Those who comprised a small band of swimming enthusiasts and bathed from the beach near the Lion Mansions Hotel in 1858 and the following year, could have had no idea that their suggestions for the establishment of a Swimming Club would have resulted in the foundation of one, which, now has the proud distinction of being the oldest in the Kingdom. Energetic though they were, it was not until the 4th May, 1860, that their idea took practical form. On that date, at a meeting held at the Jolly Fisherman’s Inn in Market Street, the Club was inaugurated. The worthy gentlemen present were G. Brown, J. H. Camp, C. Hindley, J. Nyren, W. Patching, R. Ward, and G. Worsley. The last named lived to witness the Club’s Jubilee Gala, but died in the following year.
That these gentlemen were modest in their demands must be admitted when it is realised that the entrance fee was fixed at 1s.0d., and the subscription, 2d. weekly. Since the number of members in the first year was 13, and there was no accommodation for undressing, it might have been expected that the Club would have died in its infancy, but the founders were made of too stern a stuff for unlucky numbers or exposure to deter them. Indeed, if Committee meetings form any criterion, their enthusiasm must have been remarkable, for no less than 31 were held during 1860.
The first organised entertainment on the beach was held on the 18th July, 1861. It is highly improbable that present members would compete at galas commencing at 6 a.m., and certainly the public would not be eager to attend, but the records show that it was otherwise in 1861 and subsequent years when, notwithstanding the early hour, entries were numerous and the sport, it is said, afforded pleasure to large numbers. The reason for these early hours was that the town’s byelaws only permitted bathing without the use of bathing machines from certain beaches between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. The restriction will be easily understood when it is known that it was customary to bathe in the nude, although it is not, of course, suggested that the Club members appeared naked when performing before an audience.
In 1862 the first concession to comfort was made when the Committee purchased a small shed for undressing. This was placed on the beach near the eastern boundary of the present Aquarium. On the 2nd May in that year, F. Cavill (father of the former English champion), a good swimmer, was elected a member. He remained with the Club some years and made several attempts to swim the Channel.
Judging from the debates about improving the Club’s premises that go on today, the shed must have figured largely at the Committee meetings in 1863, for in that year, so much had the membership grown, it was enlarged, and still later two railway carriages were added. This is no indication that members were becoming soft for a feature of the races of that time was the long distance, frequently 1,000 yards and over, seldom less than 500, except for juveniles. The prizes generally consisted of small sums of money such as first 3s. 0d., second 2s. 0d., third 1s. 0d., although on occasions due to the generosity of local benefactors a barrel of oysters, a pound of tea, a prime York ham, and even a pair of trousers made the whole thing rather more worth while, although all this would now be contrary to A.S.A. Laws. The officials were paid 2s. 6d. for their services.
1863 also saw the subscription raised to 10s. 6d. for seniors and 5s. 0d. for juniors, remaining so for 23 years, and at the close of that year, the membership had increased to 59. The Club continued to flourish, and the popularity of its entertainments increased until the end of 1870 when, what then seemed like disaster struck, for in consequence of the erection of the Aquarium and the extension of the old road, now Madeira Drive, the bathing sheds had to go. Even the fact that the new Aquarium purchased them from the Club cannot have been much compensation, for, deprived of bathing facilities, members drifted away, and had it not been for stalwarts like L. R, Styer, the whole thing might have come to an end, and it is highly probable that resuscitation would never have taken place but for the energy of Henry Martin, junior (son of a former Mayor of Brighton), who had been elected honorary secretary in 1871. The interest he displayed during his eight years in office was remarkable and it was almost solely due to him that in 1872 the Club was able to move into new quarters in one of the arches below the new promenade to the east of the present Palace Pier. The fact that this arch later became known as the "Hole in The Wall" in no way detracts from his efforts.
Also in 1872 the Club assumed the title of " The Brighton Aquarium Swimming Club " but reverted to its original name the following year. Henry Martin not only worked well in swimming affairs, but during the winter months, organised billiard handicap matches, smoking concerts and other entertainments in the Club Arch. Subsequently he had the distinction of being elected Vice-President of the Swimming Association of Great Britain, now the Amateur Swimming Association.
