be important in the club.
1970 was a year when preparations were being made for the opening of the new indoor baths. Club membership was restricted to 300 and the fees were 10/- (50p).
The new town pool opened in October 1971 and for the first time swimming was possible all the year round in Tamworth. The swimming club performed a display at the opening ceremony, many club members wearing swimming costumes of by gone days. The first club night was 14th October. The club fee was to be £1.50p for September to March with a fee of 5p when attending the pool. The club now had £376.00 in the bank.
The start of the year signified a big change for the club. Now they could take part in inter club competition. Unfortunately the standard of speed swimming was not as good as many other clubs and the butterfly stroke had hardly been taught at all in the club sessions. The Championships for the County had not been entered, so there was a big learning curve to be undertaken by the teachers of the club.
Another milestone for the club in the seventies occurred when Tamworth competed in the ‘It’s a Knockout’ competition in Milan. The chairman of the De Rog swimming club in Weert, Holland was at this event and so was a coach from Tamworth. A meeting was arranged which led to Tamworth swimming club visiting Weert in 1977 and the De Rog club returning to Tamworth in 1978.
Together with Brecon Swimming club from Wales an almost four yearly cycle was established, one Easter to Weert, one year to Tamworth, one year to Brecon and then a year off. This continued until the early nineties and many friendships made at that time still continue to this day.
Today the swimming club has about 250 members and still teaches many children to swim. It is run entirely by volunteers, many who have taken qualifications to teach swimming purely to help in the club. Young non-swimmers, improvers and older swimmers wanting to train and compete in galas are always welcome. See our Contact Us page if you are interested in joining the club.