A History of Wycombe Swimming

Before World War One

The history of High Wycombe Swimming Club can be traced to the first indoor pool in the town, which was opened in August 1910. The pool was located on a site previously occupied by the Wycombe Saw Mills Co on the western side of Frogmoor. The covered heated swimming baths were constructed by Aleck Stacey a local businessman and formally opened on Wednesday August 10th 1910.

Opening Ceremony Stacey's Baths

Image Courtesy of THE BUCKS FREE PRESS

The programme of events for the formal opening was arranged by the High Wycombe Swimming Club. The opening ceremony itself was performed at 3.00 pm by the Mayor, and the events which followed included a life-saving demonstration, team races between three local swimming clubs, and a diving display. An evening programme commenced at 7.30 pm, which repeated the afternoon's events plus a polo match and an exhibition of 'trick swimming'.

At this time the captain of the High Wycombe Swimming Club was Mr T C McCullagh, and the club Secretary was Mr E A Linnett, with the headquarters at 25 High Street, High Wycombe. Club Nights were held on Tuesday and Thursday, 8.00 to 9.00 pm for Ladies, and 9.00 to 10.00 pm for Gentlemen. The first AGM of the club was reported in the local press on the 25th February 1911, it was reported that the club intended to offer a challenge shield to promote swimming in local schools.

Stacey's covered baths were in use for several years and remained 'home' to the HWSC. The club held annual competitions in 1910/11/and 12, when the Championship Trophy was awarded to Mr T C McCullagh. The trophy, which the club still has, was presented to the club by Sir John Thomas, the owner of Glory Mill in Wooburn. The winner in 1913 was Mr E T Ludow, but following the advent of World War I in 1914 the competition appears to have ceased. It is likely that the club ceased to function until after the war and the Baths appear to have closed in 1917. The baths themselves were converted into an Ice Rink and Electric Theatre when the next door Palace Cinema was destoryed by fire (later to be replaced on the other side of the road). The building with its distinctive roof eventually being replaced by a small store which is currently ocupied by Cash Convertors.

Between the Wars

Swimming appears to have continued in the town at Corporation's Baths in the Dyke on the Rye during summer months. In 1924 the corporation decided to provide new swimming baths on the western side of the High Wycombe.  These were fed by the river Wye at Fryers Lane, off the West Wycombe Road and adjacent to the Desborough Recreation Ground.

Wycombe Swimmers on the diving boards at Fryers Lane

Image Courtesy of HARVEY COLTMAN

It appears that these facilities led to the rejuvenation of the High Wycombe Swimming Club in the early 1930s. The facilities were fairly basic but despite this, and the fact that the water was unheated, members were not deterred from holding competitions with other local clubs.

During World War Two

In 1939 the Second World War intervened and although the HWSC once again disappears from the records, the swimming facilities at Fryers Lane continue to be used throughout the war years. The Fryers Lane pool which was river fed closed in 1947 after an outbreak of typhoid in the country. High Wycombe was now once again left without a swimming bath.

Post-War Years

In 1957 a new pool was opened at Holywell Mead on the Rye.  This outdoor pool which still operates today enabled the High Wycombe Swimming Club to re-form. The club was active in the community and recorded an initial membership of approximately 700 members. The club held its first Gala at the official opening of the pool on 1st June 1957.  An interclub competition was held on 7th September 1957 against Southall, Harrow and Wembley.

Programme from the 1957 Opening

Opening Gala at the Rye

Image Courtesy of THE BUCKS FREE PRESS

Although training was restricted to the warmer months, the club had exclusive use of the pool for club night on Mondays and during the winter season had access to one hour per week at the indoor Slough Community Pool.

The club was affiliated to the ASA Southern Region and Berkshire County in 1958 allowing members to compete at Berkshire county championships

In 1958 the club held a further gala featuring a full programme of races and a demonstration of diving from the Highgate Diving Club using the spring boards and high diving boards at the pool.  The records of the 1958 Gala show the trophy for the schools relay was a shield given to the original club in 1913 by Sir Alfred Cripps and donated by ET Ludlow who was the last club champion to win the shield in 1913.

Programme of Events from the 1958 Gala


1970s Handy Cross - Long Course Begins

In 1974 the name of the Club was changed to Wycombe District Swimming Club. The following year a new sports centre was opened at Handy Cross and Wycombe District Council had the forethought and vision to provide a 6 lane long course (50m) pool. In the summer of 1975 the club moved to this new pool.

From that time the club's aim has been to cater for all levels of swimming from junior to masters and from recreational swimming to performance swimming, To further this intention, the club appointed its first professional coach on a part time basis in 1979.  In January 1986 it appointed its first full time professional coach.

Wycombe Sports Centre 6 Lane 50m Pool

Image Courtesy of SIMON SHAW

1990s Performance Swimming

In 1993 the club appointed Bob Pay as Head Coach and under his guidance the performance swimming of the club continued to improve with a number of the club's swimmers achieving international honours including Simon Burnett who represented Great Britain at the 2004 Olympics and a number of international competitions. Bob left in 2006 and was replaced by Mick Wakely. The club continued to function from the Handy Cross pool and to provide swimming opportunities to the people of High Wycombe.

