Thursday, 30 May 2013

Tonbridge Daily Snippet

A dispute on mixed bathing at Tonbridge pool in 1910 caused national attention.

Tonbridge Swimming Pool and 'Cow Sheds' 1910
 Tonbridge Historical Society Pictorial Collection No. 31Sw.02

"The Daily Mail brought the pool to the attention of the nation in the 1920s after a councillor objected to Tonbridge Swimming Club's request for men and women to be allowed to swim together from 6am to 10am on Sundays, thus breaching the council's rule to keep the sexes apart.

A speech by Councillor Donald Clark of Tonbridge, a former Scots Guard officer, which was reported in the local newspaper, caught the eye of the Daily Mail - especially his explanation that he objected "not because I am a Puritan, but in the interests of ladies looking for husbands".

He said that "by making girls look like wet terriers, mixed bathing stops more marriages than any other cause and much unrest in the country due to the barbarous license in woman's dress".  Clark was subsequently hired by the Daily Mail to travel around coastal resorts to comment on beach behaviour.

This whole episode lead to a mixed bathing protest by a local Tonbridge resident.  An elderly woman carrying an umbrella mounted the pool's high diving-stage and began a shrill denunciation of mixed bathing and the spectators who encouraged it by their presence. She was pushed into the pool by an indignant bather and had to be rescued!

Mr Clark declared that, from what he had seen, strict Government supervision of bathing places was needed, because mixed bathing "must always have a debasing influence by lowering the respect that should remain between the sexes."

It all came to nothing when the swimming club's request was approved by the council, and the sexes swam together for the first time in July 1920."

(courtesy of Tonbridge Swimming Pool


  1. Just seen this post, love the story! Shams

  2. It is isn't - I'm sure you could expand on this