Although in 1977 and 2002 we celebrated the Silver and Golden Jubilees of Radford Swimming Club, which was re-formed in 1952, it is known that the club functioned much earlier. It had always used the Radford baths in Boden Street as its main pool for training purposes. These baths were opened on the 28th June 1880. When the last war broke out in 1939, club activities were suspended, and regretfully all records relating to the club were lost
From personal recollection of some former active members of the club, it has been established that the club was founded in the early nineteen twenties. Mr Charles Greenwood who at the time of the clubs Silver Jubilee was in his eightieth year, was a founder member. At the time the Nottingham and District Swimming and Life Saving Association controlled swimming in the county, and the main competitive interest between clubs existing then was in water polo. Radford’s early history was connected with water polo, and when the was about two years old, a club team was entered in Division Two of the Water Polo League. The club is known to have gained promotion to Division One. When the Noel Street Baths were built, most of the water polo players transferred to the newly-formed Noel Street Club and more time was then given to organised swimming at the Radford Club. Mrs Vera Morris, who was coach at the Portland and Bramcote Hills Swimming Clubs and who was actively involved as an ASA administrator and official, confirmed that as a schoolgirl she was a member of Radford in the mid-twenties. She recollected many happy hours of training with the club and of training with Tom Blower (later of cross-channel swimming fame). Only slightly junior to Vera Morris in his association with the club is Ken Martin M.B.E., Hon. Life President of the ASA, past-President of the Midland District ASA, Notts ASA and Radford Swimming Club of which he is also a Life Member.
Ken Martin at the start of his teaching career gave swimming lessons to schoolchildren at Radford Baths from 1924 onwards, and then started to take an active part in the club. He was Treasurer of the club until the mid-thirties. In 1927 he coached a team of schoolboys from the Alfreton Road School which finished third in the All-England Schools Team Swimming Championships. He was then asked to coach the team from Radford Boulevard Boys School, which won these championships for three years running from 1929. Nearly all team members were members of Radford Club. One of them was George Mollart who continued as a member of Radford Club and was Chief Coach to the club at the time of his tragic death on April 21st 1969. Two trophies in memory of George Mollart are still competed for by Club Members Annually. Other pre-war members of the club well known in post-war swimming circles in the county include Albert Parish, Chad Allen, Charlie Bradley and Mrs Bradley, who as Emma Whitworth was also one of the young lady members of the club. No such list can be complete without mention of Tom Blower, one of the nationally best known names in long distance swimming. There was a plaque in his memory at the old Radford Baths and one still remains at John Carroll Leisure Centre (the replacement for the old Radford Baths). He is also remembered at the Harvey Hadden Leisure Centre, which is the newest aquatics facility in Nottingham.
This era of the club ended in 1939 when war broke out. It was not until 1952 that a group of people interested in swimming decided to re-form the club. Our known recorded history extends from that year. Whilst many records have been lost we can be proud of some of the names that contributed an invaluable service to the club from this era into the 1970’s. In this connection, the names of Tom Pinder, Ken Martin, Albert Parish, John Denny, Doris Denny, Douglas White and Leo Titman must be remembered, all whom are Past Presidents or Chairmen of the club, and actively associated with the club from the fifties onwards.
These were the formative years of the club which helped develop a philosophy of teaching fundamentals of stroke improvement and technique and which was about to form the basis of one of the strongest teams not only in the County or Region but in England.
A pivotal point in the club’s progression came with the appointment of Ray Barnes as Chief Coach in the early 70’s. With the help of a few keen parents the slow process of building the club into a competitive club rather than a social and teaching club began.
By now the club was training at various pools in Nottingham including Radford, Lenton and Noel Street Baths but in 1975 the club decided to seek extra training time at the recently opened Kimberley Leisure Centre. A turning point for the club, not only in securing extra pool time but swimmers and enthusiastic volunteer parents and officials from a new catchment area, a link which has produced many excellent swimmers, coaches and volunteers.
