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The Woodside and Thornton Heath Swimming Club Annual Social and Presentation Evening is on Saturday 3rd March 2018

    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:

    •     Foundation to 1980
    •     1980 to present day

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

     Foundation to 1980

    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 Swimming Club

    Formed in 1887 by members of the South London Harriers, who after a weekly evening run were in the habit of taking a hot bath at their winter headquaters,Birchanger Road Baths, South Norwood, followed by a plunge in the swimming pool.The weekly plunge progressed into weekly races and eventually Woodside Swimming Club was established.

    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 Swimming Club

    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.

    Thornton Heath SC 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 SC, which met at Thornton Heath between 1948 and 1969. 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.

     

    The second part of the Club History from the amalgamation of Woodside Swimming Club with Thornton Heath Swimming Club

    The 1980s

    The early years of the merged club proved fruitful from the number of swimming members (498 at the beginning of 1981) and the successes gained in competitive swimming.

    The 1980s start with success in the Croydon Borough championships with the combined club taking 9 gold medals and also a gold in the County champs. During the decade, the club was involved with the Speedo London League having a topsy-turvy decade being promoted or relegated nearly ever season between the 1st and  2nd division. The club also fielded a team in the London Water Polo League with much success. In 1982, a club player (David Leach) became captain of the Great Britain national squad.

    In the latter half of the 1980's some very good swimmers at the club led by Hester Willson who won a bronze medal (13/14 200m Butterfly) at the National Championships in Leeds in 1987 and club swimmers gaining 9 gold medals in the 1989 county championships. In 1985 the Croydon Borough team featured no less than 15 Woodside swimmers.

    The closure of South Norwood for some 4 months in 1984 for roof repair works led to the club temporarily swimming at Alleyn’s School and the loss of some senior swimmers. The instigation of a chute at South Norwood in 1986 caused consternation on the competitive side with clubs not wishing to swim with the chute sticking out over lane 1 and the loss of both county and borough galas a South Norwood. This left the only truly competitive standard pool in Croydon at Purley and that only available on Saturday evenings.

    In 1987, the pool situation in Croydon worsened when Croydon decided not to go ahead with the “central” pool and invest in a leisure pool on the Purley Way instead.

    Foreign exchanges took place during the 1980s with a visit to Alphen SC in Holland during Easter 1985 and Delphin SC from Hamburg visiting the club in October 1986 with a return visit to Hamburg at Easter 1988.

    1987 was the 100th anniversary of the formation of Woodside SC and to mark the event a disco was organised for the swimmers with a social evening at Penge Conservative Club for the committee members, Vice Presidents Honorary Members and parents.


    The 1990s

    WTHSC maintained it’s local attachment throughout the 1990s training at 4 local pools; South Norwood (HQ), Thornton Heath, St Josephs College and Crystal Palace.

    Demand for swimming courses for beginners soared during the decade with at one stage a full 1 year waiting list for the width teaching classes at South Norwood. However the popularity of South Norwood was not matched by Thornton Heath pool attendances. With new swimmers preferring to remain on the waiting list rather than swim at Thornton Heath the numbers swimming at Thornton Heath remained poor throughout the decade. The large pool at Thornton Heath was closed by the council in 1998 with the small pool barely struggling to remain open until the pool closed for the last time in December 2000.

    In 1990 WTHSC were still enjoying some success in swimming winning 9 gold medals in the Borough championships, 10 county medals and 2 swimmers in the National finals. However Mick Moylan, the club coach left in the autumn and at the same time most of the senior swimmers also left the club.

    During the early and middle years of the decade the club honours were championed by two swimmers. In the early years Andrew Collins regularly won gold in the county Mens 1500m freestyle along with other county medals, and winning many Borough Mens gold medals. From the middle of the decade David Bennett showed his potential as a young swimmer from 1994 picking up medals at the county championships, particularly in the Butterfly events. David has gone on to win national titles and to represent the national Great Britain team.

    Team honours however were more difficult to come by with a lack of senior swimmers very evident in the years we swam in the National Speedo League with our best placing being 24th out of 37 teams in the London Second Division. We withdrew from the League for the second time in 1998.

    In 1992 we became a founder member of the new Octopus League and have swum throughout the decade with mixed success finishing as high as 2nd and as low as 8th. Another WTHSC member honoured was Don Wright, one of our Vice Presidents and a long time official at club galas. Don became Surrey President in 1995 and Southern Counties President the following year.

    For the majority of the 90’s the club’s tutelage was under the professional care of Peter Wyatt from 1992 until 2000. Peter’s tenure as Club Coach led to a settling down period and a build up of the top end of the club with swimmers such as the two Andrew’s, Collins and Barker. Peter also took the club into Europe with a team being entered for an international event in Hamburg over the Easter period of 1992. Whilst club swimmers stayed with German families the few parents who went braved the back street hotels of Hamburg. Teams from Malmo (Sweden), Budapest (Hungry), Vlaardingen (Holland) and from around the Hamburg area took part and despite finishing 8th overall the swimmers really enjoyed themselves.

    At the start of the decade the water polo section was having difficulty in attracting a continuity of players and support. This led to the failure of the club to complete its 1991 fixtures and the, then, temporary suspension of the water polo section which became permanent the following year.

    Club finances reached a zenith during the later part of the decade when in 1997 our bank balance reached new heights. However this was not to last and the club's cash reserves dwindled rapidly over the next few years. A series of unfortunate events ensued, firstly to make the pools financially more stable the council implemented successive large increases in pool hire charges (up to 55%). This coincided with the closure of the large pool at Thornton Heath in 1998 due to the roof failing and the transfer of swimmers to South Norwood which in turn blocked the promotion of the South Norwood swimmers from the lower end of the club.

    The waiting list which had been very long seemed to melt away. Although the upper end of the club remained relatively stable in the 11 – 14 age ranges we lost senior swimmers of 15 and above. The financial state of the club was evidenced by the final closure of the Learners & Beginners classes at Thornton Heath for financial reasons. Also in 1999 we learned that South Norwood pool was to close sometime in 2000 for a lengthy period involving rebuilding of the pool facilities both inside and out.

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