The Wey Swimming Cup

 

The Jones Challenge Cup


Open the second drawer beneath the map in the central display in the Living Landscape Gallery, and you will find a silver cup awarded by the Wey Swimming and Rowing Club between 1907 and 1913. The Club was based at the Catteshall boathouse. Wild swimming might be a minority sport today, but up to 50 years ago it was the norm in Godalming.

 

 

Local author Arthur Bird, describes the most popular swimming places in the 1940s as 'the Ducky' at Catteshall, 'the Colonel Grounds' opposite Broadwater Lake or 'the Ginny' at the end of Peperharow Road... (the Ginny being particularly dangerous).' The Ginny' was probably the Charterhouse bathing place, which was also open to townsfolk. It is described, not altogether enticingly, in a 1900 history of the school, "Below the racket courts is the river bathing place. Here the muddy bank of the river has been replaced by concrete; several diving boards have been provided and all conveniences for dressing. At the lower end of the bathing place is the deep pool known as 'Bell Hole', above that a shallow reach of some forty yards, and above that the river is deep again. The best use has been made of a rather sluggish stream, but bathing is not always pleasant when the mill at Eashing shuts off the water, or sheep are being washed above the bathing place."

In 1841 two boys drowned in the Bell Hole. Local Historian Charles Softly knew them and commemorated them in verse, which also recalled the sheer joy of swimming in the river


On sunny afternoons in cloudless sky
To thy clear waters often we would hie
Plunge in thy stream, all jubilant we bathe
Dive to the depth, or swim the passing wave.
See where the spreading oak its pendant branch
The 'Bellhole' marks, where near the sad mischance
Engulph'd dear Tom and Phil and nearly so,
But timely aid was by to rescue, Jo.

 

Charterhouse also had a swimming pool, built in 1883 at the end of Peperharow Road and this was sometimes made available to local schools. In the 1930s Godalming briefly had its own open air swimming pool between Catteshall Lane and the River. But in the build up to the Second World War the site was sold to RFD for the manufacture of barrage balloons and emergency equipment. The company used the pool to test dinghies and emergency escape slides.

 

 

The dates make the cup a poignant object, a small contribution to our picture of carefree Edwardian summers before the War. Hubert Court who won the cup n 1912 was a keen sportsman who also played with the Godalming Wednesday Football Club and ran with the Godalming Harriers. During the First World War he served with the Royal West Kent Regiment in Belgium, France, Italy and Germany and survived. In 1917 he was mentioned in dispatches: "During the action you dressed and removed wounded from the battlefield under heavy shell and machine gun fire. Your brave actions undoubtedly saved lives."

 

 

Return to Object of the month or the Collections index