The year 1875 ended sadly for the Club due to the death of Captain John Henry Camp on the 28th December. Captain Camp was one of the founders of the Club and a well-known Brighton celebrity. Although his left leg had been amputated, he was a fair swimmer and always appeared happier in the water than on land. He was the first Chairman of the Club and afterwards became Swimming Instructor and Steward. Not only did many owe their knowledge of swimming to him, but also their lives. The motto which appeared in his advertisements was " I dare the waves a life to save," a precept to which he well conformed for he saved no less than twenty lives during his association with the Club. It is nice to recall that his efforts were not unappreciated, for in his later days when his means became rather straitened owing to a long illness, members rallied round him to give practical help. In the Extra-Mural cemetery may still be seen a memorial which reads " This tombstone was erected by the Brighton Swimming Club to the memory of their old Steward, John Henry Camp, the celebrated one-legged swimmer, Born July 26th, 1826, Died at Brighton, December 28th, 1875, aged 49 years. . . . ‘ I dare the waves a life to save.’ "
In the same year the Club assisted to a small extent in the formation of the Portsmouth Swimming Club and afterwards many contests were held in the towns, alternately, which normally resulted in equal honours. An innovation at this time was the introduction of the title of "Captain" for the leader of the Club, and the first man to hold it was George Harding, an excellent all-round swimmer who in the same year won the Club Championship with the title of Captain which he held during the following four years. This was no mean achievement, for by now membership had risen to 115.
The annual festivals had always been a source of much pleasure to the members and public, but those in 1877 and later years were particularly attractive as they were held at the Swiss Gardens, Shoreham, when that resort was at the height of its popularity. On these occasions, not only did the Club hold Swimming Galas, but also provided other sports and, in addition, " alfresco " concerts. Subsequent festivals were held at Sheffield Park, Tunbridge Wells, and Hastings. A somewhat remarkable event for the period under review took place in May 1878, when six members of the London Swimming Club (long since disbanded) walked from London to Brighton in under 12 hours. They were met at Patcham by the Brighton Club and on their arrival were entertained by C. J. Harris, the President, and afterwards, with the members, swam in Hobden’s Baths which were on the site of the Grand Hotel Ballroom. This Club was an old friend of the Brighton Club having paid a visit on the occasion of one of the 1861 entertainments.
In 1880 on the retirement of C. J. Harris, L. R. Styer, who had so staunchly hung on when the shed was demolished, was elected President, an office which he held until his death in 1931. The interests of the Club were always his first consideration and the Club is under a deep debt of gratitude to him for his kindly assistance during so many years. He was also the means of stimulating interest in swimming amongst ladies, and to him and his family may be fairly attributed the great increase in the art amongst that sex, and for the promotion of the Brighton Ladies’ Swimming Club.
John Hawgood was elected a member and became the Club Champion in 1883 and secretary in 1886. Like Henry Martin, he did his utmost for the Club and was always at home in the water, particularly so when he gave a tea party, which necessitated his leaving the dressing room carrying the tea things on a large tray and swimming to a raft some distance away. It was his proud boast that he had always successfully carried the tray and contents safely to the raft no matter the state of the sea. In 1886, whilst secretary, it was he who caused the subscription to be reduced to 5s. 0d. Hawgood’s wisdom was shown in the following year when he obtained a record in new members, no less than 109 being elected. This record was in 1888 followed by another when he organised a monster festival from the beach outside the Club Arch, this was patronised by the public in very large numbers.
Towards the end of 1893 on the initiative of three Sussex clubs, a meeting was held at Eastbourne to consider the advisability of forming a Water Polo Association. L. R. Styer, J. Hawgood, and L. Meaden represented Brighton and the discussions resulted in the formation of The Sussex County Water Polo Association, which has since done much to encourage and improve this sport. The Brighton Swimming Club has had the honour of winning both Senior and Junior County Shields on several occasions. The Association later amalgamated with the Sussex County Amateur Swimming Association.
In 1893, no less than 10 entertainments were promoted and at the Annual Fete off the West Pier, there was a record entry of 194 from twenty different clubs. The contests for the ‘Loder" and "Welling" cups were also instituted and the Club established a record up to that period, in the number of certificates and medals awarded to members by the Royal Life Saving Society.
The Club had travelled far since those early days but maturity was inevitably bringing its losses for in the same year three of the older members died, C. Hindley (the first treasurer and secretary), T. Taylor, and George Brown, the last was one of the founders and a member until his death. In the early days he competed in many races, and although not a fast swimmer, he thoroughly enjoyed the entertainments and was noted for the somersaults he performed in the water using hand and foot blades.