As the club moved into the 1980’s it saw the sad demise of the old Radford Baths but enjoyed the benefits of its replacement John Carroll built in 1984. The Club at this point was also firmly engaged with the new pool in Bulwell, Ken Martin Leisure Centre where the club has and still holds training sessions, club championship galas and for many years housed its prestigious trophy cabinet. Unfortunately, due to council branding the cabinet was lost after the millennium and most of the trophies were distributed for safekeeping but have inevitably been lost track off. The 80’s however saw the club surge forward and with coaches such as Ray Barnes and Eddie Watt at the helm and with many of the Radford swimmers training full time with the County Squad with a certain new up and coming Coach Bill Furniss pushing the squad on, it was a time of many success’s. Swimmers were reaching Olympic heights with Sarah Kerswell representing GB at the 1980 Olympics and Jo Wood represented England at the Commonwealth games in Edinburgh. A host of other swimmers where also representing Junior, Intermediate and Senior GB, England and Wales teams during this era. In 1987 the team, captained by Sarah Kerswell and Chris Proctor travelled to Leeds international Pool for the final of the National Speedo League. Leeds had won the previous five titles and it wasn’t until the end of a nail biting last relay event that Radford SC were confirmed the new champions, four points in front of the reigning champions Leeds and just six and a half points in front of East Midland rivals, Norwich Penguins.
The club continued having great success throughout the 90’s & early 2000’s, with Chris Proctor taking the Helm as Head Coach in the late 80’s and John Tulley from Chris in 1992. Rob Clarke took over from Chris and kept the club going through a difficult time when membership was decreasing but all in all the club was still very competitive, which showed in the results of the Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire Junior Swimming League. A tough league to win, but the club managed to secure the League Championship title in 86, 88, 93, 94, 95, 98, 99 & 2000. As the club entered the new millennium and celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2002, club swimmers were still progressing onto the County Squad and achieving great things. Adam Faulkner and Heidi Earp represented GB at the 2000 Olympics & England at the 2002 Commonwealth games. Adam also went on to compete at the 2004 Olympic games in Athens. In 2003 Jonathon Cook swimming for Radford as a 13-year-old won all his events at the Nott’s County Championships.
The club held open meets from the mid 80’s, which over the years grew into one of the Country’s Premier Meets, being held at the Internationally Renowned Ponds Forge pool in Sheffield. Many National Records were set at this meet for mainstream swimmers and for para-swimmers. With the Swimming Calendar changing and a forced changed of date to the meet in 2011, entries to the meet suffered and it was decided the meet had outgrown the club and was too large a financial risk to continue. 2012 was to be the last open meet the club would host to the present day.
In 2005 Andy O’Connor took over as Head Coach and introduced a restructured age group training plan and ASA award schemes. He led the club to win some minor galas, spring competitions and the JC Dobbs Trophy Gala. Andy was a popular head Coach and managed the club for four years leaving in 2009.
The Club was still suffering with a declining number of members and almost hit rock bottom with the club now in real jeopardy of closing. There was however one man who clung on, someone associated with the club for many years who refused to give up. Dennis Rudd a long-standing swimming teacher kept on going whilst many things were falling apart, the club will always be in his debt. However, Dennis along with a few others, Jacqui Clay, Tim Blackman, Roger Strickland to name a few worked hard to start to bring things back together again and in 2010 Tim’s daughter Becky Blackman became Radford’s first female and youngest Head Coach. Becky was in the post for just under two tears years and unfortunately University called but during this time Becky kept the existing swimmers in the club interested and produced a team of technically gifted youngsters.
In 2011, a father took his young son to his old club to learn to swim and as what happens so often in our sport ended up helping out with a lane of swimmers. His potential didn’t go without notice and in 2102 Dean Anscombe took on the responsibly of Head Coach. Dean was a Radford swimmer in his youth and a member of the 1987 National Speedo League Champions team. He trained with Nova and enjoyed success at Junior County, Regional, and National levels, going on to represent England as a Junior. Dean was introduced to coaching by Bill Furness towards the end of his swimming career but later left the sport to start a family with his wife Liz who was also a swimmer at Nova and represented England at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand and the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. During his time at the club Dean has progressed his development as a coach to level 3 and implemented a structured training programme and development plan for swimmer’s progression which include morning training sessions. To date the club is enjoying a revival with a membership of just under 200, successive promotions in the Arena League from the 3rd division to the Premier division, a return to the Sports Centre League gaining promotion in the first year, JC Dobbs wins, ASA Grade 1 gala victories and Top visiting club trophies for open meets they attend. The club has a few swimmers still residing on the County Squad but is happy to be producing County Open and Age Group Champions, Regional Champions and British Summer Championship Qualifiers and National Medallists and Qualifiers at the ASA Home Nations from within our own training programme.
The Story Continues……