The Highbridge Amateur Swimming Club used the River Brue at a point between the station approach and the Calf Market alongside the river, this is now a housing development opposite the “Cooper’s Arms”.
The club was formed in the early 1900’s and taught many children and adults in Highbridge to swim. A wooden platform was constructed for use as a diving board and being adjacent to the bank made for easy access to the river.
Competitive races were held, boats would be moored at different distances on the bank with a rope across, to form the start and finish line. There is still in existence, a silver cup, which was presented for the 120 yards championship and was given by Captain George Sanders in 1907. Winners were: –
1907 W. Marsh. 1919 C.J.Sparks.
1908 A.J.Forward. 1920 R.Andrews.
1909 J.T.Hardacre. 1921 R. Andrews.
1910 H.Roberts. 1922 R. Andrews.
By 1930 it appears the club was beginning to struggle for both members and support, as the following report will show: –
APATHY – Swimming Club to close down unless further interest is shown.
There were half a dozen members and two pressmen present at the annual meeting of the Highbridge Swimming Club which ought to have taken place at the “Cooper’s Arms” on Wednesday evening. The meeting was due to commence at 7.30 p.m. the press representative arrived at 7.20 p.m. while the club members turned up at 7.40 p.m. and 7.50 p.m. The hon. Secretary Mr. F. C. Dyer failed to put in an appearance at all, no apology received either. As he was in possession of the Minute Book, the few interested members were unable to proceed with the business, and there was no meeting. The hon. Treasurer, Mr Cecil Sparks, moved a resolution that the club should be closed down due to the apathy displayed. The meeting had been widely advertised and yet only six members had put in an appearance. Mr. Howell seconded the motion.
However, Mr. Berryman the sports secretary said this was a pity to close the club down. Mrs Pepperall said the children were very keen and that there were some promising swimmers in the junior section. It was finally decided the club should close, Mr. J.C. Sparks and Mr. H. Howell were appointed as trustees.
After the closure of the club it became apparent that local people were concerned by the loss of a facility that had given an important service to the community.
However, by 19th July 1930 the situation seemed to have improved as the Burnham Gazette shows.
A month ago it was decided to revive the Highbridge Swimming Club, two volunteers have patched up the men’s changing quarters. The women are hoping to use a shed near the river for changing, a temporary measure. In the meantime the Secretary, acting on the instructions of the Sub-Committee had invited tenders for the repair of the men’s quarters, on average this was £40. After consideration it was decided that due to a low bank balance this would not be viable at the present time. The intention was to hold a dance and other fund raising events before embarking on such expenditure. The hon. Secretary would be pleased to receive any donations towards the erection of this pavilion.
Reports show that the club did reform, but unfortunately not for long, because in late 1930 or early 1931 the swimming club finally closed due to the Local Authorities banning the use of the river.
Anthony Stephens aged 17 from Burnham Road did just that and qualified for the Paralympic Games of 2004 to be held in Athens. He was entered for the 200m, 100m and 50m freestyle events having already broken five world records; setting a new record in the 200m freestyle event at the British Swimming Paralympic Trial.