For many years it was felt by the Brighton Club that it would be a great benefit if the control of swimming in the County could be managed by Sussex clubs. The Club was instrumental, after considerable effort and many visits by the delegates to the Southern Council and the Executive in London, in arranging a meeting which was held at Brighton on the 26th January, 1895, and attended by representatives from the Southern Executive and each club in Sussex, with the result that the Sussex Local Centre was firmly established in Brighton. The efforts of the Club have been well rewarded by the popularity of the centre, which later became the Sussex County Amateur Swimming Association, and the great improvement in the County in the government of swimming. The compliment was paid the Club in electing L. R. Styer as President for the first two years. Also L. Meaden became the first secretary and subsequently President, an honour which has since been accorded to A. St. J. Styer (twice), John Horton-Stephens, A. V. George, G. Wilton, Gerald Paling, and Jack Price. The Club has been affiliated to the parent body, the Amateur Swimming Association, longer than any other existing Club in England.
As early as 1862 the then treasurer-cum-secretary, C. Hindley, suggested to the Mayor of Brighton that a public swimming bath should be built. As a result in 1895 the Corporation Bath in North Road was opened, the advice of the Club having been sought by the Baths Committee on matters of design and construction.
The Club also provided an excellent entertainment at the opening ceremony and later staged its first important championship, the five hundred yards Championship of England, followed later by the 220 yards Championship. Reference has been made to the social events held in the Club Arch during the winter months and although these were discontinued winter activities were not dropped entirely as they changed their form most appropriately to winter bathing which first began in 1885. The number of these bathers was, at first, small but they have steadily increased. The Christmas morning handicap in the sea was also instituted at the same time and has since continued whenever sea conditions have been favourable.
In 1910 the Club attained its Jubilee, a distinction which at that time no other swimming club had achieved, and on the 4th May, being to the day fifty years from the Club’s inauguration, the event was celebrated by a dinner at the Royal York Hotel, attended by a large number of members and others interested in swimming. Later in the season a Gala was held at the Corporation Bath to commemorate the occasion, the principal feature being that every contest was either a Championship of England or the Southern Counties or the Club. The event was an unqualified success and was regarded as one of the best swimming entertainments ever held up to that time.
During the same year, Jabez Woolfe, a member of the Club, made attempts to swim the channel, the Club being officially represented in the boat which accompanied him. In 1911, G. H. Fowler, a member of the Club, at much risk, effected the rescue of a bather at Mablethorpe and was publicly presented with the Bronze Medal and Vellum Certificate of the Royal Humane Society. Subsequently the Society’s certificates were awarded to H. Burtenshaw for an attempted rescue in the Thames at Kingston, and to C. J. Webb for a rescue from the sea at Brighton.
The year 1913 will always be memorable in the Club’s history. On Easter Eve, Brighton experienced a great storm which did much damage to the sea front and almost destroyed the Club’s headquarters. Thanks to the Brighton Corporation, the structure was substantially repaired and improved. Another important Gala was held by the Club when the International Water Polo Match between England and Wales and the 100 yards Championship of England were contested. Both these events created much enthusiasm, particularly the latter, when H. E. Annison of the Croydon Club, who later became a Brighton member and Vice President, beat the then Champion, J. G. Hatfield of the Middlesborough Club by a touch amid great excitement. This Gala was thought by many to surpass even the Jubilee Festival in importance and whilst the expense, nearly £75, was greater than any previous Gala, a profit was made. During the year, W. C. Webb, a Club member and son of C. J. Webb, who had gone to reside in Canada, won the back-stroke championship of that dominion. As a fitting conclusion to the year, the Club attained its highest membership of 256, the best previous being 243 in 1893.
The activities of the Club during the 1914-1918 war were much restricted but fortunately it was able to carry on with the assistance of the older members. In 1917 a successful Gala was carried out for the benefit of St. Dunstan’s Home, resulting in a profit which was handed to that institution. The Diamond Jubilee of the Club was duly celebrated in 1920, the principal event being a Grand Gala at which the Southern and Sussex Championships were included. The show must have been unusually attractive for the prices paid for admission were 10s. 0d., 5s. 9d., and 3s. 6d. with standing room at 3s. 6d. and 2s. 4d.
