Chippenham ASC - History
Chippenham ASC was founded at its first Committee Meeting held in The Bear Hotel in Chippenham on the 14th August 1877. Queen Victoria was on the throne, the British Prime Minister was Benjamin Disraeli and Winston Churchill was 3 years old. The Club was run entirely by a male committee, the women of the day not having the prominence of today's women in society outside the home - so the minutes state that the club was formed by a group of interested gentlemen. Entrance fee to the Club was "not less than one shilling over fifteen years of age, sixpence under" - a tidy sum of money in those days.
Only two English swimming clubs outside London claim to have been founded before Chippenham ASC and operated continuously since (Brighton 1860 & Durham 1861) - although it is clearly difficult to establish facts for other clubs from such a date.
The ASA was first formed in 1869 as the London Swimming Association. The association soon evolved into the Metropolitan Swimming Association of Great Britain and then to the Swimming Association of Great Britain. On the 3rd May 1886 the organisation adopted the title of the Amateur Swimming Association.
The ASA archives office has advised that at that time, towns and cities across England had swimming clubs although most were not affiliated to the association. This caused problems as many people were swimming for money and trophies that were not perpetual – hence a living could be made. Brighton and Portsmouth Northsea were the first clubs outside the London area to affiliate.
In 1881 only 19 clubs were affiliated to the ASA (Swimming Association of Great Britain) at a cost of 21 Shillings (London Clubs) and 10½ Shillings (Country Clubs).
The ASA rapidly expanded as only a few years later in 1901 a total of 469 clubs were affiliated (including Chippenham). At this time CASC’s Club Secretary was E H Shorland of Petworth House Landsend, Chippenham. The only other clubs affiliated from Wiltshire were Devizes, Melksham, Salisbury, Swindon and Westbury.
In stark contrast to today's facilities, Chippenham Swimming Club then swam in the River Avon with a charge of 3p - there was no swimming teacher. Swindon at the time charged 6p to swim at Farringdon Road although club members received a discount.
More information can be seen by viewing the Photographs & Scrapbook pages under About Us tab. Early club records are also available for viewing at the Chippenham Museum.
Key dates in the clubs history:
14-Aug-1877 - Club Founded
First Committee meeting held in Bear Hotel, Chippenham
07-Aug-1878 - Land Acquired
Land next to River Avon hired at an annual cost of 10 Shillings.
1886 - ASA Formed
Previously London/Metropolitan Association
1886 - 1901 - ASA Affiliation
CASC affiliated to the ASA sometime during this period
Heated 8 lane open air swimming pool opens in Monkton Park
Olympiad leisure complex opens
In the mid 1980s it was announced the outdoor pool would close and be replaced by a new indoor leisure pool and sports centre. This didn't go down well with lots of Chippenham's residents and there was an active campaign to save the pool. The closure still went ahead as the council said it wasn't economically viable to repair and keep the pool open. When The Olympiad opened in 1989 it had gone massively over budget. Some observers report that it cost £6 million rather than the £4 million originally proposed and considerably more than the projected costs to repair the old pool.
Most of the current sports centre wasn't built over the site of the outdoor pool, though the basketball court alongside is. You can still see the grass banks which rose up from the poolside when you walk past there today.
ASA renamed as Swim England for English Clubs