Our History


As far back as 1870, Watford residents would use the River Colne at the Five Arches Bathing Place at Waterfields, off of the present-day Stephenson Way, as a place to gather and swim. In 1901, Watford Swimming Club was formed. This was reported in the Watford Observer on May 23rd 1901:

“Watford Swimming Club -- A meeting was held on Thursday evening, at the Wellington Arms, when the above club was formed. It was resolved that the annual subscription be 5s.,with an entrance fee of 2s.6d. Time trials will be swum on Thursday next at 8 p.m., at the Bathing Place. It was decided to join the Amateur Swimming Association and Life Saving Society. Mr.Lyons, who is a medallist of the society, will give instruction to any member. The secretary will be pleased to receive names of those desirous of joining. All communications to be addressed to the Hon.Secretary, W.Kinselle , The Ferns, Wiggenhall-road, Watford.”

On Saturday 17th August 1901, the first swimming gala was held with several internationals appearing and the first water polo match was seen in Watford. "The Bathing Place" was on part of the River Colne near where it passes under the five railway arches and beside the Stephenson Way (A4008) road built in the late 20th Century.

In 1908, the Watford Observer reported the following:

“Though the sun was shining when the seventh annual gala of the Watford Swimming Club was opened at the Five Arches Bathing-place on Saturday, frequent showers fell during the afternoon, and the final events were decided in a heavy downpour.  In the open handicap the Lutonians had the first man home in Waller, who was on the 13 seconds mark, but Cutchee, of Watford, with 19 seconds, was a strong runner-up, if the term can be used in connection with aquatics.  A graceful exhibition of diving was given by club members, and the comic events, "cock-fighting" on a raft, upsetting a boat, and rescuing the "drowning," rod v man, afforded general amusement.”

Between 1871 and 1906, changing rooms were constructed along the edge of the pool area at the Five Arches Bathing Place, providing greater comfort for the men, women and children who used the site. In fact, with the installation of additional changing rooms in 1906, records show more than 70,000 visitors used the pool that year, including the Watford Amateur Swimming Club. Measuring approximately 100 feet by 40 feet, the pool had been dredged and a layer of gravel used to cover the riverbed, providing an outdoor pool sufficient to house its many users. This pool remained open until 1936, when contamination from sewerage convinced even the hardiest swimmer that outdoor bathing had had its day. Three years earlier, in 1933, Watford Corporation Baths in Hampstead Road had been built, becoming the first public baths in the country to be heated, using electricity, and the first covered bath in Hertfordshire.

In 1933, the Club moved to the Watford Central Baths, which at the time was the only municipal covered pool in the county until after the war. Watford Borough Council have since built two 25m pools in 2008 – Watford Central and Watford Woodside, both of which the club uses, along with a number of other pools in the Watford area.

In the past, the Club has produced a number of swimmers and water polo players (when the current two separate clubs operated as one club) who received international recognition, including competing in the Olympic Games. These are listed below, along with a list of past Presidents, Club Chairs and Head Coaches. Today, the Club continues to be highly successful, and is one of the most competitive clubs in Hertfordshire. We currently have over 120 members and our swimmers compete in local, county, regional and national competitions.

Watford Swimming Club is affiliated to the Swim England East Region and Swim England Hertfordshire, and our colours are Red and Blue.


Club Presidents

1945-1948          W.T. Blenkearn

1949      H.E. Coates

1950      Barty Lee

1951      A.R. Lynden

1952      A.J. Cutchee

1953      Jim Henley

1954      Fred Parsons

1955      Bob Daplyn

1956      Bob Claxton

1957      Ernie Ward

1958      Fred White

1959      Digby Wakeman

1960      Ron Chamberlain

1961      Bas Barkway

1962      Ernie Biggins

1963      David Williams

1964      Vernon Fish         

1965      Len Elwell

1966      Colin G. Hunter

1967      John Heffer

1968      Ken Murray

1969      Neil Chapman

1970      Roger Harford

1971      Ralph Nesbitt

1972      Ray Froud

1973      Anthony Gimson

1974      Ernie Biggins

1975      Ernie Biggins

1976      Roy Rogers

1977      Rad Pursey

1978      Mick Cook

1979      Cordelia Martin-Dye

1980      John Slaughter

1981      Ray Cheater

1982      Yvonne Smith

1983      Mike White

1984      John Sargant

1985      Mervyn Roberts

1986      John Martin-Dye

1987      Drago Dundjerovic

1988      Cindy Binnions

1989      Captain John Smith

1990      Olive Roberts

1991      John Atkins

1992      Brenda Biggins

1993      Allan Lewington

1994      Fred Crew

1995      Chris Weeks

1996      Bill Charge

1997      John Sargant

1998      Carol Rudge

1999      Glynis Rawlins

2000      Lynne Willer

2001      Olive Roberts & John Sargant

2002      Paul Cuthbert

2003      Margaret Forester

2004      Mike Wildey

2005      Shirley Petchey

2006      John Williams

2007      Nigel McMorrin

2008      Paul R.S.Rogers

2009      Su Tysoe

2010      Paul Cuthbert

2011       Attracta Stewart

                Shirley Burns

                Andy Taverner

                Paul Sutton

2022     Jeremy Irvine



Club Chairs

(1989 prior the President Chaired)

1990 – 2002       John Sargant

2003 – 2007       John Martin-Dye

2008 -- 2009      Nigel McMorrin

2010 -- ?              Neil Spence

                                Andy Taverner

2016 – 2019       Tracy O’Sullivan

2019 – 2023       Gareth Harper

2023                     John Cowie

2023 – present  Gareth Harper


International Club Representatives

Lorna Frampton

Julie Hoyle, Melbourne Olympics, 100m backstroke, 6th, Melbourne 1956

Brian Curtis

Ann Cottrell, 100m butterfly, 6th, Tokyo 1964, Silver in the Perth Commonwealth games, Bronze in the European Championships,

Elaine Gray

Melanie Tearle

Mike Foskett

Derek Pitts

John Beresford

Catriona Irvine

Claire Stockley

Graham Martin-Dye


Main/Head Coaches

Bill Juba                1948  -1956

Roy Holingdale     1956 -1961

Roy Rogers           1961 - 1978

Mike Foskett         1978

John Martin-Dye                

Sasha Djerfi         1991-1993

John Martin-Dye & John Sargant       1993 -1997

Lee Portingale    July 1997 - July 2001

John Martin-Dye & John Sargant        2001 - 02

Alan Lewington 2002-2003

Terry Davies     2003-2013

Kevin Ayres      2013-2014

Kelvin Jones    2014-2018

Adam Parfitt     2018-2019

Jack Jackson (temporary) 2019

Matt Paget      2019-2022

Jamie Irvine    2023 - present


Swimming Pools Used

Watford Bathing Place, Five Arches, Water Fields, used from before 1893, but closed May 1936

Central Baths (old 33 1/3 yards) May 1933 – December 2006 (closed & demolished)

Leggatts School/Bill Everett (from February 1991) (5 lanes by 25 mtr.) 1970s until May 2008, (closed & demolished)

Watford Springs from 1990 to October 2000(since closed and demolished)

Watford Central Pool (Opened 09/08/2008).

Watford Woodside Leisure Centre Pool (Opened 7/6/2008)

Westfield/Victoria School Pool

Rickmansworth School Pool

Haberdashers School Pool (both Boys and Girls School)

Northwood College

Watford Girls Grammar School Pool

William Penn Leisure Centre


(This information was collected from the previous club's website -- if there are any errors, or if you have any further information to add to this history, please email the Club Chair on [email protected])