From 1920 onwards and for a number of years the Club was most successful in the County Water Polo Championship, teams being entered in each of the three divisions and winning the first division seven years in succession and all three in 1926. The original Club Arch was never a very cheerful place but, all the same, not bad value at a rent of Is. 0d. a year which was all that the Corporation asked! One entered by descending steps and it was under the road. It was always damp, clammy and cold but, in 1924, steps were taken to improve it. Electric light, a fresh water shower, and washing facilities were installed with a steward in attendance. This was an enormous improvement but oddly enough there was a drop in membership.
In this year, in addition to the success of the Water Polo players, their Captain being A. E. Hill, an Olympic and international player, the Club also won the Sussex Life Saving Championship and, perhaps even more remarkable on the 18th December, W. C. Hodgkinson a veteran member, won the Veteran’s Race in the Serpentine at the age of 76.
At this time and for many years, The Brighton Ladies’ Swimming Club met at the North Road Baths on the same evening as the men and this association continued with advantage to both Clubs until 1953, when it was agreed to meet on separate evenings. This arrangement proved highly satisfactory and in 1959 there was a total junior membership of over 500 in the two Clubs.
The year 1929 was memorable for three events. Firstly, A. St. John Styer, the Captain, was chosen to referee the International Polo Match between Ireland and Wales. Secondly, the idea of a bathing pool being mooted, the Club, well ahead of the times, strongly recommended to Brighton Council the provision of a covered sea-water bath as an added attraction to the town. Thirdly, Stephen Oatley who had been one of the best long distance swimmers in Sussex and a Club Vice President died in his 77th year. He had held the Club Championship from 1883 to 1890, was Captain during the same period and honorary treasurer from 1889 to 1893.
The following year A. St. John Styer became President of the Southern Counties Amateur Swimming Association.
So far little has been said about the Club’s finances. The first year had seen a balance in hand of 10s. 6d. The balance had grown to something like £50 by the time of the Diamond Jubilee. Until 1933 this balance fell; in that year it reached the low level of £5. Thereafter the finances have, with slight fluctuation, steadily improved, almost entirely due to the invaluable efforts of T. K. White who has acted as Honorary Subscriptions Treasurer and Treasurer for a period of no less than 30 years. It was also largely due to the perspicacity of Tommy White that in 1931 the Club moved to a new home, its headquarters till 1978, far more commodious, lighter and airier, and with a beach which was not only cleaner and quieter but through which there was no traffic route for the public.
In 1933, G. T. Edwards resigned from the secretary ship which he had held for nine years. He was a most efficient and hard-working officer of the Club
In 1934, the Swimming Stadium in West Street was opened and meetings were held there as well as at North Road. The first manager of the Stadium was Harold Annison, who had come from the Croydon Swimming Club, and it was at this time also that Jim Godwin under Annison’s guidance began to make such marked progress. Also this year for the first time, records mention the name of a diving instructor, Jack King.
The formation of The Beach Life Guards also took place in 1934. This was a unit organised by Tommy White at the request of Brighton Corporation and, incidentally, the direct result of Club influence, for it was at the instigation of Alderman J. E. Hay, a Vice-President. This continued to function with increasing efficiency until the last war. Its purpose was to patrol the bathing beaches during the summer and it was highly a predated as a safeguard. The distinctive blazers and swimming costumes of the members of the corps became well known on all the bathing beaches.
Noteworthy at this point was the award t(, a Club member, J. P. Johns, of the Bronze Medallion of the Jersey Humane Society for carrying out a rescue under meritorious conditions whilst on holiday in the island. It was presented to him at the Swimming Stadium. This was also the fourth year in succession in which the Club won the County Life Saving Championship.
In 1935, the professional swimming coach, R. T. Cosgrove, a former Club and County champion, left the town. He had been coach for many years and when a suitable presentation was made he had the satisfaction of knowing that his final year had been one of the most successful the Club had ever had both in swimming and water polo. Particular mention must be made of the wonderful achievements of F. J. (Jim) Godwin, who in subsequent years did so much valuable work for the Club in so many different spheres. During this year he won four Club events and eight national, Southern Counties and County Championships, setting up new record in the Southern Counties’ mile. Such success was remarkable and without parallel in the history of the Club and in recognition of these remarkable successes it presented him with an inscribed souvenir. Perhaps because of his fame the Burgess Hill Urban District Council invited the Club to arrange a Gala for the opening of the open-air swimming bath. About the same time a monthly Team Handicap for Club Spoons was introduced for the very thriving junior section.
