150 years of Cirencester Open Air Swimming Pool: A time when few people could swim

150 years of cirencester open air swimming pool a time when few people could swim - 150 years of Cirencester Open Air Swimming Pool: A time when few people could swim
150 years of cirencester open air swimming pool a time when few people could swim 2 - 150 years of Cirencester Open Air Swimming Pool: A time when few people could swim

CIRENCESTER Open Air Swimming Pool celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.

The pool was due to open for the season on Thursday, but has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the hope the pool can re-open later this summer.

So we delved into The Standard archives to flavour some of the stories from the past 150 years.

Beckwith is coming’ ran the teaser in the Wiltshire and Gloucestershire Standard of 8 August 1874, heralding an announcement the following week that the services of Professor Beckwith and his self-styled ‘Beckwith frogs’ family would perform their wonderful feats of ornamental swimming, diving, floating in Cirencester Swimming Baths.

Whilst it might seem odd to us that people would pay to watch the demonstration of perfect swimming strokes, at this time few people could swim, and those who could were able to make a good living by swimming demonstrations and vaudeville shows.

‘Professor’ Beckwith was a celebrated sportsman who staged elaborated demonstrations of swimming and brought his children into the act.

Reports of the day confirmed the extremely novel event was an unqualified success, observed from a large temporary grand stand by distinguished visitors and a large number of ladies.

Professor Beckwith, for many years the Champion swimmer of England, opened proceedings and plunged in attired in a full suite of clothes, which he removed, garment by garment, landing them safely on the bank, amid applause.

He demonstrated long and steady swimming strokes, then, to much laughter, illustrated the amusing attempts made by learners to swim, after which he went up and down the bath in a peculiar manner known as ‘waltzing’.

13-year-old Miss Agnes Beckwith, “the mermaid”, the most accomplished lady swimmer in England, gave her display of ornamental swimming and floating some of which was adjudged ‘very excellent’.

Young William Beckwith, considered the third best swimmer in England and the champion swimmer of The Serpentine, gave an exhibition race of fast swimming, before gallantly rescuing his father, who was impersonating a drowning man, in the most approved fashion.

The report praises the enterprising and energetic committee, noting that ‘the Bath has become such an institution of the town that description of it is entirely needless.’

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