Competitions played an important part in the club’s operation.  Being one of a small number of 50m pools the competitions were a popular attraction for performance swimmers.  The Wycombe Level 1 meet was an important feature in the swimming calendar.  The prize awarded to the top club was the Wilkinson Sword trophy, which now hangs in the club office.

2012 A New Club Vision

When Mick and club stalwart Maggie Ridgeway decided to retire in 2012 plans were beginning to take place within Wycombe District Council for a replacement pool at Handy Cross. The club realised the opportunity this presented and sought a new head coach with a vision to take the club to a new level. The club appointed Kevin Brooks in September following the 2012 Olympics where he was part of the GB coaching team.

Under Kevin's guidance the club started an ambitious development plan which took it from a club of around 190 swimmers in 2012 to over 400 by January 2016.  The Club introduced the WDSC Academy in 2012, providing a structured training program for younger swimmers to prepare for competitive swimming. Club competition results started to improve and the club introduced a new performance section and restructured the squads to ensure opportunities were provided for all swimmers to reach their potential. The club launched a disability swimming section at Stoke Mandeville in 2015.

During this period the club worked closely with Wycombe District Council and Places for People Leisure on the development plans for a new swimming pool and lesiure centre on the Handy Cross site. Construction started in 2013 after the relocation of the athletics track to Little Marlow.

The old pool with the new leisure centre nearing completion behind

Image Courtesy of SIMON SHAW

Construction activities at Wycombe Lesiure Centre Pool 2014 onwards

Images Courtesy of  SIMON SHAW

Image Courtesy of KEVIN BROOKS

2016  A New Pool

In January 2016 the latest swimming pool in Wycombe opened at the new Wycombe Leisure Centre. This became the fourth home for Wycombe District Swimming Club.  The new pool is an 8 lane 50m competition facility with state of the art competition equipment. The first meet in the new pool was held in March 2016 and was a last chance to qualify for the 2016 Olympic trials. The meet is noted for being the most oversubscribed meet in British Swimming and the pool was packed with many top level swimmers. Nine course records were set at the meet by 5 swimmers who went on to be on the 2016 GB Olympic team. In September 2016 Millie Sansome (15) was selected for the Great Britain European Junior Open Water Swimming Championships. This selection marked the return of Great Britain International standard swimmers to the Wycombe District.

Wycombe Leisure Centre during the Premier Meet 

Image Courtesy of SIMON SHAW

The Enable disability offering moved to Wycombe early in 2016 . A new water polo section was launched in October that year reviving something that was first started in 1910. The club Masters section (competitive adults swimming) is growing.The club now offers  open water swimming iwith club members achieveing tinternation recognition in this field. 

Club night continues every Tuesday, keeping up a tradition that started over 110 years ago.The club continues to change and develop and is now the leading swimming club in the county and with 600 members. Wycombe swimmers continue to achieve great things and the club is seeing success at the highest level with consecutive appearances in the Arena League finals and many swimmers attending British Championships.

2020/21 Season

The start of the swimming season in September 2020 marks 110 years of Wycombe Swimming and 45 years of long course training. The club having grown to 650 members and now operating in Wycombe Lesiure Centre, Wycombe Abbey, Godstowe School and Risborough Springs. 

The Coronavirus pandemic hit the club activities at the end of the previous season with lockdown happening shortly after the March 2020 Premier Meet, and swimming for Wycombe once again stopped. This time, however, the club was able to continue some training activity by utilising online platforms. All were then pleased to return to swimming pools in August 2020 on the aniversary of ithe Club's founding.  

Swimming on the Rye again under Covid Restrictions

Image Courtesy of KEVIN BROOKS

Subsequent restrictions saw the pools close again, but the club was fortunate to return to the Rye Swimming Pool in December 2020 and enjoy swimming in the heated pool with air temperatures near to freezing. Shortly after Christmas lockdown closed all pools again and activities returned to the online platforms.

The Future

The Club is preparing for an eventual return to swimming and retains a strong membership. 2021 sees 36 wycombe swimmers qualifing for the British Swimming Olympic Trials. Should they be able to continue those 36 will have an opportunity to swim against the best in country and qualify for the British Swimming Olympic Team.

The club intends to restart its training and competition programme as soon as pools are once again open. Our strict social distancing measures have been a great sucess in enabling us to train safely during the pandemic. 

We are looking forward to properly celebrating our aniversary together.


Wycombe District Swimming Club wish to acknowledge the assistance of the family of Brian Lunn former Secretary and founder member of the 1957 Club for the provision of club records and the assistance of Mike Dewey of the Bucks Free Press in compiling the information on the history of the club.

You can find more Historical photos of our Club and swimming in High Wycombe on the SWOP Website Sharing Wycombe's Old Photographs.

Wycombe Logo Through the Years