The marked improvement in swimming proficiency and the successes gained in water polo emphasized the great advantages to be gained by having a good swimming bath and first class training facilities. It was therefore a great disappointment when in 1936 the West Street Stadium closed and swimming practices had to be confined to the North Road Bath. It was however, during this period that the Club won through to the semi-final of the English Water Polo Club Championship, beating en route the redoubtable Oldham Police Swimming Club, and when the new swimming pool at Black Rock was opened, the Club, at the special invitation of the Brighton Corporation, played a prominent part and also at the Corporation’s instigation, the Pier to Pier Race was inaugurated.
It was also in 1936 that "Pa" Hodgkinson died. He was 86 and had been a regular bather from the Arch until a few days before his death. He had been most active on the Committee, had served the Club in many ways, and had been a well-known winter bather. Sir Harry Preston, a Vice-President and a strong supporter of the Club, also died this year but he is still remembered by the trophy which bears his name. This also applies to "Pa" Hodgkinson for in 1937 a new trophy was presented in his name for a race for winter bathers to be held on Christmas Day.W. Baxter was this year selected to represent England against Wales at water polo, an honour previously held by A. St. John Styer who played for England in 1902 and was Captain in 1904. W. Baxter was the first Sussex man to represent his country since 1905.The death is recorded of L. Meaden, a Vice-President, after a long and painful illness. He joined in 1888, was secretary from 1903 to 1913 and, in addition, served the Sussex County A.S.A. for 14 years, was President of the Southern Counties A.S.A., the Sussex A.S.A., and only failing health prevented him from accepting the Presidency of tile National Association. The Club never had a more enthusiastic and capable officer.
With the coming of the last war, for the first time in the Club's history sea-bathing had to stop for the Arch was closed by the military authorities early in 1940. All members felt this very keenly but none more so than the all-the-year-round swimmers. Only a few hours notice of the closure was given but, even so, enthusiastic members managed to remove some of the historic posters, photographs, and records. It was well that they did for the Arch was badly bombed, to such an extent that at the end of the war they could not be reoccupied for a considerable time. Temporary quarters were, however, obtained at a near-by arch until the present premises were again habitable in February 1948.
Throughout the war some all-the-year-round swimmers continued to meet at the old Hove sea-water baths but the main activity was confined to the Corporation Bath in North Road. Here " holidays at home" galas were run and junior Club events competed for. Owing to air-raid precautions, weekly Club nights had to be restricted to a very short season during the summer as, of course, no artificial light could be used. Although the strain on swimming resources was stretched to the limit and air-raid alarms added to the difficulties the membership rose by leaps and bounds until it was no less than 285, and much credit must be given to the officials at this time-J. W. Blyth, Secretary, T.K. White, treasurer and Freddy West, the Captain.
During the war apart from members lost on active service several other old friends died. Amongst them was F. Marcantonio, a keen water polo player and most enthusiastic Club officer, Jabez Woolfe who had so many times attempted to swim the channel under the Club’s flag and G. H. Fowler who joined in 1906, was holder of the Club’s Mile Championship in 1907/9/10/13/14 and 15 and was a regular member of the Water Polo First Team from 1909 to 1921. Someone else who might easily have been a casualty if he had not been a skilful diver having been Sussex High board Diving Champion in 1938 and 1939, was Arthur Holman. He was in H.M.S. "Courageous" when she was torpedoed in the Atlantic and saved himself when "abandon ship" was given by diving into the sea from the upper edge of the steeply tilted flight deck. Arthur is the present Club Captain and holder of the unofficial record for the longest time in the sea on really rough days.
By 1946 many of the Club Championships had been resumed, the most popular being the Mile in the Sea. As a result of the fuel shortage, the North Road Bath was unheated and, not surprisingly, this acted rather as a deterrent to Club membership although everything possible was done by F. J. Godwin who organized a weekly series of instruction classes at Fairlight Place School. He was well supported by senior members and relaxation exercises were carried out and lectures on swimming and diving were given together with the showing of instructional films. For the first time for many years winter facilities were obtained at the St. Luke’s Terrace School Baths.
