Club History

Club history in brief

The Royal Tunbridge Wells Monson Swimming Club was founded in 1901. The name originated from the Monson Road Baths which were then the headquarters of the Club. Lobbying for a new pool commenced in the early 1960s and this came to fruition in 1974 but 'Monson' in the title has remained despite the move to the new pool based in St John's Road.

The Club badge now shows the crest of the Tunbridge Wells Borough however prior to this, up to the year of 1956, it depicted an otter.

The Club has, throughout its long history, been built up purely by volunteers who have given of their time in various ways. In 1966 the membership peaked at 983 with over 83 children on the waiting list to join the Club. However since this time pools have been built in Crowborough, Edenbridge and an indoor pool at Tonbridge thus reducing the catchment area. It was not until 1974 that the Club appointed Dennis Knight as its first professional Coach.

The Club, through its then Secretary Ron Wheeler, was one of the prime movers in 1965 in the setting up of the London League, now called the National Swimming League which has spread throughout the country. The Club have been competing in this competition ever since.

Water Polo and Diving have always featured in the activities of the Club with both these sections having won many trophies. At the Monson Road pool the depth of the water was only 5' 6" at the point of entry for the divers so obviously with the move to St John's with a separate diving pit has enabled much more scope for the more difficult dives, so in 1975 Club Diving Championships were again competed for, the first time since 1963.

The water polo players also found the diving pit very beneficial to train the players in ball handling skills in the deep water. Synchronised swimming featured very much in past Club activities and as in all the disciplines is proud to have produced international competitors. However this section no longer operates.

In 1966 a team from Monson was successful in crossing the English Channel and only missed the record by 16 minutes but in 1967 six 12 year old Monson swimmers set a record for the youngest team to swim the English Channel and appeared in the Guinness Book of records.

Whilst many positions in the club such as President, Secretary, Treasurer and Officers of the Club command a higher profile but so much more goes on behind the scenes that there is always a job to be done. The 'Learn to Swim' programme albeit not called this in the early days has always been a feature of the Club, originally under the direction of Jill Marsh and administered by Mary Smith. With the advent of the move to St John's this became a great feature with the separate teaching pool whereas at the Monson Road pool this section had to be run on a separate night but with the pool being shared with the local Sub-Aqua Club, as they only wanted deep water and the Club shallow. This proved to be a very equitable relationship and financed a great deal of our activities.

Parents in the past were always happy to give of their time and a very active Fund Raising Group was formed. This group incorporated all members of the Club, and their families, particularly when they decided to hold a Christmas Fair at the Assembly Hall. Needless to say this was an extremely big commitment but with the enthusiasm of Ron Wheeler this proved to be very successful and from the proceeds the Club bought its own mini-bus which in turn saved on the hiring of transport. Due to its success another Fair was run a few years later. Dinner dances were held, cheese and wine evenings for the parents, with discos run alongside for the younger members, all this encouraging the team spirit which is so necessary in a successful Club. Another large fund raising event, under the direction of Derek Horne, was to stage a 'Pantomime' at the Monson Road pool, which again incorporated all sections of the Club, including the teachers and coaches, and this too was a sellout.

A Club shop was run for many years by Gwen Wheeler who would stock anything and everything for the Club members from nose clips for the Synchro section to second hand swimming costumes and track suits for all members. Each week she would bring all the stock into the pool and set up her shop but after some negotiations on moving to St Johns a cupboard was found for her to store the items. Once the Sports Shop was opened within the confines of the new pool the 'Club shop' was gradually run down.

Each Monday Club night, prior to payment of the annual subscriptions by direct debit, at both the old and the new pool, a table was in the foyer where the members paid their subscriptions, collected their membership cards and paid their club night entry fee. Mrs Gladys Cheeseman manned this table every week, checking those coming into the pool were members and answering any questions about the Club and generally directing people to the appropriate areas.

The most recent addition to the activities of the Club, through the enthusiasm of Ted Valder, has been the setting up of a Masters section, the numbers are increasing and they are beginning to prove their worth on the Championship circuit.

Many past members of the Club have gone on to achieve high profile recognition within the sport at different levels. The first member to achieve the distinction of representing his country at the Empire Games in 1934 was Fred Dove and he also competed at the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936.

Other Olympians have been Suki Brownsdon (Swimming) and Hayley Allen (Diving). Gaynor Foy, Simon Handley Clare Stevens, Gavin Wells (Swimming), Emily Manktelow (Diving) and Linda Horne (Synchronised Swimming) have represented England and Great Britain in various events. Ian Wynne, a past member went on to win a bronze medal in the Olympic Games in Athens in the sport of canoeing. Darren Leach competed in two Paralympic Games where he achieved medal successes in the category for blind participants.

David Reeves was Team Manager of the Great Britain Water Polo team for many years. He went on to become the General Secretary of the Amateur Swimming Association from 1986-1995. Betty Allen was selected as Team Manager for the European Diving Championships in 1997.

Daphne Geer attended many international events including two Olympic Games in a managerial role. Mick Geer, a past Club Coach, represented Great Britain in a coaching role at a number of international events and at the Sydney and Athens Paralympic Games. Both Daphne and Mick Geer were awarded the MBE in the 2007 New Year's Honours list which was presented to them by the Queen at Buckingham Palace for services to swimming.

A Centenary Year Book was published in 2001 and a pdf copy of this can be viewed by clicking here.

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