The significance of 7 January for swimming

It may not seem a key date in the calendar but it certainly holds special significance for Swim England.

That is because it was on 7 January 1869 that the first meeting of the organisation that was to eventually become Swim England was held. It was also the birth of the world’s first national governing body for swimming.

In the book In The Swim – The Amateur Swimming Association from 1869 to 1994, by Ian Kiel and Don Wix, it details how the meeting was arranged.

The book says: “In 1868, a group of leaders in some of the London swimming clubs took the initiative to advertise in the newspapers Bell’s Life in London and the Sporting Chronicle calling a Swimming Congress with the aim of forming an organisation to improve competitive swimming.

“They chose as the venue the recently opened Turnhalle in Kings Cross, London. The Turnhalle was a purpose-built gymnasium, originally opened in 1866… for German residents in London wishing to continue to enjoy the pleasures of indoor physical exercises similar to those available in Germany.

Beginning of Amateur Swimming Association

“The clientele rapidly grew, attracting large number of British men and women, with Mrs Ravenstein holding special classes for women. The ambience of this venue favoured new sporting ventures and the first meeting of the Swimming Congress met with Mr Ravenstein in the chair.

“The meeting at the Turnhalle, held on 7 January 1869, may be viewed as the beginning of the Amateur Swimming Association.”

Since that first meeting, the Association has focused on the development of all swimming sports. The early members were London-based clubs, but the organisation quickly expanded across the country and currently has over 1,000 affiliated clubs and almost 200,000 members within England.

In 2017, the ASA rebranded to Swim England, but it’s formal name remains the Amateur Swimming Association. In 2018 it also became a charity.

Swim England continues to lead aquatic sports and competitions in England, and also runs the largest Learn to Swim Programme in the UK.

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