In 1947 the Pier to Pier Race for the Palace Pier Challenge Trophy was resumed and again organised by the Club in conjunction with the Brighton Corporation Publicity Department. This event had been in abeyance since 1938 but has since proved very popular, and in 1959 there were no less than 60 entrants.
At this time, J. M. Peerless, honorary treasurer for 33 years resigned the office and was made a life member. The death also occurred of C. J. Webb who had joined in 1894, became Vice-President in 1933, and throughout his long membership had worked assiduously on the Club’s behalf. With F. J. Jenkins and Freddy West he had also been a member of the Royal Humane Society and was, in fact, its secretary from 1916 to 1947 when the branch was closed.
Not only were the pre-war headquarters reoccupied in 1948 but for the first time the Club entered the Southern Counties ASA. Water Polo Championship. The Brighton Regatta was also resumed and the Club organized a Gala from the West Pier.
The Club lost by death two of its older members, Alderman J. H. Bassett who had joined in 1912 and was a regular all-the-year-round bather, and J. M. Peerless who had joined in 1890, and, as we have already said had been made a life member.
At the Annual Dinner in the following year, A. St. John Styer was presented with an illuminated address in recognition of his outstanding services. Unfortunately soon after this he had an accident which prevented him from taking his usual part in Club affairs for the next 18 months.
In 1951 winter training at the King Alfred Baths was undertaken for the first time and has since continued. Latterly also, winter swimming has again been held at St. Luke’s School Baths.
A very great loss was suffered by the Club in 1952 by the death of J. W. Blyth at the very early age of 46. He had worked so whole heartedly and efficiently for the Club since he first took over the office of honorary secretary in 1934 that most of the executive work had been left entirely to him.
In 1953 the Life-Guard Section was reformed in conformity with the rules of the Royal Life Saving Society. Regular patrols were carried out throughout the season and have since continued on the Club beach. During the year displays of swimming, diving, and water polo were given at Butlin’s Hotel at Saltdean and " splash nights " in conjunction with the Brighton Ladies’ Swimming Club were organized. This was also the year when Neil Tasker’s star was first in the ascendant. His brilliant swimming, in addition to other successes, won him the Boys’ 100 Yards Southern Counties Championship, the first Southern Counties Championship won by a member of the Club since J. H. Annison’s victory in the Boys’ 100 yds. Breaststroke in 1936. Tasker followed these successes in subsequent years by being selected to take part in a swimming contest between English and ‘ Scottish school boys and in 1957 to swim for Great Britain in four international matches. The following year he became the English Universities’ Freestyle and Butterfly Champion and established a new Sussex record for the 110 yards freestyle of 60.8 seconds.
It was at this time that a new junior began to come to the fore. Michael Read, who a few years earlier had been stricken with polio, now showed up prominently in Sussex and Southern Championships and, in 1958, was placed 5th in the National Half Mile and second in the English Schools 100 yards Butterfly. The next year he followed these achievements with a really remarkable season, winning no less than four Sussex Championships and, in doing so, setting up new records for the 110 yards Butterfly and the 880 yards Freestyle. He also won the English Schools 110 Yards Butterfly, was second in the Southern Counties 440 Yards Freestyle and the individual Medley, while his efforts in the National Championships-second in both 440 and 880 yards Freestyle and third in 220 yards Freestyle, earned him national recognition and selection to swim for Great Britain against Holland.
Michael Read would be the first to acknowledge the debt he owes to Neil Tasker for his advice and encouragement. They have much in common for not only are they the two most successful swimmers produced by the Club in recent years, but both have overcome tremendous physical disabilities-Tasker originally took up swimming to help his breathing as he was a sufferer from serious asthma and Read as we have said, had had polio.
To return, however, to 1954. About this time a striking innovation took place under the leadership of Michael Davies. This was the formation of an under-water swimming section of the Club from which a subaqua section known as the " Brighton Bottom Scratchers" has developed, and is proving more and more popular as time goes by. They now have special equipment, hold training classes for beginners, and organize their own Spear Fishing Championship each year for the Wild Cup. Jim Wild who presented it is one of the leading lights in the Life-Guard Section, seven of whose members won the Bronze Medallion of the Surf Life Association of Australia, to which they are affiliated, in 1954. Another old friend of the Club died this year. G. Wilton joined the Club in 1908, became a member of the Committee in 1913, and until his death was a most active member in Club affairs and rarely missed a Club night at North Road Baths.
