There has been a swimming club in Rhyl since the reign of Queen Victoria. In 1896 a group of men got together at the Royal Hotel* to discuss plans to start a swimming club. Mr H. Lane Brown was in the Chair and below is a transcription of the petition they wrote and subsequently sent to the Urban District Council:
To the Chairman and members of Rhyl Urban District Council, we the undersigned being ratepayers of the town of Rhyl, do hereby respectfully petition you to provide facilities for bathing at the Marine Lake, believing as we do that not only that the public generally would benefit by the healthful exercise of swimming, but that a revenue would accrue to the town from fees to be received, provided satisfactory arrangements were made by you for the comfort and convenience of bathers
Mr Roberts Jones, the Hon. Secretary, sent the letter off and at their next meeting on Friday, June 5th they received the good news that the U.D.C had authorised the preparation of plans for a pontoon and that tenders were being sought. The committee voted to call the club “The Rhyl Amateur Swimming Club”. The annual subscription was set at 2/6d or 1/6d for juniors up to their 17th birthday, and that two thirds of such subscriptions be offered to the U.D.C. Mr Lane Brown was elected as Swimming Master.
On June 15th the executive committee met again when Mr Lane Brown and Mr Roberts Jones were authorised to hire a furniture van for use as a temporary bathing shelter (presumably until the pontoon was finished). The club costumes were also discussed at this meeting, navy blue was decided upon with R.A.S.C worked in white on the breast. The Rules stated that the costumes should be worn on all occasions and that “drawers” should be worn underneath. A decision was taken to apply for affiliation with the N.C.A.S.A. (Northern Counties Amateur Swimming Association) and also to inform the Headmasters of the elementary schools that boys could join the club. (No mention of girls – after scrutiny of the list of members for the first year, there appears to be no females)
Club Events that season included handicap races, a Burlesque Sketch at the Pier Head and plunging and diving competitions. Prizes were given to the value of £9.
At the end of the season the secretary wrote in his report:
In addition to the racing, a goodly number of members used to bathe regularly each morning and considerable progress was made by many in the art of swimming. The club is to be congratulated upon the exemplary behaviour of its members and the first season of the club may be looked upon as an unqualified success.
At the end of the first season, in addition to the President and Vice President, the club membership showed 40 adults and 37 juniors making a total of 77 bathing members.
The following year the Annual Swimming Gala was held on Saturday, August 14th and an impressive programme of events was published. Apart from the usual races there was a Display of Ornamental and Trick Swimming by Prof. Shelley (Ornamental Champion of Staffordshire) and Mr. T. Scalley (One-armed Champion). Included in the programme is a note: “The Pontoon is open for Public Bathing every week-day. Reserved for Ladies Tuesday and Friday Afternoons from 1 to 6. Bathing Tickets 4d; Weekly, 1s. 6d. Towels and Costume 1d each. An efficient instructor is in charge.”
By 1908 the Swimming Gala was held in the swimming baths in Sussex Street. Races included the Top Hat and Umbrella Race, the Nightshirt and Taper Race and the Blindfold Race. The Swimming Club was not confined to the Sussex Street baths however, as later in the year the 9th Annual Championship Club Race was held at the Marine Lake.
*The Royal hotel was on High Street and was demolished to build the Plaza cinema, now a cafe, on the corner of Sussex Street.