Phillipa O'Grady, John Anderson and Adele Parham.
Masters from Wincanton Swimming Club after competing at the British Masters Championships 2014
Wincanton Swimming Club was established in 1978, when Mr Norsworthy (from the Bear Inn), Jimmy Brock (a local shoe shop owner) and Dave & Denise Small began a family swimming club during the summer months at King Arthur’s School open-air pool.
The Early Years In these early years, the club was really a social group - meeting at the pool and enjoying a swim in the warm summer months. The pool itself, was a 25m open air facility with a very high diving board, located roughly in the position of the current Wincanton Leisure Centre. In 1983, the depth of this pool was reduced considerably, to address a leak, and so the high diving board had to be dismantled. However, the site continued to be enjoyed by the swimming club through the summers of the 1980s.
The organising group was soon joined by Muriel Tucker, Chris Minney and Rosina Riley, who began teaching children to swim at the Wincanton Primary School outdoor pool. Many children and some adults were taught to swim in the Primary School pool until, in October 1987, the Great Storm (made famous by Michael Fish) completely wrecked the pool and its surrounds. After this, the club was limited to swimming on Saturday Evenings at the Sherborne Boys’ School where lessons continued throughout the year. Muriel Tucker worked hard at getting qualified as an ASA Teacher, STA teacher and an RLSS teacher. She was largely responsible for initiating a programme of swim teaching, stroke improvement, diving instruction, water polo instruction, lifeguard instruction and general swimming for fitness and fun. Members took a variety of ASA, STA and RLSS awards and participated in club swimming galas and distance swims. Muriel was joined in the teaching by Rosina Riley, Jill Lawson, Chris Chilcott and Alan Morris.
Every autumn the club held a presentation evening in the town where certificates, medals and cups were presented.
Campaigning for a Town Pool
Throughout the 1990’s the club continued to meet at the Sherborne Boys’ School pool for swim lessons and family-fun swim sessions.
By this time, it was clear that a sports facility was desperately needed in Wincanton. County Councillor John Smith strongly supported a Lottery Application for a Pool, Gym and Sports Hall in the town, on the King Arthur’s site. The people of Wincanton were required to raise a set amount of money to trigger the Lottery Funding - this saw the ‘Buy a Brick’ campaign heavily supported by Members of the Swimming Club, who’s innovative campaigning, and fundraising contributed a significant amount of the required money to start the Lottery Application rolling.
The Wincanton Leisure Centre was built and opened in May 2001.
Becoming a Competitive Club
The move from the Sherborne Boys’ School to the Wincanton Leisure Centre coincided with a change in the Aims and Objectives of the Club. The focus evolved to one of ‘teaching and coaching’, with the club preparing children for Swim Competitions; although, to keep the link with social swimming a ‘Family Swim’ session was maintained on a Saturday evening for many more years.
Initially, Wincanton Leisure Centre was run by a group of Directors, three of which were recruited from the Swimming Club, helping Theresa England run the pool for several years.
As remains the case today, the Leisure Centre’s Learn to Swim Programme was closely linked to the Swimming Club’s teaching and coaching programme. The Centre would use the ASA National Plan to teach children through their early stages, before these young swimmers would be encouraged join the Swimming Club.
The Swimming Club’s Thursday training was led by Alan Morris, Andy Hodges, Adele Parham and Simon Phillips. The Sunday sessions came later in 2009, and were initially run by Heather Crewe, Jube Walker and Heidi Pulleyblanc. The Swimming Club also ran a Water Polo section under the direction of Andy Hodges, playing in a league which included matches at Basingstoke and Bristol. Eventually the players combined with a team at Frome. With its change in focus to competitive swim-coaching, Wincanton Swimming Club made a notable impact for its size. By 2001 the club had 100 members, with many entering the Somerset ASA Championships with some success. The Masters, also made their mark at the Somerset Masters Championships and continue to be a major force in the South-West Region.
Wincanton Swimming Club have completed in the Jurassic Swimming League since the event’s inauguration in 2005. 6 clubs from across Somerset and Dorset compete in 4 galas held throughout the Summer months. The galas provide a friendly start to competitive swimming for swimmers aged 10 and up. Events include each of the individual styles of backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle, together with relay events in freestyle and medley. In 2019, Wincanton were second in the Jurassic League overall. In 2023 WSC achieved a tenacious 5th place finish.
The Club Today
Today the club thrives with over 100 swimmers, taking part in club training sessions on Thursdays and Sundays. The club’s emphasis remains on having fun and swimming in a social, inclusive environment. As well as the club’s participation in county and national level swim meets, the club hosts its own fun galas at the end of school terms and an annual Club Gala, at Christmas each year, after which medals, and Club Awards are presented.