An all time record for length of association with the Club was celebrated by a dinner given in 1956 for A. St. John Styer by the Sussex County A.S.A. whose President and other leading officials were present, on his completion of 75 years of Club activities. Another member of long standing was recalled the next year when the race for the "Pa" Hodgkinson Cup was revived after 18 years of unsuitable conditions, and the war-time prohibitions, had made it impossible to hold the event.
In 1958 the Life-Guard Section organised a team and entered the National Life Saving Competition at Perranporth using a line and very fine reel which had been constructed by that renowned craftsman of the Lanes, Geoff Thompson. In very bad weather conditions the Brighton team managed to achieve second place and in the 1959 event in which they also competed, one member, Roland Davis, had the proud distinction of winning the National Open Surf Race and is now the holder of the Chyverton Trophy awarded for this event.
It was in 1958 that the Club and, in fact, the swimming world in general, suffered a most serious loss in the death of A. St.J. Styer. The following obituary appears in the 1958 report
" It is with extreme sorrow that we record the death of that ‘ Grand old Gentleman’ of Sussex swimming A. St.J. Styer, on the 13th March. He became a member of the Brighton S.C. in 1882, was made Captain of the Club in 1901 and remained Club Captain until he was elected President in 1930, an office which had been held by his father, L. R. Styer, since 1880.His record as a water polo player, referee and general administrator has never been equalled and the swimming world, both locally and nationally, has suffered irreparable loss. ‘ We shall not look on his like again."
St. John was undoubtedly the greatest of all his contemporaries and the most valuable Club member Brighton has had in its long history. He had the honour of refereeing a water polo match before Royalty, at the Bath Club.
1959 saw progress in all Club activities and an increase in membership to 340. Frederick T. West, who had been a member since 1920 and who held a long record of service to the Club as a member of the committee, Club Captain and, latterly, Chairman, was elected President.
The Sub Aqua Section landed no less than 650 Ibs. of fish between May and September. Four additional members passed the aqua-lung proficiency test and two of these, C. Chandler and M. Davies, successfully recovered an anchor lost from a speedboat near the chain pier rocks. In this year also, Donald Hendon who since 1953 had been a most hard working and efficient Secretary, was successful in obtaining the Diploma of the R.L.S.S. Roland Davis again hit the headlines when, with the assistance of a visitor, he rescued from drowning, two girls who had been carried away by currents and were clinging to the barnacle covered piles of the pier.
A combined Brighton and Shiverers team defeated at Black Rock Pool, the Warrender Baths S.C. from Edinburgh, largely consisting of Scottish international swimmers. Two further cups were presented this year in memory of St. J. Styer-one being awarded for water polo and the other for a series of sea races.
Some reference should finally be made to two events which have been taking place annually for a number of years and are greatly enjoyed both by members taking part and by a large crowd of spectators. These are the Annual Barbecue on the beach on the Saturday evening preceding August Bank Holiday and the arrival of Father Neptune and his minions on the following day. The reel and line demonstrations given at weekends under the leadership of D. M. Wild and R. B. Dunford also create considerable interest with the public and holiday makers.
The Brighton Swimming Club has always been well to the fore in providing administrators and apart from those already mentioned, the following should be named:-
GERALD PALING C.B.E.
A Vice-President for many years.
Treasurer of the Sussex County A.S.A 1935-39
President ‘ Sussex County A.S.A. 1948
President, Southern Counties A.S.A. 1958
Secretary of the Sussex County A.S.A. 1951-53
President ‘ Sussex County A.S.A. 1953
Delegate to the Southern Counties A.S.A. from 1935
Secretary to Southern Counties A.S.A. Swimming and Training Committee and Water Polo Committee.
Secretary of the Sussex County A.S.A. 1954 and 1957-59
The first Secretary of the National Surf Life-Saving Association of Great Britain 1955
This brief history of the many activities of the Club can give but a very inadequate impression of its vitality. Survivor of three wars, it has been in continuous existence for a century. During all these years it has fostered all branches of the art of swimming and has grasped every opportunity to popularise and to serve it. There can be few other swimming clubs, if any, whose members participate in so wide a variety of activities. Its resources have been made available for charitable and public causes. Naturally its history consists of the accounts of the doings of individuals but their successes have owed much to the training, the stimulus and the encouragement the Club has offered them. If ever its history is written in full, the record will be one of which the Club can justly be proud.