Sport - Swimming

The earliest records of swimming are prehistoric cave paintings dating back to at least 7000 BC. Swimming was regarded as an essential skill by the later Romans and the baths at nearby Bath are living evidence of their enjoyment of the waters, believed to have therapeutic properties. However in the Middle Ages swimming fell out of favour in polite society - exposing your skin to water was, ironically, viewed as unhealthy as it would open the pores to the poisonous 'miasmas' believed to cause disease. In addition swimming involved either minimal or no clothing, and this was seen as making it morally questionable. Despite some individuals championing it from the 16th century onwards, swimming did not become a mainstream activity until the 19th century, when public bathing places began to be set up along rivers and indoor pools began to be provided by local authorities. Swimming was at last recognized as promoting cleanliness and public health. The sexes were initially segregated well into the 20th century. There is no doubt that the provision of public swimming pools has had a positive impact on the health and well-being of people from all social backgrounds. Competitive swimming has been included in the Olympics since 1896 and women's competitive swimming since 1912.

Anyone interested in the history of swimming in Wiltshire will need to consult the records of local authorities as the borough, urban and rural district councils had responsibilities for leisure prior to 1974. These include this brochure for the opening of the swimming pool at Monkton Park in Chippenham (now the Olympiad) in 1960 (Reference G19/168/1)


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