Woodside & Thornton Heath Swimming Club

Club History

This is only a brief outline of a club with a rich tapestry of history and tradition. Over time, we hope to expand this section to cover other aspects of the club history, including newspaper cuttings from over a century ago, when Woodside Swimming Club opened its doors for the first time.

This section is divided between two parts:

If you have anything you would like to be added to this section, or you know someone who does, please contact the Club.

Founded 1887
The longest established club in Croydon

Affiliated to CBSA and London Swimming

Affiliated to the Amateur Swimming Association

In the beginning…

Woodside and Thornton Heath Swimming Club (WTHSC) was actually formed from two of the oldest swimming clubs in Croydon. Woodside Swimming Club, formed in 1887 is the oldest club in Croydon, Thornton Heath Swimming Club being formed in 1897.

Woodside S.C.

The Club was formed in 1887 by members of the South London Harriers, who at that time, used the Birchanger Road Baths, South Norwood, as their winter headquarters. After an evening run, they were in the habit of taking a hot bath, followed by a plunge in the swimming bath. This weekly plunge developed into a weekly race and to further their interest in swimming, they founded the Woodside Swimming Club.

Unfortunately the first minute book of the Club committee meetings has been lost and little is known of the very early years. It is however, a fact that the Club was one of the founder clubs of the Surrey County Water Polo and Swimming Association and in the year 1895 Mr. W.H. Brooker, who was himself a founder member of this club, was elected the President of the County Association to be followed in 1896 by Mr. C Norman-Jones, another Club member. Several members of this Club have now been so honoured.

In its long history, management of the Club has been passed down from one generation to the next, without losing anything of the fine spirit with which it is imbued. It has survived two major wars, has had some very fine years and a few lean ones, but looks forward to the future with supreme confidence.

Members are justly proud of the Club's fine history and traditions and although the avowed objects of the Club are to encourage the teaching and practice of swimming and water polo, the Club does far more than this, for once you have been welcomed as a member, you have tapped a source of friendship and good-fellowship that can last a lifetime.

During the 2nd World War, the Birchanger Road Baths were bombed and South Norwood was without a Pool until l969. In the intervening years, Woodside S.C. used Thornton Heath Baths returning to use South Norwood Baths as their Headquarters when the new Pool opened in 1969.

Thornton Heath S.C.

The opening of the new pool in Thornton Heath in June 1897 was the motivation for the formation of the Thornton Heath Swimming Club, which affiliated to the Amateur Swimming Association in the same year. Members joined together to learn to swim, dive and improve their stroke technique.

The Club was formed shortly before the pool opened and provided the swimming entertainment at the opening ceremony, assisted by Woodside S.C. and Croydon Dolphins. There was a team race, a life saving demonstration, some exhibition swimming, a handicap race and a water polo match. The proceedings ended with a "good-night" race.

When the Large Pool was opened in 1932, the Mayor unveiled a memorial plaque in the vestibule to Walter J. Little, one of the founders of the Club. The Opening Ceremony was followed by a Thornton Heath S.C. Gala, which included Club Championship and School Boy races, Handicaps, a Diving Display, some exhibition swimming, a Ladies Invitation Team Race and a Polo match against Croydon S.C. Swimming in the early days was male dominated, but there was also a Thornton Heath Ladies Club meeting during the Ladies pool sessions. The Club started mixed activities in the winter of 1932.

The Club closed during the war and most of the club records and trophies were lost. It was reformed by the President, Jack Lavender, after the pool reopened in 1948. Ross Eagle, who had been the Club Trainer before the war, rejoined the club staff. Although it reopened as a mixed club, separate sessions were introduced around 1960. The boys later joined Woodside, which met at Thornton Heath between 1948 and 1969, and Thornton Heath became a Ladies Club, linking with Woodside for mixed competitions. Links were established with clubs in Germany and Holland and a number of exchange visits were made. The Clubs also joined the Speedo Swimming League.

Then there was one…

In 1980, Woodside S.C. and Thornton Heath S.C. joined together to offer mixed club sessions at both Thornton Heath and South Norwood and to provide professional coaching facilities to allow members to progress to the highest levels. The official Inaugural Meeting for the new Woodside and Thornton Heath Swimming Club was held on 14th November 1979, merged club sessions beginning on 1st January 1980. To celebrate the merger of the Clubs, the Inaugural Gala was held on 5th January 1980, with the aim of getting as many swimmers as possible involved in the event.

Today, the Club holds a thriving environment for over 200 swimmers and continues the high standard of teaching and coaching that both Woodside Swimming Club and Thornton Heath Swimming Club held.

More information on the Club since 1980.

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