A Brief History

The pool opened in 1973. Tony Wright a local councillor and ex Northern Counties swimmer contacted the Castle Point council and together with Pat Carlane, Jill Godsave, Joe Callighan, Carol Blakeney and Jim Muir started the Club.

The club became affiliated to the Essex ASA and participated in Essex League’s, Mini League and numerous friendlies.  The first coach was Molly Read, followed over the years by John Vinales, Eric Henderson, Martin Porter and Dave Day. During the time the Club grew at a rapid rate and its standing not only in the county but nationally.

Our first County Champion was Chris Barnard in 1979, over the next 15 years Runnymede had over 30 county champions and in most years 15/20 swimmers qualified for Nationals. One high point was our Senior Boys team of Chris Lines, Gary Stopford, Paul Cannon and Dave Smith not only won the Southern Counties but was just piped in the final for a National Title.

In Team competitions we were very strong and together with Southend and Killerwhales were highly rated in the country, our major achievement was reaching the National Speedo Final in 19—finishing sixth. Our junior team went one better by winning the National Diddy league Final at Liverpool in 1986, since renamed Junior Speedo league.

Senior swimming was very strong and several of our swimmers Qualified for the National Seniors championships. John Lines won gold in Butterfly and I/M.

In the early years we were fortunate to have a considerable number of parents that wanted to contribute to the club some were involved in the Official aspect and gave up there time to become Qualified officials, ASA teaching courses were arranged so that all our pool side help were trained and qualified and then we had many others who were involved in the Social and fund raising part of the club. All these areas helped to make the club successful.

The first ‘Young Champions Gala’ was held in 1982, this quickly became an important and sort after open gala with entries from all over the country. It became so popular that entries were capped at 1200; past Champions included Mark Foster, Karen Pickering and Sarah Hardcastle.

Apart from a very full home gala program Runnymede participated abroad, Overpelt in Belgium, Heidelberg in Germany, Leiden in Holland and Tenby in Wales. There was an exchange program each Easter with swimmers from the above clubs staying with Runnymede families. They were taken sightseeing to London on the Runnymede Double Decker Red Bus, competed in a Swimming Gala and finished the weekend with a Disco.

In 1998 our 25th Anniversary Reunion Dance was held in Runnymede Hall. There was a tremendous response with over 250 swimmers and parents over the years attending. All proceeds were given to the club.

Terry Belton (spring 2008)