“I am a member of Brighton Swimming Club and swim in the sea every day, all year round. As well as being affected by the incredible health benefits, I feel I have become part of a community with a massive history.
Through daily conversations with elderly members of the club, amazing stories and histories have been shared. One discussion led me to discover an archive, which had been donated to Brighton Museum in 1995, remained as it was given and left in boxes unseen, unused and inaccessible for 16 years.
In March 2010, I viewed the archives at Preston Manor (part of Brighton Museum) and couldn’t believe that such an amazing archive was being stored in boxes and its contents were in no sequential date order. At that moment I felt this archive had to be made public and brought to life so it can be viewed within a wider community, the swimming club, people of Brighton and beyond. With the help of Brighton Museum and Brighton Swimming Club, the archive was donated to East Sussex Records Office and it became the property of Brighton Swimming Club once again, allowing the material to be accesible.
After viewing the records and talking to more members of the club and historians, I felt there was a real need to do something with all this information and material. New histories need to be recorded, and we need to conserve and create accessible archives for the general public to discover.
People have negative preconceived ideas of swimming in the sea at Brighton. I have witnessed the murmurations of the starlings underneath the Palace Pier, fishermen at work, an awareness and understanding of currents, tides and the affect the moon has on water. Conversations and research has revealed the history of bathing and how it has influenced and transformed the city of Brighton. Visiting the Rare books library led me to find out more about the bathing houses and swimming pools that are now forgotten. On the beach fishermen and divers describe the different types of fish that live under the pier, the varieties of edible seaweed and how to net and fish for lobsters and crabs. All of this demonstrates to me that the archive has massive potential as an educational resource for all kinds of subjects – art, science, geography, sport and local history. If swimming can inspire me to learn and become interested about the heritage and history of Brighton then I would like to share this heritage to create positive attitudes.
Meeting with Brighton Swimming Clubs chairman from 1960 and the Royal Life Saving Association founder Roger Dunford before he sadly passed away, made me realise the importance of recording oral histories and connecting with our past. To be taken to his shed and be handed over his film collection from the 1940s is an amazing privilege, as it allows everyone to share his life and memories.”