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THERE aren’t many sports that can claim the advantages of swimming. It ticks all the boxes!

Swimming suits all ages. It is a great form of all-round exercise. There is no retiring at the end of the season. You can do it when you want. You can go at your own pace, or you can race and compete and be part of a team which is just what it’s like when you are part of the Penrith Swimming Club squad.

The club was founded in 1881 and was then based at Frenchfield in the River Eamont. Training sessions originally involved great variations of conditions that challenged the skills of any swimmer. Icy water, strong currents and obstacles like weed and the odd eel or two provided the ultimate test of stamina.

It was all a far cry from conditions for today’s training sessions, held four nights a week at Penrith Leisure Centre.

With a membership of around 150, the pool provides the focus for the busy, highly active club. Wednesday sessions start with children as young as four in the learner pool. Under the guidance of a team of volunteer coaches the children quickly progress to the main pool. Once in the team, children can swim in all four training sessions of the week.

A typical session involves training in technique, distance and sprint work. Swimming drills perfect variants of techniques within different strokes. Starts and turns across all the strokes butterfly, freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke are practised. In an hour-long session, the club’s swimmers could cover up to 2,000 metres that’s around 100 lengths of Penrith pool.

Club training is geared towards competitive swimming in galas and competitions throughout the year as part of the squad.

Diddy League is for children aged nine to 11 and competitions are based within Cumbria. As well as competing within the team, swimmers can enter Cumbrian competitions as individuals while still representing the club. This year has already brought success in the age group competitions in March, with personal best times achieved by all swimmers who competed.

Penrith Swimming Club hosts a primary schools’ gala for local schools in the area and the Frenchfield Gala for Cumbria-wide clubs. It also runs its own club championships in autumn, in which children have the chance to swim against their peers to compete for coveted medals and cups galore!

 


How The Club Began
It was Alderman Joseph Simpson Yeates, Skiddaw Grove, Penrith, then an apprentice in his father’s jeweler’s shop, who founded the club in 1881, and who guided its progress for 27 years in the capacity of secretary and treasurer. The club owes much to Mr. Yeates and it must have been extremely gratifying to him to watch its membership grow from twenty odd to nearly 1,000. Mr. Yeates even up to his death, took a keen interest in the clubs welfare, being a vice-president.
On 26th July, 1881, the first meeting of the Penrith Swimming Club was held. This meeting took place in the shop owned by Mr. Yeates’ father, the late Mr. Simpson Yeates jeweler, and thus, with this small gathering of youths interested in swimming, was begun what was to become of the largest swimming club in the country. Meeting were held later at the King’s Arms Inn, Little Dockray and at Mrs. Livivck’s confectioner’s shop at the foot of Castlegate, now occupied by Mr. Varty. A clubroom was later obtained at Mr. S.K. James’s Board Room in Great Dockray.

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Strict Rules

Strict Rules were formulated regarding the supervision of the bathing place, and there no doubt that it was due to these that the place was kept safe. Never, during the history of the clubs, has a member drowned at Frenchfield.

The first president of the club was the Rev. E. W. Chapman, then Vicar of Penrith. The vice-presidents were Professor Thompson and the Rev. W. F. Gilbanks, who was at that time junior curate at St. Andrew’s Church, and is now an Honorary Canon and Rector of Great  Orton, near Carlisle. The committee consisted of Messes, T. W.  Grisdale, W. G. Kirkbride, J. J. Bewsherand . Goodfellow, while Mr. J. S. Yeates was secretary and treasurer. The captain was Mr. W. Kirkbride

In this first year of the club’s existence,  fund was created which formed the nucleus of the reserve fund which the club possess to-day, Mr. Yeates arranged generously paying any expenses any expenses incurred during the first twelve months.

It was not until 1882 that the club obtained a place which to bathe. In that year Mr. Yeates arranged with Messrs, Armstrong the then tenants at Frenchfield, for the club to use the portion of the land on the bank of the river Eamont, which it has occupied from that time to the present day. At that place the first pavilion was erected by Mr. G. Brown, Joiner, Penrith


The First Gala
The first gala which the club held took place on 17th August, 1882, and it was followed by a picnic. Among the swimmers taking part at these first sports were Messrs., Yeates, John Thornborrow. Robert Huster and S. Sinkinson while the starter was the Rev. J. Sharpe Ostle (Also Rector of Skelton). The Rev. W.F. Gilbanks was judge, and Mr. R. Griersone, Chemist, Referee.
From that time onwards the Penrith Swimming Club Gala had always been a popular event with the public of the town and district, for a number of years, starting in 1884, foot races were held in connection with the river sports.
The rapid growth of the club’s popularity is evidenced by the fact that in the second year of its inception, its membership was more than quadrupled, while in 1884 it reached the total of 105, which, in those days, was considered eminently satisfactory.
The club had many stalwart supporters in those early days. One of its keenest members was Mr. Jeffrey Bewsher, tanner, Penrith, who took an active interest in the club until shortly before his death in 1905. Only one of the early members still bathes. He is Mr. William Barclay, William Street. Mr. Barclay became a member of the club through the church of England Young Men’s Friendly Society in 1882, and became a full member in 1884, in which year he was presented with a silver medal by virtue of his of being first in the 130 yards foot race handicap run in connection with the gala. Since that time Mr. Barclay has been one of the most prominent members, and , one day each week during the summer months, rain or shine, he goes down to the river for a bathe accompanied by several other members.

Frenchfield and the river Eamont
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The original home for Penrith Swimming Club


Did you know? - Penrith Swimming Club used to be the largest swimming club in the British Isle with nearly 1000 members.