Club’s birthday brought memories swimming back

Club’s birthday brought memories swimming back

SMART POOL: Durham’s Elvet baths as pictured in the opening brochure of 1932. Picture courtesy of GILESGATE ARCHIVE

PICTURED TODAY: Inside Elvet Baths, Durham, revealing the state of disrepair it has fallen into.

First published in Your Memories

JULIE LEITHEISER learnt to swim in Durham baths in the Sixties and became a member of the swimming club which, as Memories 59 reported, celebrated its 150th anniversary last year.

She grew up in West “Doggie” Cornforth, where she lived above her dad’s butcher’s shop in the High Street, and caught the bus into Durham City for swimming.

She said: “I remember crossing the river on the old baths bridge, turning left along the riverbank to call at a little sweet shop that sold windfall apples and pears in the autumn. If we were feeling flush we would go into town and buy winkles, which came in a paper cone with a pin in the corner.

“They were great times. I can remember there was excitement when it was decided we would change from wearing regulation black costumes to red and black striped Speedo costumes. We even competed abroad – in Edinburgh.

“The Northern Echo River Swim was an annual event. It was a mile for men and halfa- mile for ladies (they were called ladies in those days, not women). I was very surprised one year to see a French teacher from my school in Spennymoor on the platform with the dignitaries.

It turned out that her husband was the editor of the paper.”

Julie left Durham for teacher training college in Saffron Walden, Essex, and so ended her connection with the club.

She concludes: “It would be great to hear from anyone who was part of the club in the Sixties: Jean, Jill, Pat, Anne, Christine, Connie, Sue, Audrey are you still around?”

MEMORIES 59 suggested that the Seventies were a quiet time for swimming in Durham City.

George Carpenter, of Tudhoe, wrote to correct us, because this was a golden era for the city water polo team.

“It won four Northern League titles, which, at the time, was considered one of the toughest leagues in the UK, and in 1978, entered the National League third division,” he says.

“The first game was at Cardiff with the team travelling in a minibus bought by a kind sponsor for £125. Unfortunately, it broke down at the top of Shincliffe Bank and the journey took more than six hours.

“The team arrived 20 minutes late, but put up a great performance in drawing 15- 15.

“That was the only point dropped all season – despite travelling to Yeovil, Southampton, London and Bristol – which brought the title to Durham.”

Two years later, Durham won promotion to the first division in which it spent five seasons.

“On many occasions the compact Elvet pool was packed with very enthusiastic support,” says George, who in 1984 became the first Durham player to be selected for the Great Britain senior team, and in 1986 scored 106 goals, which is still a National League record.

The Durham club still plays at Freeman’s Quay leisure centre, and in 1997, George helped form Sedgefield Water Polo Club, which is based in Newton Aycliffe.

Work continues on development plan for city’s former swimming baths

SEVERAL people have mentioned the fate of the Elvet baths, which are currently derelict.

Chris Myers, regeneration projects manager at Durham County Council, has told us: “The council is continuing to work with Durham University, as joint landowner, to finalise a development brief for this prime city centre site.

“We very much hope to have this work complete and out for public consultation in the near future.”

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